Sage Nilkanth’s Forest Expedition
The theme of this year’s Diwali stage decoration was a portrayal of the adventures of Lord Shree Swaminarayan from 1792 to 1799 CE.
At the age of 11, young Lord Swaminarayan, known then as Sage Nilkanth, left His home and went into the forests and jungles of Northern India.
Sage Nilkanth walked barefoot for over 12,000 kilometres and travelled to all the sacred places of pilgrimage throughout India. He provided spiritual enlightenment and eternal salvation to the sages and ascetics who had been performing penances in these various locations for many years in order to seek God.
During the seven years of His extraordinary forest expedition, Sage Nilkanth travelled alone, carrying nothing other than a rosary for chanting, a water pot, a representation of God, and a small manuscript of the ancient Hindu scriptures.
Sage Nilkanth had no fear of wild animals or the bitter cold of the snow covered Himalayan ranges. He demonstrated immense compassion for all life; plants and animals, and through His actions, He taught about the need to respect Mother Nature and to protect and preserve the ecology.
He fasted for many months in order to emaciate His body completely. Whether it was winter, summer or the monsoon season, He stayed without any shelter and only wore a small loincloth.
Even in the harsh conditions of the Himalayan Mountains, the courageous Sage Nilkanth performed acts of strict austerities, self-discipline and Yoga. He stood in meditation on one foot for many months whilst there was constant snowfall. He plunged into fast-flowing rivers and allowed the strong currents to drag Him away. Unbelievable as this may be, even in such arduous conditions, His body survived.
Sage Nilkanth’s adventures ended in the state of Gujarat, in Western India, on Thursday 21 August 1799. He then went on to establish the Swaminarayan Faith throughout the region.
This is one episode in the true history of the extraordinary Lord Swaminarayan, to whom this Temple is dedicated, and who is present at the centre of the main Altar.