This celebrates the day on which Shastriji Maharaj appointed Pramukh
Swami as head of the BAPS Sanstha.
Sanstha - Historical Backdrop
In Samvat 1963 Vaishakh vad 10, 5th June 1907, Shastriji Maharaj,
the third spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, consecrated
the murtis of Purna Purushottam Shri Swaminarayan and His choicest
devotee Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami, in the central shrine of
the Bochasan mandir. This founded the Bochasanwasi (wasi
meaning `based in') Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan (BAPS)
In the nearly half century that
elapsed, prior to him returning to Akshardham in 1951, an immensely
loyal group of sadhus and devotees aided him in constructing mandirs
in Sarangpur, Gondal, Atladara (Vadodara) and Gadhada. In Samvat 2006,
Jeth sud 4, 21st May 1950, he summoned some of these to a committee
meeting at the Hari mandir in Ambliwali Pol, in Shahpur, a ward just
inside the old city wall of Amdavad.
the Head of BAPS.
He convened the general administrative
committee of the BAPS Sanstha at 5 p.m. on Sunday 21-5-1950 to appoint
the new president of BAPS. The following sadhu members presided in
- Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj -
Bhagwan Swaminarayan's present spiritual successor, Guru and Head
- Sadguru Yogiji Maharaj - Sadhu Jnanjivandasji
- Sadguru Sadhu Aksharpurushottamdasji
- Sadguru Kothari Shastri Narayanswarupdasji
- Sadguru Kothari Sadhu Harijivandasji
- Kothari Sadhu Aksharswarupdasji
- Kothari Sadhu Bhaktivallabhdasji
- Kothari Sadhu Dharmavallabhdasji
- Kothari Shastri Purushottamcharandasji
- Kothari Soma Bhagat
- Kothari Ramji Bhagat
The gruhastha devotee members
- Sheth Shri Champaklal C.Banker
- Shri Ashabhai Prabhudas Patel
- Shri Vinayakrao Trivedi
- Shri Hirabhai Chaturbhai Patel
- Shri Mathurbhai Makandas Patel
- Shri Ramchandrabhai Thaakar
- Shri Narayandas Chhaganbhai Patel
- Sheth Shri Bhaichandbhai Shah
- Shri Motibhai Patel
- Shri Ramjibhai Khatri
- Shri Sidibhai (of Gondal)
- Shri Badrinathbhai Vyas
- Shri Girdharbhai Patel
- Shri Rasiklalbhai Dhanjibhai Patel
Other invited devotees
Shri Keshavlal Karbharisaheb, Shri
Ishvarbhai Patel, Shri Khengarjibhai Chauhan, Shri Gordhanbhai Brahmbhatt,
Shri Tulsibhai, Shri Arjunbhai Chavda, Kothari Babubhai, Shri Vasantrai
Pandya, Shri Bhogilal Choksi, Shri Maganbhai Suratwala, Shri Ranchhodbhai
, Shri Parsottambhai Jorabhai, Shri Purushottam Brahmbhatt, Shri Babubhai
Mistry and other devotees from Radhu, Sarangpur, Gondal, Jetpur and
In this meeting 3 new
gruhastha members were appointed in the committee:
- Shri Khushalbhai Shankarbhai Patel
of Naar (Secretary Shri Rasikbhai's grandfather)
- Shri Manilal Nanalal Bhatt of Salaad,
- Darbar Shri Hakabhai Rukhadbhai
Khachar - Assistant Secretary (direct lineage of Jiva Khachar,
Kathi chief of Sarangpur during Shriji Maharaj's time).
Shastriji Maharaj then
"Just as Sadguru Ramanand
Swami appointed the young Sahajanand Swami as head of the Satsang,
I hereby appoint in my place, Sadguru Shastri Narayanswarupdasji as
head of the Sanstha." He then ceremoniously draped a saffron
chaadar (cloth) around his shoulders. Lovingly glancing at
the 28-year-old sadhu, he said, "Yogiji Maharaj here (gesturing
towards Yogiji Maharaj) is vachansiddh (one whose words always
prove true), and a spiritually stalwart sadhu. You are to ennoble
the Satsang under his auspices." Turning towards Yogiji Maharaj,
he said, "Kindly place your hands on his head so that he may
be graced with your virtues."
