an adjunct to the scriptures in establishing Ekantik Dharma and
consolidating the framework of the Satsang, Bhagwan Swaminarayan
constructed magnificent stone mandirs - buttressing Upasana -
worshipping God in all His greatness and glory, and bhakti - unalloyed
devotion. Towards the end of His second decade of work, He placed
a greater emphasis on bhakti over detachment - vairagya, to foster
love for God. This emphasis on bhakti culminated in the building
The mandirs served four major purposes:
- as a permanent place for offering
- as a centre for religious gatherings
- as a centre for studying Sanskrit,
devotional music and Vedic literature,
- as centres of social services
where alms, medicines, and clothes, were available to the poor
origin of the first mandir, built in Amdavad is worth considering.
In 1817 the Peshwa rulers handed over the city to the British.
A.K. Heron, an officer in the Company sent for Swaminarayan's
disciples in the city. He requested them to invite Bhagwan Swaminarayan
to the city from Gadhada.2 He had met Him earlier in
Kheda, just after the yagna in Dabhan. In divine form, Maharaj
had also saved him from a tiger, not far from the Amdavad's walls,
near the river Sabarmati. He related this miraculous experience
to the Collector, John A. Dunlop. Heron also praised the peaceable
nature and calming influence of Swaminarayan's devotees. This
pleased Dunlop since he wished to establish law and order in the
city. He was having a tough time dealing with Koli looters entering
the city at night through holes in the city's walls.3
After meeting Maharaj, land was granted in the city to build a
In an astonishingly short span of six years, from 1822 till 1828,
Bhagwan Swaminarayan constructed six mandirs of exquisite beauty
and architectural grandeur in Gujarat - Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Vadtal,
Dholera, Junagadh and Gadhada. He delegated this monumental task
primarily to the versatile Brahmanand. Under the Lord's inspiration
and his genius, he procured land, finance, stone, labour, relieved
tax duties, in addition to designing the mandirs! Anandanand and
Nishkulanand also helped him.4
The sadhus and devotees provided the labour, considered as seva
- devotional service. The Lord Himself spiritedly carried stones
on His head, hauling them up the hill from the river Ghela, to
Dada's court, during the foundation laying of the Gadhada mandir.
He also carried thirty-seven bricks in the Vadtal mandir's construction.5
These can be observed 'in situ' even today.
In keeping with Vedic tradition, the Bhakta-Bhagwan relationship
Bhagwan Swaminarayan consecrated in these mandirs the murtis of Radha-Krishna,
Nar-Narayan and Laxmi-Narayan. He reinforced the dual worship
of Bhakta-Bhagwan - God along with His ideal Devotee. His own
murti, named Harikrishna Maharaj, He consecrated in Vadtal.6
Interestingly, in the history of world religions, this is perhaps
the first instance of monuments of worship being constructed in
the life period of a religious founder.
He entrusted the day to day performance of the worship rituals
in these mandirs to the sadhus.
At a time when the land was steeped in penury, finances scant,
the construction of such grand temples attested to His innate
divinity. Parekh summarizes: 'The very magnitude of the Temples
is a striking and novel feature in the Province in which this
movement has worked, and that it should have succeeded in having
so many temples of such size and beauty in so short a time reflects
no small credit on the power and influence of the Master. These
are standing monuments to his spiritual genius, his great power
of organisation, and remarkable co-operation among his followers.'7
op.cit., Gadhada II-27.
2 Dave, op.cit., Vol. IV., Invitation pp. 18-21, Heron's
request to build mandir in the city, pp. 31-34.
3 Behram, Boman, B.K. The Rise of Municipal Government
in the City of Ahmedabad.
Bombay: D.G. Taraporevala Sons & Co. 1937, state of city's
walls, pp. 7-9.
4 Mashruwala, op.cit., p.53.
5 Dave, op.cit., Vol. V., p.259.
6 ibid., p.18.
7 Parekh, op.cit., p.113.