His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree Purushottampriyadasji Maharaj performed Mangla Aarti just after 5.30am on Sunday 2nd March to commence the second day of Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj Amrut Mahotsav.
Before the morning sabha started, Shree Swaminarayan Mandir was brimming with disciples eager to witness a special darshan. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj read out a golden invitation letter to Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj, imploring Him on behalf of the disciples of London to preside of the Kingsbury Mandir Grand Opening Festival in August.
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj arrived at Shree Swaminarayan Tower shortly after 8am. Once He had performed darshan to Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa, He mounted a magnificent golden chariot that was waiting outside. Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band London and Shree Swamibapa Swamishree Music Band Maninagar then led a parade back to the Sabha Mandap. The principal sponsors of the Mahotsav welcomed Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj to the Sabha Mandap and escorted Him to the stage, before offering chabs of gifts.
Festivities related to Kingsbury Mandir Grand Opening continued with the inauguration of the official kankotri (invitation) to the festival. Disciples from London performed an invitational dance, extending an invitation to the Mahotsav in August to the entire congregation and all disciples of Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan all over the world. Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band escorted a giant replica of the kankotri to the main stage, where Acharya Swamishree unveiled it to the world as the entire sabha rejoiced in anticipation of this global sanstha event that takes place in London in August.
Acharya Swamishree Maharaj then showered His divine blessings on everyone;
We are gathered in a truly historical location. This Mandir is the first Mandir of the entire Swaminarayan Faith in which only the supremacy of Lord Shree Swaminarayan is depicted. The Murtis of no incarnations other than the Incarnator of all the incarnations, Lord Shree Swaminarayan, have been installed. This historical place is the most sacred site of pilgrimage for true aspirants of Lord Shree Swaminarayan’s mercy.
Disciples are eager to please the Lord on every opportunity. During this Mahotsav, we can see the members of Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band London, and the newly formed Swamibapa Music Band Maninagar. All these young disciples are keen to perform before the Lord and gain His blessings. A smile from the Lord is all that they yearn for. Dear children – do not forget the opportunities that the Lord has given you. He has made you His own children, and therefore you are able to perform before Him, in the same manner that young children play in the laps of their parents. Whatever you do with the genuine spirit to please Him, is being noticed by the almighty Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa.
Today, we are experiencing the bliss of the middle day of this Amrut Mahotsav. Whenever we hear the word Amrut – meaning nectar, it reminds us of the nectar that is drunk in the divine abodes of the deities. However, the nectar that is drunk here, at the home of Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa is of a completely different type. In the realms of the deities, souls drink nectar only whilst they are benefiting from the rewards of their previously performed good deeds. Once those merits have been spent, they have to return to this mortal world. However, someone who drinks the nectar of the almighty Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa never returns to the mortal world. Such a person has become immersed within the Murti of the Lord, from which he never emerges.
Lord Shree Swaminarayan had decided to make this site the source for disciples to drink His divine nectar. He first came here during the Maha month of Samvat 1865. Later that same year, on Vaisakh Sud 3, Monday 17 April 1809, He returned to this beautiful location. Sadguru Shree Mahanubhavanand Swami retells this visit in the Harikrishnaleelamrut. Due to the troubles given by the Peshwa Empire, the Lord did not visit Ahmedabad until Samvat 1874. When the British Empire took over governing the region, Lord Shree Swaminarayan was invited to meet Sir Heron in Ahmedabad. During that journey, He took a small detour and came here first. Even though Ahmedabad was only a short distance away, He decided to rest here, before continuing the last few miles of His journey. This indicates Lord Shree Swaminarayan’s profound fondness for this site.
The third time that the Lord came here was on Samvat 1874, Vaisakh Sud 1, Wednesday 6 May 1818. He returned to Ahmedabad only 22 days later, and once again, He made a detour to sit under His favourite mango tree.
Approximately five months later, the Lord came here for a fifth time. That auspicious day was Kartik sud Ekadashi, Monday 9 November 1818. There was a lake at the site where our Brahm Mahol now stands. The Lord’s horses were given water to drink there. At that time, the Lord held an assembly here, during which He explained the significance of this location. When Sadguru Shree Ishwar Bapa laid the foundations of the new Mandir here, he narrated the words that the Lord has said about this place’s importance.
Furthermore, the day that the Lord explained its significance was Kartik sud Ekadashi – the very same day that the Lord Himself manifested again upon the Earth in the form of Shree Abji Bapashree, and the very same day that our Gurudev Swamibapa attained initiation into the Sant fraternity. This is not just a coincidence, but it indicates the manifest will of God, and the greatness of this sacred site.
