Off the main Rajkot-Jamnagar highway, travelling along the road from Dhrol to Jodiya, pilgrims are drawn by the sight in the skyline of the sky-scraping shikhars of the new BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Bhadra. Famous as the birthplace of Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami, Bhadra is a small, peaceful village, home to around 2,000 people.
Along the road leading to this sacred village, the mandir gate welcomes the pilgrims. On passing through the gate, amid the abundant greenery, the magnificent new mandir, built of golden yellow stone, stands like a fully-blossomed lotus. Facing east, the mandir, with its five giant shikhars, main dome and 11 mini-domes, and intricate carvings, mesmerizes and draws all to climb its stairs.
At the base of this grand 79-ft. high mandir is the adharpith, or jagati, and the next level is the kakshasan. Profusely embellished with murtis, these two levels appear as one and seem to merge into the mandovar. The view of this unique mandir is simply spellbinding.
The main front stairs of the mandir lead to a large white-marbled podium. From the podium, one sees the carved outer windows and walls of the mandir. The deep and delicate designs sculpted out of single large pieces of stone are truly amazing. The pillars of the front roopchoki feature a series of murtis of Nilkanth Varni. In the kumbha section there are 98 murtis of Ganapatiji in various mudras. Above them are 148 murtis of devas, rishis and devotees.
Walking clockwise in the mandir’s outer parikrama, each section naturally blends with the next and one arrives back to the main door.
To the left and right of the main entrance are the shrines of Hanumanji and Ganapatiji respectively.
Walking through the main door of the enclosed mandir leads to a splendid array of intricately sculpted pillars, arches and ceilings. At its heart are the three main shrines, with the murtis of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami and Gopalanand Swami in the central shrine.
On entering through the main door, the breathtaking sight of lotuses, mogra flowers, leaves, small bells intricately sculpted out of stone leaves one speechless.
Each of the pillars is decorated with murtis of the devotees and sadhus of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, as if one is amid an assembly in Akshardham. These murtis include those of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s 16 devotees of Bhadra who possessed the divine gift of niravaran drashti. Standing under the intricately carved main dome, which comprises of 20 sections, instead of the usual 16 or 12 sections, reveals its breathtaking beauty. Murtis of 16 paramhansas and devotees of Bhagwan Swaminarayan adorn the magnificent dome.
The pillars are all full of beautiful, fine sculpted designs, as are the arches connecting the pillars.
Directly in front the pillars, the barshakh and otarang of the garbhagruh are also profusely decorated with splendid murtis and designs. Within each shrine is a goldplated sinhasan for the murtis.
The murtis of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami and Gopalanand Swami consecrated in the central shrine by Pramukh Swami Maharaj are the murtis which Yogiji Maharaj had consecrated in 1969 when the old shikharbaddh mandir in Bhadra was built. In the shrine to the right of the central shrine is the beautiful murti of Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj. In the shrine towards the left is the Sukh-Shaiya, in which the murti of Shri Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj, which was consecrated by Shastriji Maharaj 75 years ago in the room where Gunatitanand Swami was born, has been re-consecrated.
To left side of the main dome, as one faces the main shrines, are the shrines of Bhagatji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj; and to the right are the shrines of Shastriji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
A special feature of this mandir is that pilgrims can perform pradakshinas in three locations: 1. around the garbhagruh, inside the mandir, 2. at the jagati level, outside the mandir, and 3. around the base of the entire mandir, at ground level.
Inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, this unique mandir in Bhadra on the birthplace of Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami is a special tribute to Bhagwan Swaminrayan and Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami.
Vaishakh sud 6, Samvat 2066, 19 May 2010. Before sunrise, the atmosphere resounded with the sounds of traditional tunes. At 5.30 a.m., after the mangala arti, the small murtis of Dham, Dhami and Mukta were ceremoniously removed from the old mandir.
Thereafter, at 6.00 a.m. maha-abhishek was offered to the murtis of the new mandir, already in place in the shrines, by the senior sadhus.
At 7.00 a.m., the Brahmins began the murtipratishtha ceremony, with senior sadhus and devotees performing the initial rituals.
At 8.05 a.m. Swamishri arrived with Shri Harikrishna Maharaj. Swamishri performed the main murti-pratishtha rituals in the central shrine. At the same time, senior sadhus performed the rituals in the other shrines: Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj – Mahant Swami, Sukh Shaiya – Kothari Swami, Bhagatji Maharaj – Tyagvallabh Swami, Shastriji Maharaj – Ishwarcharan Swami, Yogiji Maharaj – Siddheshwar Swami, Pramukh Swami Maharaj – Ghanshyamcharan Swami, Ganapatiji – Anandswarup Swami and Hanumanji – Atmaswarup Swami. After the main rituals, Swamishri went to each of the shrines in turn to perform pujan of the murtis.
Thereafter, Swamishri sat before the central shrine and chanted the Swaminarayan mahamantra while the annakut was arranged before the murtis. After offering the annakut, Swamishri performed the murti-pratishtha arti at 8.45 a.m. Simultaneously, a 51-gun salute was fired and celebratory fireworks began, while flowers were showered onto the mandir from a helicopter.
Finally, Swamishri declared the mandir open for all.