Monday 20 September 2021 | Bhadarva Sud 15, Samvat 2077

Mon 20 Sep 2021

On Tuesday July 30th 2002, His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree visited the Bodleian Library in Oxford University for the darshan of the Shikshapatri.

On Tuesday 30th July 2002, His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree Purushottampriyadasji Maharaj, spiritual head of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan, Maninagar visited the Bodleian Library in Oxford University for the darshan of the Shikshapatri. He was accompanied by a large group of his Sants and disciples.

After being greeted by Mr Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Vaishnava and Hindu Studies, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj and the group were escorted to the Bodleian Library to view the Shikshapatri. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was given a special viewing of the Shikshapatri in the Governor’s boardroom. This had been specially arranged by Dr Gillian Evison, Director of the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, who was also present on this occasion.

Lord Swaminarayan has stated in the Shikshapatri, "These are My words and thus they should be regarded as My own Murti (form)". Thus, as the sloks (verses) of the Shikshapatri constitute the murti of Lord Swaminarayan Himself, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj performed poojan and aarti of the Shikshapatri. The actual Shikshapatri is written in Sanskrit, together with the Gujarati translation which was written by Shree Nityanand Muni. This particular script was scribed by Shree Nilkanthanad Muni in 1830 AD.

On behalf of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan, the Worldwide Centre for Spiritual, Cultural and Social Welfare, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj gave a cheque to the Bodleian Library in recognition of the tremendous work that they have instigated for the preservation and conservation of the Shikshapatri and other great Hindu texts. The cheque was then presented to Dr Gillian Evison by the Trustees of the Swaminarayan Temple, Golders Green. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj signed the Guest Book on behalf of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan.

After the Shikshapatri darshan, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj and the rest of the group were given a tour of the University and its’ colleges. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj was shown the “Ivory Towers” were the Deans of the University are based and the Great Hall where the University graduation ceremonies are held.

Following the tour, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj blessed the Oxford Centre for Vaishnava and Hindu Studies (OCVHS) with a visit to the Centre's premises. Acharya Swamishree Maharaj spent some time in the Centre's library, which contains many manuscripts of the Hindu religion, in Sanskrit and in their English translations.

Dr Evison and Shree Shanakaji described the work of the OCVHS and the Digital Shikshapatri project. His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree Maharaj blessed the project and presented Shree Shaunaka Rishi Das with a traditional ceremonial paagh (turban), a shawl and prasad. Dr Evison was also presented with a shawl and prasad by the trustees of the Temple. Shree Shaunaka Rishi Das commented, "With the blessings of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, the project will definitely be a success. Your presence is our great blessing."

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj made a donation to the OCVHS so that their valuable work can continue.

History of the Bodleian Shikshapatri

During the early Nineteenth century, the northwest region of India was a lawless territory. Bandits and gangsters ruled the area with an iron fist and anyone who stood in their way was attacked, tortured or killed. Mobs roamed the districts stealing property and destroying people’s lives. Rape was commonplace and the bandits stooped to the lowest imaginable levels. The British Raj at the time was at a loss. It appealed to the gangs through discussion, deals and finally with the power of the gun. Despite all their efforts they failed.

In the midst of this mayhem, during this period of darkness in India’s history, a ray of light emerged, Lord Swaminarayan. Through love and compassion towards His devotees, and teachings of duty towards the Lord, He transformed the regions previously inhospitable, into areas of peace, calm and prosperity.
Through the teachings of Lord Swaminarayan, many of these gangs became devoted to Lord Swaminarayan and his ideals of high moral living. The British Government was astounded. Where they had failed with all the power and might of armies, Sahajanand Swami (Lord Swaminarayan) commanded a much greater influence, through love and compassion alone.

The work of Lord Swaminarayan did not pass the British authorities unnoticed. Hearing about the greatness of Lord Swaminarayan, and the social and spiritual reforms that He had instilled into previously lawless people, Sir John Malcolm, Governor of Bombay was very keen to meet Lord Swaminarayan.

