presented by Bhagwan Swaminarayan to
Governor Sir John Malcolm, currently preserved in the
Bodleian Library at Oxford University.
On 26th February 1830, an historic meeting
took place between Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Sir John Malcolm, Governor
Governor Malcolm, one of 17 children of a poor family, was commissioned
by the directors of the East India Company at the age of 13.
From this humble beginning, he attained the rank of Major-General in
the military and his diplomatic skills were recognised by his appointment
as Governor of Bombay from 1 November 1820 to 1 December 1827. Thus,
John William Kaye writes in The Life and Correspondence of Major-General
Sir John Malcolm, “He left the country of his adoption having
attained if not its highest place, the highest ever attained by one
who set out from the same starting point.”
As the Governor of Bombay, Sir Malcolm had political responsibility
for Gujarat, Kathiawad and Kutch. He endeavoured diligently to eradicate
the evils of robbery, murder, sati, and female infanticide.
He believed that lasting reform to rid society of these evils could
best be achieved, not by use of force, but by the reasoned persuasion
of enlightened and respected Indian leaders.
In Governor Malcolm’s territory of political responsibility, Bhagwan
Swaminarayan’s teachings had improved public order and discipline
– an effect which British administrators in the region appreciated
and reported to their superiors and friends. For example, Mr. Williamson,
Collector of Baroda, reported to Bishop Reginald Heber that “some
good has been done among many of these wild people by the preaching
and popularity of the Hindu reformer Swamee Narain.”
David Anderson Blane, acting political agent at Rajkot from 1828-30
informed Governor Malcolm about the good work and positive influence
on the people of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. In tune with his objective, this
explains Governor Malcolm’s great desire to meet with Bhagwan
Mr. Blane must have been well acquainted with Bhagwan Swaminarayan,
for in his letter of invitation to meet the governor, he addresses it
to him as “Most respectable and wise” and signs it “from
Thus, despite ill health, Bhagwan Swaminarayan consented to the meeting,
which took place at the residence of Mr. Blane in Rajkot.
Amidst an atmosphere of mutual respect, Governor Malcolm enquired if
Bhagwan Swaminarayan or his disciples had been harmed under British
rule. Replying, Bhagwan Swaminarayan informed the governor that “every
protection was given by all the officers in authority.” In fact,
Bhagwan Swaminarayan had received a warm welcome in areas under British
control and had even been donated land for building a mandir in Amdavad.
At the end of this meeting, Bhagwan Swaminarayan presented a copy of
the Shikshapatri to Sir Malcolm. The Shikshapatri, containing Bhagwan
Swaminarayan’s moral, social and spiritual codes for all devotees,
was thus a most appropriate gift – one that would enlighten the
governor about how Bhagwan Swaminarayan had been so successful in creating
social order and harmony.
This copy of the Shikshapatri presented by Bhagwan Swaminarayan to Sir
John Malcolm is presently preserved in the Indian Institute Library,
a part of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University (see photograph).
It was donated to the Indian Institute Library by Thomas Law Blane,
member of the Madras Civil Services in the 1820’s and 1830’s
and younger brother of David Anderson Blane. It seems that the elder
Blane, who had arranged and was present in the meeting, had preserved
the Shikshapatri until his death in 1879, when his younger brother donated
it to the Bodleian Library.
This manuscript of the Shikshapatri is one of the oldest copies of the
text preserved. It is a small, hand-sized manuscript in book form, measuring
5½ x 3½ inches. It contains 166 pages, with six lines
of writing per page. There are five pages without text. The material
used to write on is paper and the manuscript is protected by a cloth
binding that is folded over and tied shut. On the fly-leaf the following
unsigned inscription is written in English:
Presented by Swami Narain, a reforming
saint in Guzerat. It is a detail of the duties of his disciples upon
different subjects but not so full as the Manu Dharma Shastra to which
he refers for what he may have omitted. He forbids all cruel punishments
whatever. The shlokas are in Sanskrit but the commentary is written
This copy of the Shikshapatri was scribed by Nilkanthanand Muni in 1830,
and contains some interesting additional material. First is an eight-verse
hymn to Shri Narayan by Dinanath, followed by an eight-verse hymn to
Shri Radha Krishna by Shatanand. At the end of the Shikshapatri is a
Gujarati hymn by Muktanand Muni.
The Shikshapatri, containing 212 verses in its final form, was completed
by Bhagwan Swaminarayan in 1826 (Maha sud 5, Vasant Panchmi, Samvat
year 1882) at Vartal.
Having observed the decline in morality and social harmony, Bhagwan
Swaminarayan worked for many years to improve the situation. His methods
were highly successful and the Shikshapatri is a distillation of His
experience. It is one of the primary scriptures of the Swaminarayan
Sampraday and provides a sound framework on which moral, social and
spiritual integration of society can be achieved.
Its 212 verses provide a summary of duties for one and all and is both
rational and progressive.
It reveals that devotion to God, righteous living, detachment from worldly
pleasures and a knowledge of one’s true form as the atma (soul)
is vital for spiritual progress.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan has instructed His devotees in matters of health,
hygiene, dress, diet, etiquette, diplomacy, finance, education, friendships,
morality, habits, penance, religious duties, celebrations and other
The codes are applicable to devotees of all stages and walks of life
– young or old; men or women; married, unmarried or widowed; householder
So that devotees remain constantly aware of their duties, Bhagwan Swaminarayan
has instructed them to read it daily. Thus, even today, thousands throughout
the world sincerely live by the injunctions of the Shikshapatri.
Written originally in Sanskrit verse, early manuscripts of the scripture
were accompanied by commentaries in Gujarati. The first English translation
was published by Professor Monier-Williams, Boden Professor of Sanskrit
at Oxford University. The Shikshapatri has been published in 29 languages:
11. Modern Hebrew
12. North Sotho
15. South Sotho
by Sadhu Amrutvijaydas
(New Dimensions in Vedanta Philosophy,