4pm on Sunday 27th March saw the start of the Nagar Yatra through the streets of Abu. Hundreds of onlookers had gathered hours earlier in the warm sunshine to get prime views of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj's arrival. Today's weather made for ideal conditions as the sun shone brightly, and the temperature cooled as the parade went on. By the time the procession begun, there must have been well over 5000 lining the streets along the route.
|Pre Mahotsav||Day 2|
|Day 1||Day 3|
Gurudev Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa had a wish to build a temple in the uppermost point of the picturesque hill-station, Mount Abu. This small town in the state of Rajasthan has now become very popular for people who are recovering from illnesses and medical treatment. He used to visit this region often, and stay for extended periods of time performing continuous meditation. Therefore, Mount Abu has become a sacred place of pilgrimage.
In 1991, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj fulfilled the wish of Gurudev Swamibapa, and opened a grand Mandir on a high mountain in Abu. The silver jubilee of this Mandir will be celebrated with a grand 3 day festival over the Easter weekend, 26-28 March 2016. Many people from around the world are attending to take part in the ceremonies. Click here to view the invitation brochure to the festival.
Pre Mahotsav Festivities
His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree Maharaj arrived in Mount Abu on Friday 25th March to inspire and preside over the Rajat Mahotsav (silver jubilee) celebrations of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir. Soon after His arrival Acharya Swamishree Maharaj presided over the flag raising ceremony atop the newly built sikhars (elongated domes). With the Mandir already one of the highest points on Mount Abu, the golden kalases and waving flags at the peak of the Mandir’s sikhars are truly a sight to behold and a beacon to all those visiting this tranquil hill station.
Mahotsav Day 1
The first day of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Mount Abu Rajat Mahotsav got off to the vibrant and colourful start. Acharya Swamishree Mahraj, aboard a golden chariot, was led from the Mandir to the Sabha Mandap by Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Band (London and Maninagar). Hundreds of onlookers lined the streets for the Lord’s glorious darshan. The whole was parade was a sea of colour as it wound its way into the Sabha, where thousands of disciple eagerly awaited the arrival of Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj.
The Band saluted Acharya Swamishree Maharaj and exited the Sabha having escorted him to the wonderfully decorated Sinhasan. Parayan recitals continued before the several publications and charitable donations were announced.
A CD of devotional songs was inaugurated – Manadir Morari Aavya and a scripture called “Abu na Udharak (Saviour of Abu), Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa” was published. Significant charitable donations were also made on the inaugural day of the Mahotsav: a donation towards the “Clean Abu” campaign was made to the Mayor’s office, and stationary was donated to the students of the local Brahmakumari Sanstha.
Acharya Swamishree bestowed His divine Ashirwad to the entire sabha:
“Mount Abu has been filled with divine joy today. The unsurpassed, extraordinary fragrance of the supreme Lord’s bliss pervades throughout this beautifully picturesque hill station.
“By the grace of Gurudev Jeevanpran Swamibapa, a grand Mandir was built high up in these mountains of Rajasthan, and twenty-five years have passed since its opening. How appropriate that the Mandir representing the pinnacle of the elite divine Faith stands majestically as the highest building on Mount Abu.
“Disciples from all around the world have gathered here to pay homage to Gurudev Jeevanpran Swamibapa. The devotion and spiritual love towards Swamibapa, in this, the year when we celebrate the silver jubilee of Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Smruti Mandir, is evident on the faces of each disciple. Everyone is eager to please the merciful Lord through some manner of devotion. The Lord becomes extremely pleased through such true, faithful devotion.
“The village of Khan comes under the jurisdiction of Mount Abu, and this is where the great poet of the Swaminarayan Faith, Sadguru Shree Brahmanand Swami, was born as Ladudan Gadhvi. Prior to becoming a Sant, Ladudan was famous throughout India as a brilliant poet and had received much accolade by eminent kings. He was so proficient in music that gold equivalent to his own body weight had been given to him by the kings. However, when he met the supreme Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Ladudanji renounced everything and became the Lord’s humble servant. Initially, he was named Shreerangdasji, and then became known as Shree Brahmanand Swami.
