Shastriji Maharaj travelled from village to village, inspiring satsang and collecting tithes and donations for mandir construction and maintenance. He endeavoured indefatigably. In those times vehicles were scarce, so Swamishri travelled by oxen cart and train to Botad or Jadila Road station and then to Sarangpur. This he did in spite of his ailing health. In the last 15 years, Swamishri suffered from many ailments and diseases, but in spite of that he never paid any heed to them because of the mandir construction and development work. How miserable and painful his state must have been? The following description in the Swaminarayan Prakash testifies to this.
“Pujya Swamishri’s soft feet were swollen due to arthritis, making it difficult for him to put his feet down on the floor. Thus, medicines sent by devotees were used to massage his feet. Once, a big boil had developed on his feet, and the devotees washed and dressed it with medicines. Despite all his physical pains and ills Swamishri always kept on discoursing and his face remained ever-radiant. The same enthusiasm was spread over his face and he regularly went for Thakorji’s darshan. He always visited the devotees and labourers working in different sections of the construction site and gave them appropriate instructions.
“He would also sit during the construction work and inspire them to sing kirtans while they pummelled the ceilings and floors with wooden mallets. This he did daily with great ease and in a healthy fashion. Only when his attendant reminded him of his ailment did he allow him to massage him with medicinal oil, thus taking note of his illness.
In these hard times Shastriji Maharaj always encouraged and enthused those engaged in the mandir construction and other services. Some descriptions and reports in this context provide eloquent testimonies.
“Revered Shastriji Maharaj once resided in Sarangpur during the month of June. He was suffering from arthritis. Yet, for 25 days he engaged the devotees in the construction work and also discoursed to them and blessed them with bliss. He taught them jnan, vairagya, dharma and bhakti and made all happy.”
“Presently, masonry work of various rooms are going on. Despite his age, Shastriji Maharaj comes on site and does the work himself. Many devotees, rich and poor alike, were doing the seva of filling up the mandir foundations. Nanda Saheb and other prominent householders performed the foundation-filling seva themselves and thus strengthened the foundation of their moksha.”
“Swamishri came every morning and evening and sat on a chair to observe the site work. Once, when Swami was supervising the hoisting of a stone on the gateway, Gopinath Swami told him that he would remain there and that he could go. But Swamishri stayed on. Only when the two stones were properly positioned did Swamishri go for lunch.”
For all the sadhus and devotees engaged in seva the biggest source of inspiration was Shastriji Maharaj’s presence and blessings. The devotees made efforts in doing seva to please Shastriji Maharaj, whereas Swamishri pleased them without caring for his own body.
Shastriji Maharaj showered his joy and blessings upon the sadhus and devotees who worked rigorously for the mandir construction work. Some accounts of them are as follows:
“Shastriji Maharaj had invited Narayanji Maharaj to do seva. Swamishri used to sit on a chair where mud was being used to fill the kitchen foundation pit. Natvarlal and Jagjivan had come from Ahmedabad to do seva. Both did commendable seva by filling the foundations. Sanatandas Swami and other sadhus carried baskets of mud as seva. Keshav Bhagat and Revandas cut the stones together with a saw. Swamishri would smile at both of them and give them prasad to express his pleasure. Harikrishnadas Swami always remained in Swamishri’s seva. Soma Bhagat helped out in filling the foundation pit. Shastri Narayanswarupdasji, Nilkanthdas Swami and Bhailal Bhagat helped out in acquiring and loading stones from Lathidad. Swamishri often praised their seva and blessed them by placing his hand on their head.”
An interesting description about the Pushpadolotsav celebrated in Sarangpur is as follows: “The foundation work of the grand entrance gate was going on. Sadhus and devotees, tipped basketfuls of mud into the foundation pit while singing kirtans. Swamishri was seated on a cot near the foundation pit, giving instructions and darshan to all. The scene was divine, oozing with the divine happiness of Akshardham. The mandir compound also resonated with the vibrations of the sound of kirtans and dhun.”
Swamishri's Insights About Construction
Shastriji Maharaj’s insights into architecture and art were unique. They are reflected in the mandirs he built. The intricate carvings of the wooden dharmashala and haveli were done through Swamishri’s own insight and supervision. He guided the carpenters and artisans about the type and intricacy of carvings of the mandir pillars, shikhars, domes, pradakshina, the outer chamber of the sanctum-sanctorum, doors, door frames, steps and other things. The artisans were astonished by Swamishri’s sense of art. He also knew about the quarries from which quality stones could be extracted. He also made a note of the sizes of stones received, sizes after the stones were sculpted, the locations where the stones were to be fixed. He also knew which stone had been fixed according to the designed plans.
Shastriji Maharaj was very particular about acquiring and purchasing materials for the construction of mandirs. He personally travelled to Bilimora, Bhavnagar and other places to inspect and acquire wood. He also supervised the cutting of trees. He had a special knack of what types of wood to use for which purposes, which even expert carpenters did not have. For stones, he would meet the dealers in Dhrangadhra and Porbandar. In spite of financial adversities, he never compromised in spendings related to the mandir and Thakorji, no matter what the cost was. Conversely, he was meticulous in not allowing any unnecessary spending of a single paisa.
In this way, Shastriji Maharaj gave his fullest attention in building the rooms, assembly hall, haveli, water tank, and kitchen and dining facilities for sadhus and devotees. In all his efforts he always thought about others and not one bit for himself.
Reminiscing on these matters Pramukh Swami Maharaj once averred, “All their lives Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj had never done anything for their physical comfort and happiness. While making mandirs and dharmashalas they never had any physical comforts. They travelled to villages, begging for alms to make such facilities for us. They tolerated severe hardships. I have seen Shastriji Maharaj cleaning, wiping and preparing floors by smearing cow dung. They have carried stones on their head and mixed lime and mortar [for construction work].”
The grand Entrance Gate
During his autumn years, when Shastriji Maharaj was still facing a severe money crises and failing health, he commenced work on the huge entrance gate of Sarangpur Mandir. Many wondered why he had launched this project, but Shastriji Maharaj was clear and determined. When the foundation pit was being dug Harjivandas Swami asked Swamishri, “What is the need to build such a huge entrance gate when the stones used would be enough to build another mandir?” Shastriji Maharaj replied with passion, “This mandir and entrance gate will inspire satsang in others, and whoever appreciates them will be liberated to Akshardham by Maharaj and Swami.”
A devotee asked Swamishri, “Is it appropriate to invest so much money in building this entrance gate?” Swamishri replied, “How much was spent in building the Suez Canal? Read its history. This is the entrance to go to Akshardham! Whoever sees it and remembers it on his deathbed his soul will be blessed. That is why I have started building this gate.”
Shastriji Maharaj’s motive was generous and elevating.