A grand celebration to commemorate the 224th birthday of Bhagwan Swaminarayan was held in the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Amdavad. Since the birth bicentenary of Bhagwan Swaminarayan in 1981, it was only the second time that Pramukh Swami Maharaj has celebrated this auspicious occasion in Amdavad.
Over 26,000 devotees attended the celebration, held in the large open ground opposite the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Shahibaug, Amdavad.
The celebration assembly commenced at 7.00 pm. The variety-filled program began with traditional prayers and devotional songs sung by the sadhus. There were speeches by the senior sadhus – Shrihari Swami spoke on the love shown by Bhagwan Swaminarayan to His devotees, Ishwarcharan Swami spoke about the remarkable 7-year pilgrimage of Nilkanth Varni and Viveksagar Swami spoke about the life-transforming work performed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, which continues even today under the inspiration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Sadhus sang from the Sarvamangal Stotra, which are Sanskrit verses describing the virtues of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Several publications on the life and work of Bhagwan Swaminarayan were officially released by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. One was a 1200-page 2-volume publication written in Hindi verse, Swaminarayan Charitmanas. An MP3 audio CD containing the narration of the entire biography of Bhagatji Maharaj was also inaugurated.
Children and youths added to the colour and festive atmosphere of the occasion by presenting splendid traditional dances.
In between the speeches, audiovisual presentations enabled the audience to see the main pilgrim places visited by Nilkanth Varni.
Also, two trailers of the recently released ‘Mystic India’ large format film, produced by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, were shown. Details of the awards and recognitions also accorded to the film worldwide were described briefly.
Blessing the assembly, Swamishri said, “Shriji Maharaj incarnated on this earth with the wish that all people associate with Him and attain salvation. He wrote the Shikshapatri, which devotees read daily. It contains the code of conduct by which if one lives, one will not face any problems. In it He describes how to live, what to eat, what not to eat, and to avoid addictions, since He advocated a life free of addictions and one of good conduct. Thus one should live by the codes described in the Smruti and Shruti scriptures.
“All faiths advocate a pure, honest life with noble thoughts. By living like this dharma, wisdom, detachment and devotion become engrained in one’s life. So if one maintains such good conduct, there will be no difficulties.
“The reason for God’s incarnation on earth is to liberate innumerable jivas and fulfil the wishes of His devotees.
“God gives each jiva as much as it needs…ants need a little food and they get it, while elephants need much more and they also get according to their needs. But when one desires more than needed, one invites misery.
“In today’s TV age people spend their time watching it. If our traditional Indian values are preserved then we will experience peace and happiness. We may become prosperous but that corrupts our thoughts. All scripture state that nobody becomes happy through power and wealth.
“Rulers should rule like Bhagwan Ram and other great kings like Janak and Ambrish. They should rule as servants of the public, such that their problems are resolved, they become happy and there is peace in the country. So, whatever we do, it should be done so that God is pleased and so that we do not feel any burden.
“Science has given us many facilities…but has also given us darkness, in that we have forgotten our spiritual values, such as, satya, daya, ahimsa, brahmacharya and dharma, gnan, vairagya and bhakti. These values have been forgotten due to desire for power and wealth.
“So, happiness is found nowhere except at the feet of God. We have external facilities, but internal darkness due to ignorance and base nature. And until we attain spiritual peace in life we will experience misery. So whenever necessary, God incarnates to guide man onto the right path.
“Today is the birthday of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Bhagwan Ram. By remembering such great men, we should live by the path and the principles they have revealed. We should always daily read about them, as well as their divine exploits. This will give us peace in all aspects of our life and by living a spiritual life, God will grant us salvation.”
After Swamishri’s blessings, at 10.10 pm – the time of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s birth – Swamishri performed the pujan of Shri Harikrishna Maharaj and then performed the birthday arti, with the entire celebration assembly singing in chorus. After the arti, Swamishri rocked the cradle bearing the murti of Shri Harikrishna Maharaj while sadhus sang devotional songs, and children and youths in traditional costumes danced joyfully.
Throughout the day, over a thousand men and women volunteers served in the preparations and smooth management of the celebration. Despite the intense summer heat of 41ºC, they had also observed the traditional waterless fast undertaken on this auspicious day.