“Jeevanpran Swamibapa used to visit this region to perform meditation in its tranquil environment. On one occasion, when Swamibapa was head of the Bharat Sadhu Samaj, he was returning from Delhi. They left Delhi at 7pm and arrived at Jaipur at 3am the next morning. They drove all night and arrived at the foot of Mount Abu at 7am. Just then, the car that Swamibapa was travelling in broke down. The fan belt had snapped. The driver tied a rope as a makeshift fan belt, and they were able to travel a little further before that too broke. A lorry driver was passing and saw Swamibapa’s car in trouble. He stopped to see if he could help. He had a spare fan belt for his lorry, which he gladly gave to Swamibapa. However, it was for a lorry and therefore much longer than a car would need. The Sants cut the fan belt and re-joined it to the length needed. They travelled a little further and came across a well. Swamibapa decided that this was an appropriate place for everyone to bathe and perform their morning prayers. However, as soon as they went to re-commence the journey, it would not start. Looking at the engine, the Sants could see that the gear box of this automatic car had become stuck in reverse. A mechanic was called from the nearby village, but he was unable to fix the problem. He said that the car could only travel in reverse. Swamibapa replied, “No problem! We will travel in reverse.” However, driving up the winding narrow roads up Mount Abu in a forward direction was difficult in itself; Swamibapa was suggesting to go up in reverse. No-one had the courage to drive in that manner. Swamibapa replied, “Why are you all worried? I will drive it up!” The mechanic replied, “It is very dangerous to do that.” Swamibapa stated, “We live with the strength of the supreme Lord with us. He gives us strength and courage. So He will ensure our destination will be reached.” The mechanic realised that this was no ordinary person that he was talking to, and did not speak further. Swamibapa sat in the car and took hold of the steering wheel. He reversed the vehicle up the mountain. Through the journey, people gathered to watch the Impala car being driven in reverse. This was the only Impala car in Gujarat at the time, so was an attraction in itself. People realised how much skill would be required to drive in this manner, and bowed down to Swamibapa as the car passed. Eventually, they reached the top of Mount Abu. By then, the people of Mount Abu had heard about the occurrence and had gathered to welcome Swamibapa. News spread throughout Mount Abu that a remarkably talented driver, and divinely courageous individual had come, and consequently, people came for Swamibapa’s darshan and blessings.
“We are fortunate that we have Swamibapa in our lives. If a person stops his life being controlled by his own mind and yearnings, and instead, allows Swamibapa to steer and drive him, i.e. if you live according to His will and commandments, your life will ascend to higher and higher states, and realise the ultimate goal, aatyantik moksh (absolute salvation).
The chief guest of the Mahotsav, Shree Haribhai Chaudhary (Minister of State for Home Affairs in Government of India) was welcomed and saluted by Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band, and escorted through the Sabha to the Sinhasan for the darshan of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj. The Band played a heartfelt rendition of the Indian National Anthem to honour the Minister.
In a brief Ashirwad, Acharya Swamishree explained that many of the current and emerging national campaigns, such as environmental regard and cleanliness, spreading of education, etc. were all in fact the fundamental tenets of Lord Shree Swaminarayan, well over 200 years ago – i.e. those principles espoused in the Shikhshapatri and decreed in the five Vartamans (sacred vows) are now rightly being adopted as national priorities by the Government of India.
The morning’s events concluded with everyone taking Mahaprasad lunch.
Mahotsav Day 1 Evening
The first evening event of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Mount Abu Rajat Mahotsav was a variety performance, including a religious drama to espouse important philosophical and moral teachings such as the need to eliminate vices and addictions, and devotional dances by young disciples of Shree Swaminarayan Bavla and Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa’s Sants. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj presided over the evening’s festivities as the talented performers demonstrated their love, dedication and commitment to the Lord.
At the start of the evening, Shree P.P Chaudhary, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) for Pali, Rajasthan, and Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court, came for the divine darshan of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj. He was adorned with a prasad paagh and clearly delighted at being honoured and welcomed in this way. Shree Narayan Giriji Maharaj, Mahant of the Mahadev Mandir in Dudheshwar also came of the darshan of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj and this divine sabha.