To the sadhus and devotees,
Shastriji Maharaj then revealed,
my parikshak shakti [insightful ability] I have scrutinised
everything and so appoint him as head for his whole lifespan,
in my place. Just as you have accepted my commands and leadership,
[now] in my stead, I command you all to accept and instruct
others to accept Shastri Narayanswarupdas's commands and leadership."
one elderly devotee voiced his concern to Shastriji Maharaj about
Narayanswarupdasji's young age and that he (Shastriji Maharaj) should
think deeply in case he may regret the decision in the future, Shastriji
Maharaj instantly and confidently replied, "I have never done
anything which I regretted. Even in this, I will never have to regret"
On this historic occasion, Shastri
Narayanswarupdas humbly pledged to his Guru:
"Whatever the power and inspiration
that I possess, have wholly been graced by you. Now for the mammoth
task that you bestow upon me, please kindly grace me wholeheartedly
with shakti and strength. Similarly, let all your devotees
remain happy in body, mind and wealth. Let them offer worship happily
to Swami-Shriji and attain Akshardham. For this, I pray for your blessings.
Also, with your phenomenal divinity, grace Akshardham to those who
even unknowingly utter Akshar-Purushottam."
O Gurushri, in front of you and this gathering, I pledge that
I shall sincerely uphold my duties, without caring for my body, and
in every way remain loyal to the Sanstha and faithful to you."
the senior sadhus and elderly devotees then wholeheartedly voiced
their sentiments, supporting Shastriji Maharaj's decision in appointing
Narayanswarupdas as Pramukh.
After the gathering dispersed,
Pramukh Swami noted a heap of cooking utensils in a corner on the
outer porch of the Hari mandir. Instantly he sat down in the small
washing cubicle and washed them. Such humble service has been the
hallmark of his unique personality since early life.
Swami Maharaj & BAPS Sanstha
In 1951, Shastriji Maharaj returned
to Akshardham. Pramukh Swami, then only 29 years old, shouldered all
the administrative duties of the Sanstha, which included the ongoing
construction of all 5 mandirs - the fifth being Gadhada, leaving Yogiji
Maharaj free to tour the villages, towns and cities to nurture and
fulfil the devotional aspirations of devotees.
construction posed a monumental task, wrought with obstacles at every
step. This often involved travelling to the stone and marble quarries
in the deserts of Rajasthan, to personally oversee the quarrying and
transportation of the appropriate type of stone, without being swindled
by local merchants. At home, working with stone masons and sculptors
too demanded the coolest mind and the noblest heart.
all the festivals celebrated on a grand scale required efficient management
involving thousands of volunteers, all under the guidance of only
one sadhu - Pramukh Swami Maharaj! Circumstances and shortage of young,
able bodied sadhus necessitated him handling all the departments himself.
This comprised: procuring a good water supply, transportation, catering,
lodging, supply of bedding, erecting the sabha mandap, power supply,
loudspeaker facilities and the whole gamut of seva that a grand festival
entailed. Prior and post-festival periods saw Swami averaging three
hours of sleep every night. The laborious winding up process posed
the toughest challenges; for even the most dedicated volunteers had
to resume their vocations, leaving all the chores squarely on Swami.
travelling, he invariably chose public transport buses and third class
compartments on trains, in Yogiji Maharaj's footsteps. While visiting
mandirs he usually slept either on a heap of building sand or the
bare floor and had meals with the other sadhus, in true monastic order.
Even as head of the Sanstha, no special demands. No fuss. With a thousand
ears and an ocean heart, he patiently listened to the grievances,
suggestions and on rare occasions, orders, from the mandirs' Kotharis.
He listened, to their demands, their debts, their encroached farmlands
- and the thousand other bones of contentions - all insolvable headaches,
in the midst of extreme penury. Despite their physical miseries, fully
aware that they would not see the light of day in the near future,
the Kotharis - all old enough to be his father - would be appeased;
solaced by his ineffable personality and words of wisdom. He also
gave an ear to the most lay devotee serving in the mandirs; from the
farmer to the rabari (cowhead) tending the mandir's cows.
remaining in the background and never exercising his power as head,
he devotedly obeyed Yogiji Maharaj's commands and fulfilled his wishes.
He once revealed, "By Shastriji Maharaj's grace, my opinion never
differed from that of Yogiji Maharaj. Even during Shastriji Maharaj's
tenure I endeavored to please Yogiji Maharaj."
Such humility renders Pramukh Swami
Maharaj indistinguishable from the sanstha. As a senior sadhu aptly
says,"He is not only the Head of the sanstha, but also the Heart.
As his heart beats, so does the Sanstha. Verily, Swamiji has become
the Sanstha, and the Sanstha Swamiji!"
It is this humility which renders him so astonishingly accessible
relating to other leaders and heads of states. Even the lowest tribal
boy can approach him personally to unload his anxieties, without having
to fend through a stringent protocol. Therein lies the key to his
successful management of BAPS.
Hence it may not be an exaggeration
to claim that, among any institution in the world with a president,
Pramukh Swami Maharaj [as head of BAPS] is the only one to have been
" in office"
so to speak, for the longest span, of over 50 years; not only without
the slightest dissension from its members, but with pride and earnest
prayers in their hearts to remain there as long as possible! A supremely
mind boggling achievement.