From Samvat 1886 (1830 AD), Posh Sud 2, Lord Swaminarayan started to show signs of illness in His body. He stopped taking food and gradually started to lose weight. Lord Swaminarayan predominantly stayed within the 4 walls of the Akshar Ordi in Gadhada. Bhaguji Parshad, Mulji Brahmchari, Surakhachar and another 30 sants remained in the Lord's service day and night.

In the month of Maha, Sir Malcolm's secretary wrote to Lord Swaminarayan asking for a meeting. However, as Lord Swaminarayan was showing illness at the time, He wrote back on Maha sud 13, saying that due to ill health, a meeting was not possible. The secretary, Mr Thomas Williamson wrote back Lord Swaminarayan and expressed his good wishes for a speedy recovery. On 22nd February 1830, during the month of Falgun, the officiating Political Agent for Kathiawad, Mr John Blane sent another invitation letter to Lord Swaminarayan, saying that the Governor and his party had come to Kathiawad and that it was his sincere wish if he could meet Lord Swaminarayan at Rajkot.

Lord Swaminarayan granted the wishes of Mr Blane and Sir Malcolm and gave leave to the fever in His body. On the third day, Lord Swaminarayan travelled from Gadhada to Rajkot sitting in a mena (carriage), accompanied by a group of sants and disciples.

On the 26th February 1830 AD, Samvat 1886 Falgun sud 5, a meeting between Lord Swaminarayan and Sir Malcolm was held at Mr Blane's bungalow situated on Diwan Road in Rajkot. Sir Malcolm's secretary, Mr Thomas Williamson, Mr Blane and three other officials were also present. Accompanying Lord Swaminarayan were Shree Ayodyaprasadji Maharaj, Shree Raghuvirji Maharaj, Shree Mukund Brahmchari, Shree Sukhanand Swami, Shree Muktanand Swami, Sura Khachar, Somla Khachar, Dada Khachar, Ladha Thakar, Hirji Thakar, Deva Bhagat and Bhimbhai.

Lord Swaminarayan was welcomed with a gunfire salute and the Governor's own special military band. Soldiers of the British Army presented a Guard of Honour to Him. As soon Lord Swaminarayan arrived, Sir Malcolm rushed to Him and received Him with folded hands and then enthusiastically shook His hands. Sir Malcolm escorted Lord Swaminarayan to the drawing room and garlanded Him. Sir Malcolm sprinkled perfume over Lord Swaminarayan and offered shawls to Him before requesting Him to be seated.

Sir Malcolm then asked Lord Swaminarayan to explain the main principles of the Swaminarayan Sampradaya and then enquired, “I hope you do not face any obstructions in your religious activities from our administration?” Lord Swaminarayan replied, “Not many. If you protect the cow and the Brahmins, your rule shall last for many years.” Sir Malcolm the said, “Our government has decided to ban sati (the burning of widows on their husbands funeral pyre) and dudh piti (the drowning of female new-borns in milk). What are your views on this?” Lord Swaminarayan, who had already banished these rituals in the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, replied, “One should never commit suicide. After the death of one's husband, one should accept the Lord as a husband, but never commit suicide. Also, one can never be allowed to commit infanticide.” The Governor became extremely pleased to hear this. He said, “Lord Swaminarayan, you have given me precious advice.”

Sir Malcolm then requested Lord Swaminarayan to give him a book explaining the principles of the Swaminarayan Sampradaya and prayed, “Please protect us and our opponents.” Lord Swaminarayan became very pleased with Sir Malcolm and showered His blessings over him. Lord Swaminarayan then gave Sir Malcolm a hand-written copy of the Shikshapatri.

At the end of the meeting the Governor and the other officials all took off their hats and saluted Lord Swaminarayan and walked Him to the gates Lord Swaminarayan took lunch in Rajkot and returned to Gadhada. Within 5 days, Lord Swaminarayan once again took on His illness.

The special Shikshapatri which Lord Swaminarayan gave to Sir Malcolm was kept by Mr Blane who subsequently bequeathed it to the Indian Institute at Oxford University. In 1952, the Indian Institute was closed and the Shikshapatri was kept at the Bodleian Library, Oxford where it is currently resides.