Mahotsav Day 2
Day 2 of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Mount Abu Rajat Mahotsav began with Acharya Swamishree Maharaj being saluted at the entrance to Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Mount Abu, and led into the sabha mandap by Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Band (London and Maninagar)
Following parayan recitals, an mp3 CD of Shree Harignanamrut Kavya, a collection of spiritual poems written by Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa was launched in celebration of the upcoming Smruti Mandir Rajat Mahotsav. These kirtans explain the sublime philosophy and supremacy of Lord Shree Swaminarayan that is contained within the Vachanamrut and clarified in Shree Abji Bapashree ni Vato and other scriptures of our Sansthan.
Following this, Acharya Swamishree bestowed His divine Ashirwad to the entire sabha:
“Disciples are pleasing the Lord in different ways during the festival. The skills that they have been learned by the Lord’s mercy are being used to please Him more and more. Remember never to become arrogant or conceited about your abilities; realise that they are all gifts from the Lord and remain vigilant about remaining humble in your words, thoughts and actions.
“Swamibapa says that when genuine love for the Lord develops in an individual, true worthwhile virtues flourish. That is the marker for realising who possesses true divine love for the Lord.
“In Gadhada Middle Section Chapter 62 of the Vachanamrut, Lord Shree Swaminarayan says, “A person who has love for God likes only the darshan of his cherished deity (ishta-dev); he likes listening to sermons about Him, he likes the nature of his cherished deity, and likes to reside beside Him. Such is his affection. In order to serve and please his cherished deity, throughout each day and night, he wishes, ‘If my cherished deity gave me a command, I would become extremely pleased and fulfil that request. If my cherished deity commands me to go far away and live there, I would still remain pleased.’ In no manner is he distressed within his antah-karans. He experiences immense bliss in remaining obedient to the commands [of the cherished deity]. This is the highest status of devotion with the sentiments of servitude, which exist in a true disciple of God.
“Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree says that the mercy of eminent Satpurushs remains flowing over all disciples, but those who become enjoined to God with love and devotion enjoy greater bliss and grace. Enjoining with God with love and devotion refers to living according to the directives of the Lord and the Satpurush.
“Pure, innocent love for God, like that of the Gopis towards Shree Krishna, should be fostered and fortified day by day. At the end of each day, think about how you have progressed along the path to pleasing Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa. Be true to yourself, and then, you will realise if your conduct, thoughts, behaviours with others, etc. are progressive or regressive. Through such regular inspection of your mannerisms, you may be able to prevent a decline or fall from the divine shelter that has been attained.
“May the merciful Lord impart strength, wisdom and mercy; love and devotion, so that you remain at Shree Swaminarayan Gadi and continue to experience His divinity”
After Ashirwad, everyone took Prasad lunch and made their way to the starting point of the Nagar Yatra.
Mahotsav Day 2 Nagar Yatra & Raas
4pm on Sunday 27th March saw the start of the Nagar Yatra through the streets of Abu. Hundreds of onlookers had gathered hours earlier in the warm sunshine to get prime views of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s arrival. Today’s weather made for ideal conditions as the sun shone brightly, and the temperature cooled as the parade went on. By the time the procession begun, there must have been well over 5000 lining the streets along the route.
Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Band played throughout the Nagar Yatra – a spectacle the likes of which Abu will never have seen or heard before as the tartan filled the streets with colour and the sounds of melodious bagpipes pervaded the air. However, the highlight of the parade will have been the two grand elephants that carried Lord Shree Swmainarayan Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree Maharaj. While these auspicious elephants have become a signature of the major festivals held by Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan, they will not have been seen on this hill station since the opening of the earliest temples in the world famous Dilwara Jain Temples Complex in the second century AD.
The Nagar Yatra commenced at the Shakti Mata Mandir, passed via Nakki Lake and Gandhi Park before finishing at the Arya Samaj.
After the procession, everyone returned to the assembly for an evening of devotional dancing. Swamibapa's talented Sants sang the devotional songs, as everyone danced around Acharya Swamishree Maharaj. Even though everyone was tired from walking in the procession, everyone joined in; nothing is a hindrance where there is true devotion. The dancing lasted late into the night, after which the Sants and disciples went to rest.
The final day of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Mount Abu Rajat Mahotsav dawned in what seems like no time at all. Time has truly flown through a Mahotsav that has seen nearly 400 scripture recitals, 4 divine Ashirwads from Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, magnificent street parades, memorable evening shows filled with music, song and dance – all experienced with joy, enthusiasm and decorum in equal measure by several thousand disciples from all over the world.
