The day of the last Poonam (full moon) before the Diwali festival is celebrated as Sharad-purnima. This is regarded as being the day when the first full moon is seen after the monsoon season has ended. On this day, the newly harvested grain is offered to the Lord and then eaten. During the night of Sharad Poonam, people dance to devotional music in the village square under the moonlight. Displays of silver ornaments are arranged to reflect the bright light of the moon everywhere, creating a cooling and calming atmosphere.
During the early hours of Sharad Poonam, immediately after performing the mangla aarti, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj and Sants walked from Maninagardham to Smruti Mandir. In the year preceding Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Smruti Mandir Rajat Mahotsav, which will be celebrated in September 2016, Sants and disciples have taken additional vows to walk from their homes to Smruti Mandir on the day of Poonam. To encourage them all, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj joined them on this first Poonam since the grand Mahotsav was announced.
In accordance with this tradition, sants and disciples gathered at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Maninagar on Monday 26 October to celebrate Sharad Poonam in the presence of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj. The last time that Sharad Poonam in Maninagar was held in Acharya Swamishree’s presence was in 2009. Therefore, the Sants and disciples of Maninagar and the surrounding regions were additionally eager to perform raas (devotional dancing) on this special day and please the Lord. 108 young disciples from all over Ahmedabad came dressed in traditional attire and had practiced for several weeks in their various locations for the event.
A splendid display of lights and steel utensils was arranged in the grounds of Maninagar Mandir, at the centre of which presided Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj. Before the event started, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj performed the inauguration of a DVD set, containing coverage of the opening of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir, Sukhpur that was held in April 2014.
At the end of the traditional folk dancing, doodh powa was offered to the Lord and distributed as Prasad to all present. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj presented Murtis to the 108 young disciples who had prepared and danced during tonight’s special Sharad-utsav.