After Yogiji Maharaj's departure in 1971, the Satsang has witnessed
an astonishing phenomenon, rarely seen elsewhere; his dynamism surged
as he aged! In keeping with his pledge, in not caring for his body
in the benefit of the sanstha, he set a gruelling pace in his life;
the hectic and incessant tourings at home and abroad to boost the
religious fervor of devotees - visiting them in cities, villages and
forest tribal areas, the ever-increasing correspondence, the construction
of new mandirs, celebrating mega-festivals and nurturing his beloved
sadhus on to the path of saintliness and God-realization. All this
while strictly observing 3 to 5 waterless fasts a month and Dharna-Parna
(a fast every alternate day) during Shravan. This ultimately affected
his health; with his first prolonged illness in 1978, at the age of
58! Later followed cataract and gall bladder removal in 1980 and 1981
respectively and a heart attack in 1983. Incredibly he remained unfazed,
stretching his activities beyond human limits. Two years later, at
the age of 65, one part of his rural schedule unimaginably entailed
visiting devotees in 96 villages in only 19 days! Even arthritic knees
and recurrent viral fevers have failed to break his dynamism. After
his by-pass heart surgery in 1999, his tourings to uplift humanity
continue unabated! And it is this superhuman dynamism which has imbued
BAPS Sanstha national and international plaudits.
Petlikar, a renowned literary figure of Gujarat averred that, "The
side vine of the banyan tree has grown thicker than the original trunk!"
inspiring the celebration of mega-international Hindu festivals such
as the Cultural Festivals of India, in London in 1985, and
in Edison, N.J. in 1991, constructing grand stone edifices such as
Akshardham, the Vedic mandirs in London, Nairobi and at home, Swami
has revived the Hindu Dharma in 52 countries. A management expert
who played a key role in organizing the Indian government's Festival
of India programmes abroad, Dr.Kartarsingh Luthra was flabbergasted
when he attended the CFI in Edison. He sincerely lauded Swami's remarkable
organizing flair and the BAPS Sanstha's volunteers.
home, a Charity Commissioner of Gujarat revealed that in his opinion,
of the 92,000 charitable trusts in Gujarat, BAPS stands first!
humble pledge to strive for the Sanstha without caring for his body,
is mirrored by the figures.
BAPS today has:
- Over 450 mandirs,
- 7050 Satsang centres worldwide
- 5 fully fledged hospitals
- 11 mobile dispensaries for tribals
in north and south Gujarat, and quake victims in kutch
- 10 youth hostels including one solely
for girls in Anand, Gujarat
- 17 schools - including the only
Independent Hindu School in Europe, in London, opposite the new
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
- 5 Information Technology institutes
- Computer Education classes in over
8 villages and cities
- AARSH research centre in the Akshardham
complex in Gandhinagar
Swami's greatest, most awe-inspiring
project is to fulfill Yogiji Maharaj's wish, to consecrate a Vedic
shikharbaddh mandir on the banks of the sacred Yamuna, in New Delhi,
along with a second Akshardham.
His crowning chaitanya
assets are his group of sadhus, nearing 700, as prophecied by Yogiji
The above achievements stem
from his humility, purity and saintliness, his selfless, unfathomable
love for humanity, unalloyed devotion to Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji
Maharaj and constant rapport with Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
The former US President,
Bill Clinton, experienced these virtues when he met Pramukh Swami
Maharaj in Akshardham on 5th April 2001:
"He (pointing to
Swami) is different. He connects with everyone around him... I saw
in his eyes that he is a man who has not come ahead by eclipsing others.
He has come forward by always placing others before him. And that
is why I had a deep desire to meet him again [after first meeting
him in Miami in 2000].... Like the statue [of Bhagwan Swaminarayan
in Akshardham] he has a heart of gold.."
of Draping the Chaadar
The physical chaadar that Shastriji Maharaj draped on Shastri Narayanswarupdasji
is not just an emblem of appointment as head. Rather it reflects the
latter's pure Brahmic state and as ideal sevak his constant
rapport with Shriji Maharaj. Therefore the chaadar itself is
symbolic of Swami and Shriji Maharaj.
Paramatma has graced us with a chaadar too in the form of the
human body. However the poet and
mystic Kabir cries out ,
"How can I clean this chaadar soiled in countless births?
I dirty it day after day ---"
However, since infinite births we have tended to dirty it with mayic
impressions, and continue to do so. The only means to cleanse it is
to use `pure water' of Aksharbrahma, devoid of and transcending Maya.
Therefore as disciples of Pramukh Swami
Maharaj, the manifest form of Aksharbrahma, we can only pray to him
to cleanse our soiled chaadars and dye them with the colour of Akshar,
thus becoming Akshar-rup.