Day two of the Murti Pratishtha Mahtosav at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Chesapeake started with mangala aarti in the early hours of the morning. Many disciples had arrived early in the morning, both for aarti darshan, as well as to help with the day’s food preparations in the kitchen.
At approximately 8 AM, Acharya Swamishree arrived to the Mandir and then commenced the ancient Vedic yagna ceremony. The first part of the ceremony was the “havan” or the “offering,” during which several offerings, all non-violent per the supreme philosophy of Lord Shree Swaminarayan, are made to the yagna flame to call the Lord to eternally reside at the temple. The havan concluded with Acharya Swamishree, sants, and disciples performing aarti to the Lord.
Also during the morning, several special guests, including Dr. Richard W. West, Mayor of Chesapeake City, and members of the Chesapeake Police Department, who very graciously provided security all throughout the Mahotsav, were presented with prasad paags and shawls. Expressing his delight on meeting Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, Mayor West said in his speech, “I can sense the aura of peace when coming to this place and meeting Acharya Swamishree Maharaj. I realize that he is a very special individual and I welcome him and you all to Chesapeake. I have attended many ribbon cutting ceremonies, but nothing is as humbling as the event that I have the honor of seeing today.” On behalf of the Mandir and Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan, Acharya Swamishree then offered several checks of $1000 each in donations towards the Mayor’s special charity appeal and the Chesapeake Fire and Police Departments.
After the havan and the honoring of special guests, Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Band, U.S.A. escorted Acharya Swamishree to the sabha mandap outdoors. Parayan (scipture recital) sponsoring disciples carried chhaabs with various offerings for the Lord behind Acharya Swamishree. Upon arrival inside the sabha mandap, the pipe band performed a salute, and disciples presented the offerings to Acharya Swamishree, one by one.
Acharya Swamishree then showered His divine blessings upon the entire congregation. Highlights from Acharya Swamishree’s blessings are below:
Following His divine blessings, Acharya Swamishree, along with sponsoring disciples and seva-contributing sants and disciples, inaugurated one new audio CD and three new audiobooks:
Aaj Mare Orde Re Kirtan CD (featuring kirtans written by Nand-Padvi Sants)
Thereafter, Acharya Swamishree was escorted to the food tent to consecrate the morning’s lunch and to bless all of the volunteer disciples, and He was then escorted back to the temple. Everyone then enjoyed lunch mahaprasad to conclude the morning’s events.
At 5:00 PM, sants and disciples congregated at Amber Woods Drive for the start of the afternoon’s nagaryatra, which would triumphantly proceed through the streets of Chesapeake, Virginia, to announce the imminent arrival of Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, and Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa to Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in Chesapeake, Virginia on Sunday, July 21. This procession was equally a peace procession, to spread the message of unity and brotherhood amongst people from all faiths, social backgrounds, and cultures.
Shortly after, His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree’s van arrived at the starting location. Disciples eagerly approached Acharya Swamishree to garland Him and to escort Him to the beautiful, intricately-decorated chariot that had been hand-constructed for the nagaryatra.
Acharya Swamishree performed aarti to Lord Shree Swaminarayan and His divine spiritual lineage, who were seated upon the chariot. Acharya Swamishree was then adorned in beautiful vagha, and He took His sit alongside our Guruparampara on the chariot. Sants then accompanied Him. Disciples were then given the opportunity to perform aarti to Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa, our Guruparampara, and Acharya Swamishree.
The procession then commenced. The parade route weaved itself through the streets of Chesapeake and its neighborhoods, passing several Christian churches of various denominations, making its way to the Mandir. The route of the parade itself exemplifies the significance this Mandir will have in strengthening community ties between all walks of life and all faiths. It also tied together the various faiths present in the city of Chesapeake today, truly pervading the message of peace all throughout. The Chesapeake Police Department graciously provided security and managed the road closings all throughout the procession.
Throughout the entire procession, our Guruparampara and Acharya Swamishree bestowed their divine darshan to all the disciples and spectators throughout the entire procession, which was roughly three-quarters of a mile long and lasted for one hour. The sun was out and shining brightly all throughout the procession. Throughout the Mahotsav, outside temperatures reached nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with the actual heat index being near 115 degrees! However, throughout the nagaryatra, the Lord provided a cooling shade and the gentlest breeze to all. Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa was undoubtedly present for the grand procession towards His new home in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Pipe Band, U.S.A., with members from New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia Mandals led the procession. With several mandals being represented, it was a truly united group! Dozens of discipels carried kalash behind Acharya Swamishree’s chariot, and hundreds of disciples from all over the world walked in the procession, many in matching uniforms, singing praises of the Lord. Disciples in the back also danced to ‘timli’ kirtans. Hundreds of local residents came out from their homes to gaze at the procession, the divine murtis of Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa, and Acharya Swamishree. Some had even set up their lawn chairs near the Mandir entrance to really enjoy the beautiful sight. They snapped photos and recorded videos with their cameras. Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree bestowed their divine darshan upon them all.
When the nagaryatra arrived at the temple, disciples performed the welcoming back ceremony (punkhvaanu) and performed aarti to Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree. Several disciples also performed raas near the entrance of the temple. Acharya Swamishree then descended from the chariot and was escorted towards the temple by disciples. After this, Acharya Swamishree performed sandhya aarti, everyone performed daily evening niyams, and mahaprasad dinner was served to all before the evening program.
Saturday evening, disciples from across North America were given the opportunity to showcase their devotional talents to please Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa, and His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree. After mahaprasad, Acharya Swamishree, sants, and disciples all gathered back in the sabha mandap for the evening devotional and cultural program.
The evening commenced with devotional singing (kirtan) performances by the young girls of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Chesapeake. They recited a small prathna slok and then sang the kirtan “Aaj Sakhi Anand-ni Heli” to please the Lord and Acharya Swamishree. It was truly a delightful performance.
Eight different devotional dance performances from disciples coming from across the United States then followed. They incorporate props and different styles of classical and modern dance to truly make their performances unique and memorable. Below were the performances from the evening:
The Lord and Acharya Swamishree’s blessings were with all of the disciples throughout the night, and everything went smoothly for a pleasant evening. Uproar of cheering from the crowd followed each and every performance.
At the end of all of the performances, Acharya Swamishree blessed all of the disciples who partook in pleasing the Lord that evening. He thoroughly enjoyed all of the performances throughout the night. It was evident in His eyes and smile that He was truly pleased to see how much love for the Lord, devotion, and talents in the disciples of North America have grown since Gurudev Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa’s visit to North America in 1970 and since the opening of the first temple in the United States, Shree Swaminarayan Temple New Jersey, in 2001.
After a few announcements, Acharya Swamishree was escorted out of the sabha mandap, and this officially concluded the day’s programs. With Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa, and Acharya Swamishree’s blessings, the second day of the Mahotsav was another memorable one.