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Swamishri's presence is always a reason to celebrate.
Special days of festivals, then, are especially enriched with joy and jubilation whenever celebrated in his divine presence.

And among all celebrations perhaps, nothing arouses more auspiciousness and elationthan the end and beginning of a year.

This year, in the presence of HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the 2-day festival associated with Diwali, including the Annakut festival on New Year's day, were held as usual in Gondal, India.

Significance of Festivals
Diwali is the last day (Aso vad 30) of the year in the Hindu calendar, and celebrations begin two days before Diwali.

The first festival is called Dhanteras (Aso vad 13; 23 Oct. 2003). On this day, money is worshipped (Lakshmi Pujan) as a symbol of appreciation to the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Lakshmi Pujan is also performed with sentiments of purifying one’s wealth and that it be utilized for noble purposes during the New Year.

On the next day, Kali Chaudas (Aso vad 14; 24 Oct. 2003), Shri Hanumanji is worshipped to drive away all inauspicious and ill-omened elements. On this day, Shri Krishna destroyed Narkasur and released the 16,000 damsels that the demon had imprisoned.

Diwali (Aso vad 30; 25 Oct. 2003), the last day of the year, is celebrated because Bhagwan Shri Ram returned victorious to Ayodhya from his 14 year exile in the forest. On this day, lamps are lighted as a symbol of jubilation for Shri Ram’s return to Ayodhya and a sign to kindle the light of knowledge and divinity within one’s heart.

Chopada pujan or the ritual for the sanctification of account books for the New Year is also held on this day.

A decorated walk path of lighted candles had been arranged to greet Swamishri from his residence to his morning puja. Swamishri began his Diwali celebrations by giving reverence to the sanctified rooms of his gurus, Pujya Shastriji Maharaj and Pujya Yogiji Maharaj. Swamishri then had darshan of Akshar Deri, the cremation memorial shrine of Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami, and the majestically decorated Gondal Akshar Mandir’s murtis.

Swamishri bowed to the thousands of devotees who had gathered as he sat down and then performed his puja as the sadhus sang festive devotional songs. After puja, Swamishri again bowed to the sadhus and devotees to bid them all "Jai Swaminarayan" on this auspicious Diwali day.

Swamishri then paid his respects to Yogi Smruti Mandir, the cremation memorial shrine of Pujya Yogiji Maharaj. Verses praising Yogji Maharaj’s saintly qualities were sung while Swamishri gave his respects.

In the evening, thousands of devotees gathered to participate in the traditional "chopda pujan" ceremony. After performing all the traditional Vedic rituals or Maha Puja, Swamishri blessed all the financial books and everyone for success in their business venture as fireworks burst in the night sky.

In his blessings to the assembly Swamishri said, "Today is a day for everyone not only to reconcile one’s financial books but also our spiritual books. We should pray to God to forgive us for all our mistakes this past year and to give us the wisdom and strength to not make them the next year. May all the devotees have a prosperous new year and there be peace throughout the world. May we all come closer to God and remain well physically, mentally and spiritually.

Thereafter, Swami personally visited the areas where the next day's Annakut Festival preparations were being made. Swamishri gave his blessings to all the enthusiastic volunteers and spiritually charged them for the long night awaiting them.

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