Fifty years ago when Shastriji Maharaj appointed 28-year old Shastri Narayanswarupdas (Pramukh Swami Maharaj) as president of the Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha no one had dreamed that the young seed would flourish into a giant banyan tree. Many had tried to dissuade Shastriji Maharaj from giving the mantle to the young, quiet, inexperienced Narayanswarupdas. But Shastriji Maharaj was fully aware of the potential and divinity in the shy, unassuming Narayanswarupdas. Today, after 50 years of monumental sacrifice and service to the BAPS and society the stewardship of Pramukh Swami Maharaj is a living testimony to what Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj had envisaged on 21 May, 1950 - the day of his appointment at Ambli Vali Pol in Amdavad. Let us see how this event took place.
Golden Anniversary Celebration of Pramukh Varni Din,
5 June 2000 (Jeth Sud Choth V.S. 2056)
Preparation for this mammoth and highly anticipated celebration had begun weeks in advance by the sadhus and devotees. After meticulous planning and hours of execution the day of celebration arrived. The Sardar Patel Stadium, the venue of the celebration in the heart of Amdavad, was ready for the historic event.
The day dawned with feelings of excitement and divinity. At 6.00 a.m., 500 sadhus pilgrimaged and paid homage at Ambli Vali Pol (now called Yagnapurush Pol). The impressive and benign sight of saffron clad sadhus was a blessing and a spiritual treat for the people of Amdavad.
At 7.30 a.m. Swamishri's morning puja was charged with a rendering of devotional bhajans honoring his divine works and virtues.
At 10.00 a.m. Swamishri inaugurated with Vedic chantings the garden island on the crossroads near the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in Shahibaug. The outstanding feature of the island was a giant replica of Yogiji Maharaj's folded hands. It welcomed all with the message of 'Bhagwan sau nu bhalu karo' (May God do good to all). The circle was declared as 'Swaminarayan Chowk' by Shri Ashok Bhatt, Health Minister of Gujarat. In his brief blessings Swamishri said, "In our Indian culture the folding of hands is a gesture of welcome and respect. Yogiji Maharaj wished for the good of all. Whosoever passes here and sees this island will be liberated."
Swamishri then proceeded to Ambli Vali Pol where he was given a jubilant and emotional welcome. Amidst the devotional fervor of hundreds of devotees, the loud hails of 'Jays' and the shower of rose petals from balconies and rooftops Swamishri walked with Thakorji through the same narrow alley where 50 years ago Shastriji Maharaj had appointed him as President before a handful of devotees. Swamishri prostrated in the historic house where he was appointed and narrated the entire occasion. Thereafter an assembly was held in the narrow alley of the Pol. Senior sadhus spoke about the glory of Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj and the appointment ceremony of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Finally, Swamishri crowned the assembly by blessing the ecstatic devotees, "Ambli Vali Pol is a holy place because Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj had stayed here on so many occasions. It is a great pilgrim place like Kashi, Kedar, Ganga and its sanctity is like the holy 68 pilgrim places. Since you all stay here you should avail of this holy place…"
Pramukh Varni Din Golden Anniversary Assembly
The golden anniversary celebration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj's Presidentship of the BAPS was spectacularly held at the Sardar Patel Stadium, Amdavad. After several weeks of frantic preparations the venue was ready. Swamishri arrived at 6.30 p.m. amidst a tumultous welcome. The 20' high main stage was decorated with colorful, giant cutout figures of Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj and the young Narayanswarupdas. A 16' high performing stage thundered with a welcome dance 'Sat Swagatam Shubh Swagatam'. Speeches by Pujya Viveksagar Swami, Pujya Siddheshwar Swami, Pujya Kothari Swami, Pujya Doctor Swami and Pujya Mahant Swami described Swamishri's tolerance, humility, saintliness, devotion to God and his herculean efforts in expanding and developing the BAPS Sanstha.
The program was interspersed with slides and video presentations of Swamishri's boundless love for all people regardless of caste, creed or status. A couple of drama presentations eloquently showed Swamishri's adherence to his vow of refraining from keeping money and the day he was appointed as President.
As a symbol of respect and reverence, senior sadhus offered garlands to Swamishri on behalf of the congregation of 40,000 devotees. The program climaxed with Swamishri's humble blessings:
"Firstly, I offer my sashtang pranams and Jay Swaminarayan to all the sadhus, devotees, youths, children and well-wishers who have come here. I am indebted to all of you who have arranged this celebration here...
" God is the root cause of the Sanstha's progress. A banyan seed is tiny, not outstandingly visible to the eye like the banyan tree. Similarly, God (like the seed) is the cause of everything. It is because of His grace and blessings that such progress has taken place.
" I have always had the blessings of Yogiji Maharaj. In every work and at all times he has taken care of me. In times of difficulties and problems his strength and blessings were always with me.
"Yogiji Maharaj looked very simple, but he was very proficient in all activities (vyavhar). By staying with him I was inspired on how to respect and love the devotees and sadhus. Even in organising festivals I was inspired by him.
"...all this (the Sanstha's progress) is by the inspiration of God, Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj. There is no feeling that I am doing all this, but it is happening all through his grace and blessings. When Yogiji Maharaj left this physical world his blessings bear fruition through you all (sadhus and devotees). I have the help and cooperation of the sadhus and devotees.
"Shastriji Maharaj had told me not to worry because Shriji Maharaj, Gunatitanand Swami and Bhagatji Maharaj would do all the work. And I see his blessings before my eyes. I am greatly relieved of the pressure of work, because God bears it. And that God, residing in Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj, is bearing the pressure of work..."