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 perhaps,
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 2-day festival
associated with Diwali, including the Annakut festival on New Year's
day, were held as usual in Gondal, India.
Significance of Festivals
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;
2 Nov. 2002). 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; 3 Nov. 2002), Shri Hanumanji is worshipped to drive away
all inauspicious and ill-omened elements. On this day, Shri Krishna
destroyed Narkasur and released the 16,000 damsels that the demon
Diwali (Aso vad 30; 4 Nov. 2002),
the last day of the year, is celebrated because Bhagwan Shri 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 Shri 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 darshan of Akshar
Deri, the cremation memorial shrine of Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami,
and the majestically decorated Gondal Akshar Mandirs murtis.
Swamishri bowed to the thousands 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 sadhus and devotees
to bid them all "Jai Swaminarayan" on this auspicious Diwali
Swamishri then paid his respects to Yogi Smruti Mandir, the cremation
memorial shrine of Pujya Yogiji Maharaj. Verses praising Yogji Maharajs
saintly qualities were sung while Swamishri gave his respects.
In the evening, thousands 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
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 strength 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.
Thereafter, Swami personally visited the areas where the next day's
Annakut Festival preparations were being made. Swamishri gave his blessings
to all the enthusiastic volunteers and spiritually charged them for
the long night awaiting them.