Twenty thousand orange,
green and white balloons coloured the sky over Akshardham monument on
8 February 2004. The magnificent sight marked the celebration of the
Golden Anniversary of the BAPS Children’s Forum (Bal Mandal).
Twenty thousand BAPS children ecstatically cheered and celebrated the
golden event in the esteemed presence of His Divine Holiness Pramukh
Swami Maharaj, President of India H.E. Abdul Kalam, Deputy Prime Minster
Hon. L.K. Advani, Governor of Gujarat H.E. Kailaspati Mishra, Chief
Minister of Gujarat Shri Narendra Modi and many other dignitaries.
The celebration was a tribute to Brahmaswarup Yogiji Maharaj, the founder
of BAPS Children’s Forum, and the multi-faceted socio-spiritual
activities inspired in children by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
After months of planning, the 50th Anniversary Celebration hosted 20,000
children, between the ages of 12 to 14, selected from BAPS Children’s
Forum throughout Gujarat and Mumbai. At 1.00 p.m. on 8 February 2004,
they started streaming into Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat. For
every five children, a youth volunteer was appointed to guide and escort
them. As they entered the Akshardham complex, dressed in white and wearing
a red band, each boy and girl was given a paper cap. The boys and girls
were led onto the sprawling left and right lawns in front of the Akshardham
monument respectively. Thereafter, instructions for mass participation
for the programme were announced and every child was given a balloon.
At 5.40 p.m., the President of India, H.E. Abdul Kalam, was welcomed
by Pramukh Swami Maharaj with a garland by the main foyer. It was the
president’s third meeting with Swamishri. Overwhelmed with joy,
the president said, “You know, I had a great meeting with him
in Delhi, and the words of that meeting still resonate in my mind; and
there is always divine radiation, divine vibration in the presence of
Swamiji. I feel them as I’m near him.”
Swamishri also welcomed the Deputy Prime Minister of India, Shri Lalkrishna
Advani, Governor of Gujarat, H.E. Shri Kailaspati Mishra, Chief Minister
of Gujarat, Shri Narendrabhai Modi, and India’s renowned scientist,
Shri Y.S. Rajan. When Shri Harikrishna Maharaj, Swamishri and the guests
arrived at the podium of the Akshardham pradakshina, a small group of
children offered their respects to Swamishri and the president. Then
they led them on the main avenue towards the Akshardham monument. Twenty
thousand children welcomed the guests by singing the patriotic song,
“Sare jahase accha Hindosata hamara…” and waving the
Indian flag. As the guests advanced on a red carpet, two files of BAPS
children from Gandhinagar, dressed in army fatigues, marched ahead waving
the Indian and BAPS flags. The electrifying atmosphere was surcharged
with divinity and patriotism. The president was touched by the excitement
of the children and he, too, responded enthusiastically by waving to
them, saying, “I feel so good. I feel energized. There is the
energy of Pramukh Swamiji on all the children’s faces.”
He was further enthused by the children chorusing, “Bharat ki
santan he, Swamiji ki ham shaan he... Sanskar hamare pran he, seva hamari
jaan he...” (We are the children of Bharat. We are the pride of
Swamiji. Values are our soul. Service is our life.)
After having darshan of the murti of Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the monument,
the President offered his respects by placing flowers at His feet and
said, “It is a place of peace.” On arriving at the stage
on the Akshardham podium, children sang and the police band played the
national anthem. Thereafter, Swamishri, the president and guests released
the peace balloons. Twenty thousand children, too, floated orange, white
and green balloons amid thunderous chantings of ‘Sahajanand Swami
Maharaj ni jai, Akshar Purushottam Maharaj ni jai, Pramukh Swami Maharaj
ni jai, Bharat Mata ki jai.’ Thereafter, Swamishri and the guests
took their seats, with the president to his left and Thakorji in between
them. To the president’s left sat Governor Kailaspati Mishra,
Chief Minister Narendrabhai Modi, Ishwarcharan Swami and Shri Y.S. Rajan.
To Swamishri’s right were Shri L.K. Advani, Mahant Swami, Dr.
Swami and Tyagvallabh Swami.
The celebration assembly commenced with a fabulous welcome dance ‘He
matru bhumi Bharat, tuj pad vandana, Vande Mataram’ by BAPS children
from Mumbai. Then two boys, Nilkanth Patel (Vadodara) and Dharma Mehta
(Mumbai), narrated the amazing story of a fisherman’s boy and
a farmer’s boy. The entire assembly listened with rapt attention
at the narration, which revealed in brief the success stories of the
president and Swamishri. Then Thakorji, Swamishri and the chief guests
were honoured with garlands, all at once, by ten children who climbed
the steps together, and bowed at their feet. The president was overwhelmed
by the children, patting and embracing them.
