Swamishri's presence is
always a reason to celebrate.
Special days of festivals, then, are especially enriched with
joy and jubilation whenever celebrated in his divine presence.
And among all celebrations
nothing arouses more auspiciousness and elation
than the end and beginning of a year.
This year, in the
presence of HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the 3-day festivals associated
with Diwali, including the Annakut festival and New Year held in Gondal,
Diwali is the last day (Aso vad 30) of the year in the Hindu calendar,
and celebrations begin two days before Diwali.
The first festival is
called Dhanteras (Aso vad 13;
12 Nov. 2001). On this day, money is worshipped (Lakshmi Pujan) as
a symbol of appreciation to the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Lakshmi
Pujan is also performed with sentiments of purifying ones wealth
and that it be utilized for noble purposes during the New Year.
On the next day, Kali Chaudas
(Aso vad 14; 13 Nov. 2001), Shri Hanumanji is worshipped to drive
away all inauspicious and ill-omened elements. On this day, Lord Krishna
destroyed Narkasur and released the 16,000 damsels that the demon
(Aso vad 30; 14 Nov. 2001), the last day of the year, is celebrated
because Lord Ram returned victorious to Ayodhya from his 14 year exile
in the forest. On this day, lamps are lighted as a symbol of jubilation
for Lord Rams return to Ayodhya and a sign to kindle the light
of knowledge and divinity within ones heart.
Chopada pujan or the ritual for the sanctification of account books
for the New Year is also held on this day.
decorated walk path of lighted candles had been arranged to greet Swamishri
from his residence to his morning puja. Swamishri began his Diwali celebrations
by giving reverence to the sanctified rooms of his gurus, Pujya Shastriji
Maharaj and Pujya Yogiji Maharaj. Swamishri then had the darshan of
Akshar Dheri, the cremation memorial shrine of Aksharbrahm Gunatitianand
Swami and the majestically decorated Gondal Akshar Mandirs murtis.
Swamishri bowed to
the hundreds of devotees who had gathered as he sat down and then performed
his puja as the sadhus sang festive devotional songs. After puja, Swamishri
again bowed to the saints and devotees bid them all "Jai Swaminarayan"
on this auspicious Diwali day.
Swamishri then paid
his respects to the cremation memorial shrine of Pujya Yogiji Maharaj.
Verses praising Yogji Maharajs saintly qualities were sung while
Swamishri gave his respects.
In the evening, around
hundreds of devotees gathered to participate in the traditional "chopda
pujan" ceremony. After performing all the traditional Vedic rituals
or Maha Puja, Swamishri blessed all the financial books and everyone
for success in their business venture as exploding fireworks burst in
the night sky.
In his blessings
to the assembly Swamishri said, "Today is a day for everyone not
only to reconcile ones financial books but also our spiritual
books. We should pray to God to forgive us for all our mistakes this
past year and to give us the wisdom and strengthen to not make them
the next year. May all the devotees have a prosperous new year and there
be peace throughout the world. May we all come closer to God and remain
well physically, mentally and spiritually.
personally toured the areas where the next days Annakut Festival preparations
were being held. Swamishri gave his blessings to all the enthusiastic
volunteers and spiritually charged them for the long night awaiting