Celebrations were held over the weekend of 5 and 6 February 2022 to mark the festival of Vasant Panchmi, the official start of the Vasant – spring season. Of most significance of a disciple, this is the auspicious day that the supreme Lord Shree Swaminarayan chose for the inauguration of His sacred book of holy commandments, the Shikshapatri. Lord Shree Swaminarayan distilled the teachings of 365 sacred Hindu scriptures and composed the Shikshapatri scripture, containing 212 verses. Lord Shree Swaminarayan says that if one wishes to remain contented in this life and thereafter, the commands of the Shikshapatri must be obeyed. Therefore, to bestow bliss to us all, for the benefit of all within this world, Lord Shree Swaminarayan presented the Shikshapatri on this day, exactly 196 years ago.
During the evening of Saturday 5 February 2022, disciples held a communal recital of the magnificent Shikshapatri scripture, and then performed poojan to it. In celebration of official start of the Spring season (Vasant-rutu), the Vasant pojan ceremony was performed and a mango tree, symbolic of this season of change and prosperity, was ceremonially brought into the Mandir and presented before the Lord.
As a part of these Vasant Panchmi festivities, on the subsequent day, Sunday 6 February, the disciples of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury also celebrated Shakotsav. This festival takes place at various Mandir’s around the world, and re-enacts the Shakotsav celebrations held 200 years ago in the village of Loya in the divine presence of Lord Shree Swaminarayan. On that occasion, the Lord Himself prepared aubergine curry (Shak) and served it to everyone over a two and a half month period. Come the end of the Shakotsav Festival, a colossal 360kgs of fresh ghee and 1200kgs of aubergines were used. In remembrance of this episode when Lord Shree Swaminarayan demonstrated the importance of performing selfless, humble service, the Shakotsav festival is held in Mandirs all around the world during the winter season. The disciples at Kingsbury Mandir prepared an Annakut of various foods, which was offered to the Lord.
A video compilation of the Shakotsav held in May 2014, in the divine presence of Ved Ratna Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was shown, bringing back wonderful memories of this festival. The significance of this day was also explained by Acharya Swamiji Maharaj, through a speech that He gave in 2019, when the disciples of North America held the Shakotsav celebrations in New Jersey Mandir. Subsequently, a wonderful concert of devotional songs was presented by the talented young disciples of Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Orchestra.
After darshan of the Sandhya Aarti, all the disciples enjoyed the prasad in Purushottam Mahal.