On the 26th of October 2015, Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury, celebrated Sharad Poonam in Purushottam Mahal, within Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Complex.
Although Sharad Poonam is typically celebrated as a harvest festival, it has a particular spiritual significance within the Swaminarayan Sampraday.
Sharad Poonam reminds us to be alert to our internal enemies such as passion, lust, anger and greed. These traits must be reflected back whenever they try to enter us. Just as untainted silver perfectly reflects the lustre of the moon, we too must perfectly reflect of the Lord's wishes. Blemishes on that silver cannot perfectly reflect moonlight, and our minds and hearts too cannot perfectly abide by the Lord's commands if they are blemished by those internal enemies. Our hearts should be as pure as the light from tonight’s full moon in order for the Lord to reside there. Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa explains that this is the time to be truthful and honest with oneself and consider truly how faithful we are to the Lord's will.
Such is the spiritual importance of Sharad Poonam, the last full moon before the New Year. This is why the decoration in Mandirs on this day comprise of utensils that reflect the moonlight – in India, these elaborate designs are set up outside, often in the forecourts of Mandirs where they disperse the moonlight all around.
At Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury, the Murtis of Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Abjibapashree and Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa were beautifully adorned in white garments, representing the bright moonlight that shone upon the Mandir.
Hundreds of disciples gathered in the Purushottam Mahal where a splendid display of silver utensils, designed to reflect the light of the full moon, were arranged in a multi-tier ornament. At the centre presided Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa. The evening started with the divine blessings of Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa who explained the relevance of Sharad Poonam. Following these divine blessings, disciples took part in raas (a communal dance circumambulating the Murtis) to please the Lord.
Just as the cooling, refreshing moonlight spreads tranquility, the Lord's divine Murti seated amongst the silver ornaments spread divine peace to all who came for His darshan this evening.
The evening concluded with everyone receiving doodh pawa (sweetened milk with flattened rice) – the traditional Prasad for Sharad Poonam celebrations around the world.