With the conclusion of the story narration, a third child presented
his story about the 20,000 children and BAPS Children’s Forum
worldwide. The story was beautifully depicted through dance, dialogue
and song, “Ham bal sabha me jate he, jivan ko dhanya banate he…”
(We go to the children’s assembly and make our lives noble.) Members
of BAPS Children’s Forums from Amdavad and Surat gave an impressive
stage performance on how values are attained through satsang assemblies.
This was followed by a colourful presentation from children dressed
as flowers and birds. Through dance and song they depicted the aims
of BAPS Children’s Forum: inspiring character, education, health
and spirituality. The presentation was interspersed with the singing
of “Matru devo bhavah, pitru devo bhavah, swadhyayan ma pramadah,”
by 20,000 children. The president was touched by the mass participation
of all children and voiced that because they have imagination and dreams,
they can fly.
Then a part of the BAPS Children’s Forum activities was shown
through a live presentation of some of its edifying programmes for society.
An anti-addiction rally of children marched by the stage, symbolizing
the massive campaign held in the year 2000 against addictions in which
10,000 children gave the message of anti-addiction to 900,000 people,
out of which about 400,000 people pledged to abstain altogether. This
was followed by a drama presentation of how tribal children of Poshina
village in Sabarkantha district were de-addicted through the BAPS Children’s
Forum anti-addiction campaign. The incident reflected Swamishri’s
power to kindle strength and confidence in children.
The first address was made by the Convenor of BAPS Children’s
and Youth Activities, Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami, who was appointed as
the first volunteer of the Children’s Forum by Yogiji Maharaj
in 1953-54 in Mumbai. He elaborated upon the profound love and inspiration
showered upon children by Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
The Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shri Narendra-bhai Modi, described the
giant campaign initiated by Pramukh Swami Maharaj for inspiring values
in children in the 21st century. He also added that the power of sadhus
and spirituality would be the mainstay of a better future for India.
The Deputy Prime Minister of India, Shri L.K. Advani, described the
BAPS Children’s Activities steered by Swamishri on a global level.
He also praised and congratulated Swamishri for creating the glorious
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London, Akshardham in Gandhinagar and the
ongoing work of Akshardham in New Delhi.
The Governor of Gujarat, H.E. Kailaspati Mishra, offered kudos to Swamishri
and BAPS for the children’s activities.
On this historic occasion, a new website for kids from BAPS Swaminarayan
Sanstha, kids.swaminarayan.org was inaugurated by President Kalam. The
website for children provides infotainment, wisdom and values through
stories, games and puzzles.
The peace chant by 20,000 children, “Om, dyoho shantih…”
resonated in the air. This was followed by a felicitation programme
of BAPS youth achievers who were spiritually nurtured in the Children’s
Forum. Their outstanding achievements in the fields of aviation, medicine,
space technology, civil service, sports, army, business, music, civil
engineering and social service were announced as they were honoured
by the president and blessed by Swamishri. The assembly of 20,000 children
applauded them with joy and pride and were inspired with a spirit to
be the best in life. The youth achievers’ moral uprightness in
their careers also inspired respect for the moulding they had received
from BAPS Children’s Forum.
This was followed by a fascinating and inspiring question-answer session
between the president and 20 children. Thereafter the president read
out ten pledges for all children to take for their personal development
and contribution to the progress of the nation. The president inspired
the children for 48 minutes, answering their questions in English.
At the end, Swamishri began his blessings by talking about the knowledge
of atma as taught by Sanatan Dharma. The president was impressed and
said, “Pramukh Swami treats children with great respect. He sees
them as philosophers.” Swamishri pointed out to the children to
derive inspiration from the president’s life.
After a vote of thanks, the divine mass arti ritual was performed by
children, guests and invited dignitaries. Swamishri spoke to the president,
“Normally, arti is performed of God’s murti. But these children
are like the murti of God. They are innocent and God resides in their
hearts. So the arti we have performed was that of God residing in their
hearts. And the arti the children performed before you was that of God
residing in you.” The president was touched by Swamishri’s
spirituality and offered his respects.
Finally, after Swamishri had presented mementos to the guests, the assembly
concluded with the national anthem. As Swamishri, the president and
guests took leave, the complex echoed with the song of “Bharat
ki ham shaan he…” and a spectacular display of fireworks.
From 5.45 p.m. to 8.45 p.m., the grand Golden Anniversary celebration
of BAPS Children’s Forum left everyone impressed and spiritually
As the children departed they were given prasad in the form of snacks.
On their arrival they had been welcomed with ice-cream. The entire celebration
programme went smoothly due to Swamishri’s blessings and the efforts
of the sadhus and volunteers of BAPS Children’s Forum Central
The entire programme was relayed live by Aastha Channel, covered by
Doordarshan and national T.V. channels, like, Zee, Star News, Sahara,
Aj Tak and the leading daily newspapers.