The day began with Mangla Aarti, shortly followed by the Patotsav Vidhi performed at the lotus feet of Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa by Acharya Swamishree Maharaj. The principal aartis to the Lord were then performed at the Mandir, before the celebrations continued in the Sabha Mandap.
His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree Maharaj showered His divine Ashirwad to the entire congregation before the sants and leading disciples honoured Acharya Swamishree Maharaj by collectively garlanding him with an immense fresh flower haar and showering Him in flower petals.
“Today marks exactly 25 years since the supreme, Purna Purushottam Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa presided in the grand Mandir in Mount Abu. During the three days of this festival, thousands of people have been granted the Lord’s divine darshan. Everyone who lovingly looked at the grand procession yesterday has become worthy of attaining salvation. Such is the mercy of the almighty Lord. That is the purpose of why He has come onto the Earth in a human form; to impart bliss to souls who would otherwise be mired in misery.
“Festivals like this give an opportunity for Sants and disciples to serve the Lord in many ways. Such humble services are the means to please Him. Remain vigilant about performing such services for one purpose only - to please God. You must never do anything to show off to others, or to demonstrate your own greatness, else that service is pointless and futile.
“In Gadhada Middle Section Chapter 40 of the Vachanamrut, Lord Shree Swaminarayan says, “The benefit gained, and the kind of happiness experienced, by a soul who offers his services to a disciple of God, with his mind, words and body, is not attained by any other spiritual means.” Who can perform such genuine services? Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree explains that a person whose focus is on the Murti of God can perform genuine services for the Sants of this Faith, because such an individual has realised that these Sants are the progeny of the Lord. Whilst performing such services, they endure hardship and criticism, but remain focussed on their tasks with the sole aim of pleasing the Sants. Others may be performing services, austerities, acts of devotion etc. so that they are praised and receive accolade; their acts are futile and worthless.
“Even the great deities yearn to serve the Lord. When Lord Shree Swaminarayan, in the guise of Shree Nilkanthvarni, reached Haridwar, there was a fete taking place in the city. The Lord preferred to remain in solitude and therefore did not enter the city. Instead, He remained standing beside the shrine of Lord Shiva. Seeing the opportunity to serve Him, Lord Shiva assumed the form of a Brahmin and went to Shree Nilkanthvarni. He requested, “Come with me inside the shrine.” Shree Nilkanthvarni acknowledged the sincerity of the Brahmin’s request and went inside. The Lord sat down in the tranquillity of the shrine. The Brahmin requested the Lord to accept a meal. Shree Nilkanthvarni agreed. Lord Shiv started to make the food. Just then, Lord Shiv’s consort, Parvati appeared as the Brahmin’s wife and commented, “So many ascetics and sages have come, but not once has he wanted to make a meal with his own hands and offer the food to the guest. Yet today, he is so keen to prepare the food and serve it himself.” She questioned, “What is the difference between this Shree Nilkanthvarni and all the other guests who have come before such that you are so eager to serve Him?” Lord Shiv replied, “Meditate on His Murti and your question will be answered.” Parvati became even more eager to find out the identity of Shree Nilkanthvarni and immediately sat down to perform meditation. She witnessed Shree Nilkanthvarni as the supreme Lord. Parvati emerged from the meditation having realised that this Sage sitting before her was none other than the supreme Lord Shree Swaminarayan. Deity Parvati prayed, “Bestowing mercy upon me, You have shown me Your true identity. Bless me even more by giving me the opportunity to serve You. My husband Lord Shiv has asked to serve You already, but he is not skilled in cooking at all, in fact, he has never before prepared food. So grace me with the opportunity to serve You.” Shree Nilkanthvarni replied, “Agree amongst the two of you who will cook. I cannot take the side of one of you over the other.” The couple reached consensus and agree to prepare the food and serve the food together. Shree Nilkanvarni became pleased with them both and blessed them. Shree Nilkanthvarni accepted their prayers and remained for five days.
“The opportunity to serve the Lord, which the great deities are yearning to attain, have been gained by the Sants and disciples of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi. Realise how fortunate you are to be disciples of this divine home of the Lord. Ensure that you continue to humbly perform services here, and continue to please Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa more and more.
One of the final aspects of the Mahotsav was the launch of the Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Smruti Mandir Rajat Mahotsav website in the lead up to the festival in September 2016.