Devotees from all around the nation gathered at the BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir, Houston to celebrate the first anniversary of the first traditional Mandir in North America. Celebrations commenced on Saturday, August 13th and continued through August 14th. The highlights of this two day event were Shri Nilkanth Varni murti pratistha and opening of Pramukh Dwar on Sunday morning, a colorful nagar yatra involving men and women of all ages on Saturday evening and a brilliant fireworks display synchronized with music on Saturday night.
Saturday's festivities started with a nagar yatra of Thakorji and Shri Nilkanth Varni around the mandir campus. The murti of Shri Nilkanth Varni was pulled in a magnificent rath created to look like the Himalayan Mountains as Bal/Balikas dressed in traditional costumes, performed dance along the route. The band from Dallas lead the nagar yatra adding rhythm and enthusiasm to the whole event. Everyone participating or watching the nagar yatra immensely enjoyed the festivities. The celebration climaxed Saturday night with a breathtaking show of fireworks.
Sunday morning marked another day of celebration including the murti pratishtha of the Shri Nilkanth Varni's murti and the opening of Pramukh Dwar. The intricately carved Gate stands as a magnificent entrance to the Mandir. Structured in a traditional fashion with delicate statues and statuettes adorned with various symbols to wholeheartedly welcome all who come to visit God. Congressman Nick Lampson, Honorable Deputy Consul General of India K.P. Pillai, and Houston city council member Gordon Quan performed the Gate opening ceremony on Sunday morning. Speaking after the ceremony, Congressman Nick Lampson expressed his amazement at the grandeur of the Mandir and the experience it brings. All dignitaries in attendance were amazed at the sight of the Mandir and Gate and enjoyed their visit.
Following this event was the Shri Nilkanth Varni murti pratishta. Pujya Yagnavallabh Swami joined by other santos, consecrated the murti of Shri Nilkanth Varni. As a mark of devotion and gratitude to Shri Nilkanth Varni's sacrifice and compassion for humanity, devotees will daily offer abhishek to the murti of Nilkanth Varni by bathing the sacred image with sanctified water. Following the murti pratishta, there was a short sabha, during which BAPS honored the new Deputy Consul General of India, K. P. Pillai.
His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj blessed the festivities via a live conference call. He blessed everyone for good health, prosperity, happiness, and faith in God. Everyone present recalled the previous year when Swamishri opened the Mandir. The various events of the weekend were a grand and ideal way to celebrate the first anniversary of the Mandir and also to welcome the murti of Nilkanth Varni. The festivities provided the seamless blend of reminiscence and hope for the future.