Gunatitanand Swami was born in a small mud-house at Bhadra,
a little village in Gujarat, on 17 October 1785 CE. Known
Sharma, right from early childhood, he had shown clear signs
of extraordinary spirituality.
Once, when he was five, his mother found him rocking her youngest
son, Sunderji, and whispering something into his tiny ears.
When she enquired, he replied, “I will become a sadhu
and I will also inspire Sunderji to walk that path.”
Once, his father had discouraged him from chanting God’s
name, explaining, “Childhood is meant for playing and
not for taking God’s name. So postpone it till old age.”
Little Mulji’s wise reply touched his father’s
heart, “Everyone shall die one day, not knowing when
or how. And who knows whether one shall live up to a ripe
old age. Thus the supreme good of worshipping God should never
be postponed to a future time which may never arrive.”
In 1809, Mulji, heeding the divine call of Bhagwan Swaminarayan,
left his farm, his home, his family and his village for good.
He went to Bhagwan Swaminarayan who initiated him into the
monastic order in 1810 and named him Gunatitanand Swami. During
his initiation ceremony, Bhagwan Swaminarayan revealed, “This
Mulji is my choicest devotee. He is my eternal abode. He is
Aksharbrahma in person.”
Committing himself to the five cardinal vows of non-lust,
non-covetousness, non-taste, non-attachment to family members
and non-pride, Gunatitanand Swami moved from person to person,
house to house, and field to field, spreading the liberating
message of Bhagwan Swaminarayan till the last day of his life.
He weaned people from addictions and superstitions raising
their economic standards and making them fearless. He broadened
their visions beyond material horizons to spiritual realms.
And he redeemed them of their moral and spiritual poverty
by nourishing their souls to perfection.
His attachment and love for Bhagwan Swaminarayan was unsurpassingly
unique. Every move he made, every word he spoke, every thought
he conceived was in harmony with Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s
commands and wishes.
Once he went to the village of Juna Savar with a group of
sadhus. There, Uga Khuman, the chieftain, was mercilessly
hostile. Forsaking all rules of civility, he and his people
battered the sadhus with foul language and brutally beat them
with spiked sticks. The sadhus did not utter a word in retaliation.
Their bodies were bruised and beaten, but their hearts remained
unscathed. Thus, when they learnt that Uga was childless,
Gunatitanand Swami on behalf of the other sadhus prayed to
Bhagwan Swaminarayan that he be blessed with a virtuous son.
All this he did because of his love for Bhagwan Swaminarayan
who had commanded, “You shall not only forgive the abuses
and beatings of evil people, but also wish them well.”
He remained in constant spiritual communion with Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
But his devotion to Him was so intense that he longed to see
Him in person, again and again. Once in Gadhada, Bhagwan Swaminarayan
was to pass by a certain spot after midnight. To have his
darshan, Swami stood for many hours, tolerating rain, wind
and drenched clothes, before he caught a glimpse of Him passing.
Commenting on his attachment to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Gunatitanand
Swami had once said, “Like a fish in water, I do all
activities remaining immersed in God. Were I to forget Him
for even a moment, I would be like a fish out of water –
I could not survive.”
Mahant of Junagadh
In 1827, Bhagwan Swaminarayan appointed him to head the Swaminarayan
Mandir at Junagadh, Gujarat. On that momentous occasion He
commanded all of his disciples to come to Junagadh one month
every year to listen to Swami’s discourses. This would
ensure their continuous spiritual progress. He also revealed
at that time that Gunatitanand Swami was the means to ultimate
Gunatitanand Swami’s discourses were simple but invariably
enlightening. Doubtless he loved silence, but his greater
love was to sing aloud the glories of God, for he knew that
it pacified the turbulent mind and calmed the restless soul
of listeners. And had the humans in front of him been immortal,
he would have gone on talking till eternity, for he spoke
of eternal values, of God and His Choicest Sadhu, of the immortality
of the soul and vanity of the sense pleasures.
His words were so sweet and selfless, true and helpful, that
thousands thronged to hear him. They were so poignant that
even enterprising youngsters became sadhus and spent their
lives in the service of God and society.
Even people of different faiths came to listen to him and
to seek his guidance, for he not only had respect for all
religions but loved everyone, equally and wholeheartedly.
This was natural for him since he saw God in everyone and
in everything. No wonder that the Muslim ruler of Junagadh
frequently heard his solace-giving discourses. If his discourses
were effective, the way he lived was even more inspiring.
He ate simple food, wore simple clothing, lived in a simple
shelter and his bed was no better than the bare floor.
Concern for Humanity
He was ever concerned for the welfare of others. And although
he lived in the highest of spiritual realms, he never overlooked
the earthly needs of people. He cared for and provided both
His blessings had made the blind see, the diseased healthy,
and the poor rich. In fact, through his blessings a poor Muslim
woodcutter, Bauddin, became a minister in the court of the
ruling nawab. Even today the Bauddin College in Junagadh is
a proof of this event. More than this, his touch even revived
the dead. He had, thus, performed many miracles, but only
when necessary, and that, too, to help people towards a more
righteous and devotional life.