Sadguru Shree Ishwar Bapa laid the foundations of the Lord’s supreme Mandir here. At that time, a small bungalow shaped Mandir was built. Subsequently, Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj came here in His extraordinary manner. He did not come here in a normal fashion, He came here in style – in a special, first class train carriage. This too indicates the glory of this site – the Lord has come here to explain His first class philosophy; to ensure His disciples attain His first class Anadi-mukta status; and to make all those who come to Him here, first class in every respect. Earning lots of wealth does not make a person ‘first class’; he who surrenders himself to the will of God and dedicates himself to pleasing the Lord; he is the person who has truly attained a first class status. The Murti of Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj reached Maninagar Mandir on Aso sud 10 – celebrated as Vijya Dashmi – meaning the day of Victory. Again, think about this day – some may consider it a coincidence, but if a person honestly thinks about these facts, he will realise that these are all the deeds of God to explain the significance of this sacred site. Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj reached Maninagar on the day of victory, because it was to be from this place from where countless souls would take resort unto His shelter and gain victory from the endless cycle of birth and death.
In Samvat 2000, Falgun sud 3, Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj accepted the prayers of Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa and presided in an intricately carved wooden shrine situated at the front of the bungalow Mandir. From that day, He started to reveal His miraculous deeds.
In Samvat 2011, Lord Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj presided in the magnificent Mandir that stands here today. Swamibapa also installed the Murtis of Shree Harikrishna Maharaj and Shree Sahajanand Swami Maharaj in the main shrine.
Countless souls have realised the importance of this Mandir. Realising that they need to come here to attain salvation, they have abandoned their previous Mandirs and organisations and become devoted to Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj who presides in Maninagar Mandir. One such example is that of Shree Haricharandasji Swami. He wanted to be a Sant and had prayed for permission from Bapashree on many occasions. However, Bapashree had always told him that the person who would make him a Sant was still to arrive in the Faith. Subsequently, he came to Swamibapa and attained initiation into the Sant fraternity. He had an intense yearning to performing devotion whenever he could. Whatever else he was doing, but he would be continuously singing kirtans in praise of the Lord. Even when he became extremely old, he did not stop performing his devotional deeds. On one occasion, Shree Haricharandasji Swami stood before Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj holding a glass of milk in his hand. He lovingly prayer, ‘Oh merciful Lord! Accept the wishes of this child and accept this small offering’. Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj acknowledged the innocent love of His disciple and grabbed hold of the cup. Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj started to drink the milk. And to indicate that He had drunk it, a white line from the cream of the milk could be seen along His top lip.
Merciful Shree Ghanshyam Maharj has accepted the prayers of loving disciples in this manner on numerous occasions, and has drunk milk and eaten food from their hands.
Today, we are fortunate to be celebrating the Amrut Mahotsav of such a glorious Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj. The delight that we had never expected is being enjoyed by the Sants and disciples during this Mahotsav. Having experienced this happiness, may you all develop true, innocent love and devotion, just like the virtues that were inherent within Shree Haricharandasji Swami.
This Mahotsav marks a double celebration, the second being the 35th anniversary since Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa entrusted Shree Swaminarayan Gadi to Acharya Swamishree Maharaj. In celebration of this sants and disciples took the opportunity to please the Lord and perform Poojan. Disciples adorned Him with a 36 ft flower garland and sants then adorned Him with a 36 ft long flower chadar – representing the beginning of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s 36th year. A special surprise was reserved until the end.
As the stage curtains drew back, the magnificent darshan of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj sat on a giant flower-decked swing was unveiled. The congregation went into a frenzy as sants and disciples showered Acharya Swamishree Maharaj with flowers and confetti in scenes that would normally mark the finale of an entire Mahotsav, let alone just the end of one day.
The entire sabha offered Maha Aarti in unison to Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj at the conclusion of the morning’s proceedings.
Morning Sabha - Part 1
Morning Sabha - Part 2
At precisely 4pm, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj arrived at the Lake Kankaria starting point of today’s Nagaryatra. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj bestowed His divine darshan throughout the procession from his magnificent golden chairiot. A number of sants sat in a special two story galleon-shaped chariot – another magnificent creation from the incredibly talented Sants of Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan.
This Nagaryatra was not only celebratory but also historic – this was the first time in history that the original Murtis installed by Gurudev Jeevanpran Swamibapa some 70 years ago were paraded as part of a Nagaryatra. For the first time, the wider public enjoyed the darshan of the Murti’s of Jeevanpran Abji Bapashree and Shree Sahajanand Swami Marahaj that previously only visitors to Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Maninagar were able to enjoy.
At approximately 8pm, the procession reached Sabha Mandap where the Nagaryatra concluded.