Sankari is a very
small village with a population of no more than a hundred people
and a single street of homes. Lush farms and trees surround
the village. The heart-throb of Sankari is the Akshar Purushottam
Swaminarayan Mandir consecrated in 1971 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
The principal people behind the building of the first mandir
in Sankari were Ramanbhai Patel, Govindkaka, Jivankaka and Somakaka.
After the small mandir was built, Somakaka and the citizens
of Sankari and the neighboring villages were looking for someone
to consecrate the murtis of Laxminarayan Dev. On meeting Yogiji
Maharaj in UK, in 1970, Somakaka requested him to grace and
consecrate the mandir. Yogiji Maharaj agreed and told him, "I
will come to perform the murti-pratishtha of the mandir."
But on returning to India Yogiji Maharaj passed away in Jan.
1971. To fulfill the wish of Yogiji Maharaj and the request
of the villagers, Pramukh Swami Maharaj consecrated the murtis
of Akshar Purushottam Maharaj and Laxminarayan Dev on 3 June,
1971. It was Swamishri's first murti-pratishtha of a shikharbaddh
Over the decades the efforts of Swamishri and sadhus saw the
fluorishment of Satsang in the region of Sankari. They travelled
to the tribal villages and inspired thousands to give up addictions
and superstitions. The Sankari mandir soon burgeoned into a
center for spiritual and moral regeneration. In 1988 a portion
of the mandir land was transformed for over six months into
an ideal cattle camp for the drought-stricken cattle. Every
Punam, 6,000 to 7,000 devotees come for darshan at the mandir.
The entire region has 88 Bal Mandals, 61 Balika Mandals, 98
Mahila Mandals and over 155 BAPS Satsang Mandals. These centers
have spread and consolidated the Hindu ideals and messages of
moral living among the tribal and educated masses. Two BAPS
Mobile Health Vans offer their services to the poor tribal people
in that region. With the growing magnitude of Satsang, the need
for a bigger mandir complex became necessary. To satisfy the
increasing needs, Swamishri performed the ground-breaking ceremony
for a new shikharbaddh mandir on 15 January 1996. Within 5 years
the intricately carved mandir made of pink sandstone was ready.
It stands like a resplendent jewel in the lush green surroundings
The mandir is 196 ft long, 135 ft wide and 65 ft high. It has
5 towering shikhars, 15 domes, 84 profusely carved pillars,
100 filagreed arches, 290 statues of incarnations, acharyas
and devotees and an impressive entrance gate. The inauguration
ceremony of the newly built Shri Swaminarayan Mandir was performed
by Pramukh Swami Maharaj on 18 May 2001. The three main features
of this festival were: the diksha and yagna ceremony, procession
and murti-pratishtha ceremony.
Diksha Ceremony: 17 May (Thursday)
After Swamishri's morning puja, the diksha ceremony
of 11 parshads and 7 sadhaks commenced amidst Vedic chantings.
Swamishri gave the guru mantra and initiated the novices. In
all, 7 sadhaks were given the Parshad diksha and 11 parshads
were given the Bhagwati diksha.
Thereafter Swamishri inaugurated three new publications published
by Swaminarayan Akshar Pith:
na Chatke by Swami Viveksagardas
Stotram by Swami Shrutiprakashdas
Sanskar by Swami Shrutiprakashdas
17 May (Thursday)
At 10.10 a.m. Swamishri
arrived at the yagna-shala for the yagna. The Vedic rituals
for the purification and worship of the murtis of deities to
be installed in the mandir were being held. The yagna-shala
was traditionally decorated with festoons of leaves and banana
trunks. It resonated with the chantings of over 50 Brahmin pundits.
Around the 63 kunds the yagna rituals were being followed by
536 yajmans (participants). Swamishri performed the pujan of
the deities of Akshar Purushottam Maharaj, Ghanshyam Maharaj,
Laxmi Narayan Dev, Harikrishna Maharaj, Shiv-Parvatiji, Shivling,
Sita-Ram, Hanumanji, Ganapatiji, Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji
Maharaj for the Sankari mandir. Swamishri also worshiped murtis
for the Hari mandirs of Khushalpura and Shahpur, and then blessed
Procession (Nagar Yatra) : 17 May (Thursday)
On the afternoon of 17
May 2001, a spectacular procession of floats was carried out
a day prior to the murti-pratishtha ceremony. The 1 km long
procession comprised of torch-bearers, bands, horse riders,
tribal dancers, devotees and sadhus singing bhajans and dhuns,
floats with the murtis of the deities and women devotees singing
bhajans and carrying auspicious pots. The 3 km route from Rayan
village to Sankari was a moving spectacle of sound, color and
devotion. Swamishri blessed the procession when it concluded
by the mandir.
Convention (Mahila Sammelan) : 17 May (Thursday)
A Women's Convention was also organized on the occasion of the
murti-pratishtha festival, with district collector Mrs. Sangitaben
Sinha gracing the Chief Guest's chair. The convention started
off with a welcome dance by girls, followed by addresses by
the chief guest and others. A socially relevant drama staged
by girls appealed to the audience.
Ceremony: 18 May 2001 (Friday)
At 8.52 a.m., Swamishri
inaugurated the main gate, Akshar Dwar, of the Shri Swaminarayan
Mandir. Amidst Vedic chantings Swamishri offered prayers to
Shri Harikrishna Maharaj and smeared kumkum and swastik to the
two main pillars of Akshar Dwar. After Pujya Tyagvallabh Swami
split the coconut, Swamishri untied the nada-chhadi and declared
the gate open.
Swamishri then entered the mandir and performed the pratishtha
rituals of the murtis of Akshar Purushottam Maharaj. Pujya Mahant
Swami performed the rituals of Ghanshyam Maharaj, Pujya Dr.
Swami performed the rituals of Harikrishna Maharaj and Laxminarayan
Dev and other senior sadhus performed the rituals of the murtis
of Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj, Shiv Panchayatan and Ram
Panchayatan. Swamishri then performed the pujan of all the murtis.
While the annakut was being placed before the deities Swamishri
offered prayers for the alleviation of the drought in Gujarat
and happiness of the earthquake victims, for a good monsoon
and peace in the world. Thereafter, Swamishri performed the
pratishtha arti and finally offered dandvats before the deities.
After the consecration
ceremony, Swamishri presided over the pratishtha assembly. Discourses
on the importance of mandirs in society and the philanthropic
activities inspired by Swamishri were given by senior sadhus.
Dignitaries and state ministers were then honored. Shri Mangubhai
Patel, Minister for Tribal Development, lauded Swamishri's
philanthropic activities. Finally Swamishri blessed the assembly.
Over 32,000 people had attended the murti-pratishtha festival
and partook of the prasad.
The newly inaugurated mandir complex will in future have a large
auditorium, health center, convention (shibir) facilities, library,
lodging arrangements and beautiful gardens.