For him real miracles constituted in sublimating the primitive
nature of human beings, which was vitally necessary to bring
about peace both within and without. He accomplished this
without any aid from ‘white-papers’ or conferences
or declarations or proclamations concerning peace. Gunatitanand
Swami succeeded in bringing about such transformations en
masse. He turned hardened sinners into humble devotees of
God. They abstained from intoxicants, adultery, gambling,
stealing and violence.
Through his gracious efforts, thousands realised the greatness
of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. This was his greatest work -- the
culmination of all his endeavours. He had trained more than
300 sadhus and raised many of them to the most exalted spiritual
state of an eternal loving communion with God. He accomplished
this in a very special way. He moved among them but did not
interrupt. He supervised, guided, nudged, pointed, directed,
but only when required. And even this, he did effortlessly.
This was so because his life spoke louder than his loudest
words. What he said was just the surface of what he practised.
Once the leader of a renowned temple came to meet him. Gunatitanand
Swami at that time was sweeping the mandir forecourt. He met
Swami and asked who the leader of the mandir was. Swami told
him that the head of the mandir would meet him in the assembly
hall. When he had gone, Swami finished sweeping, washed his
hands, entered the hall and took his seat. The other leader
was astounded. Slowly he uttered, “But just now you
were sweeping...” Swami replied, “Here, one who
serves is the real leader.”
This incident occurred when he was 76-years-old, after he
had already served as the head of the Mandir for 36 years.
Even the smallest service he did was to please God. He held
it in the highest esteem and did it with utter humility. He
never considered it below his dignity to perform any menial
Gunatitanand Swami shouldered many administrative responsibilities
but that did not come in the way of his extensive preaching
tours of the villages. His last tour was undertaken when he
was 82-years-old. Many had gathered to bid him farewell. They
had a premonition that Swami would not return and they became
very sad. Gunatitanand Swami consoled them and gave what turned
out to be parting, but vital advice. He cast a last glance
at the magnificent mandir and said, “Shriji Maharaj
had appointed me as the mahant of this mandir. Since then
I have lived here and looked after it for 40 years, 4 months
and 4 days. Now I’ll move in the Satsang and will stay
at Mahuva (indicating the he would remain present through
his successor, Bhagatji Maharaj of Mahuva).”
Through the villages he passed, he provided solace to the
distressed and uplifted the fallen. Soon, he reached Gondal.
There he met Abhesinh, his staunch devotee, who told him that
he wished to donate land to the Swaminarayan Mandir at Junagadh
and that he would give it in writing the next day. Gunatitanand
Swami cautioned him, “Please get it now. Tomorrow may
That very night Bhagwan Swaminarayan appeared before Swami.
Quickly he got up, sat in the lotus posture and contemplated
on Him. Within minutes his soul departed. At that moment,
one sadhu, Ramcharandas, was suddenly awakened by the dazzling
brilliance that filled the mandir. He shook the others out
of their sleep. At once they all saw what he had seen: Gunatitanand
Swami had passed away.
Soon devotees and prominent citizens flocked to the mandir.
With intense sorrow, they performed his final rites on the
banks of river Gondali where he was cremated. The mortal remains
that had defied the flames were washed in holy waters, deposited
in a copper urn and buried nearby. At that spot a beautiful
shrine called Akshar Deri was constructed by the the ruler
of Gondal, King Sangramsinghji. Today a majestic three-pinnacled
mandir built by Shastriji Maharaj in 1934, stands over it.
In 1867, on the day Gunatitanand Swami passed away, he was
what he had always been: a humble sadhu and an ideal devotee
of God. Even though he was without wealth, property or academic
distinction, people from all walks of life paid homage to
his shrine, because he had gifted to them the eternal knowledge
of the soul and God. Today, hundreds of thousands pay homage
to his shrine annually.
Akshar Purushottam Philosophy
Gunatitanand Swami was the embodiment of Aksharbrahma. In
consonance with the Bhakta-Bhagwan philosophy propagated in
Hinduism, Gunatitanand Swami is revered as the Bhakta, Aksharbrahma,
and Swaminarayan as Bhagwan, Purushottam. The Akshar Purushottam
philosophy was given a tangible form through the efforts of
Shastriji Maharaj. The murtis of Gunatitanand Swami as Akshar
and Sahajanand Swami as Purushottam were first established
in the central shrine of mandirs built by Shastriji Maharaj.
Today, Gunatitanand Swami’s spirit of work and devotion
is perceived in His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj
who has carried his message to distant lands covering the
five continents of the world. Wherever he moves, people revere
him as someone very special, the devout followers hold him
as the very form of Gunatitanand Swami and for Bhagwan Swaminarayan
he is His choicest devotee.