The sun-soaked summer morning of 8 June 2012 was historic. More than 3,500 youths were attired in white (boys) and pink (girls) dress codes and seated on the sacred grounds of BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, Sarangpur. It was the final day of their four-day adhiveshan (convention) and shibir (spiritual camp). The youths were enthusiastically waving BAPS flags to the upbeat tune of the Convention’s theme song “Ham BAPS ki shãn hai” (“We are the pride of BAPS”). The sprawling mandir grounds resounded with the ‘Jais’ of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and guru parampara. The ambience peaked with the arrival of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Swamishri’s divinity and the youths’ devotion and love for him were heart-stirring.
The podium before the front steps of the mandir was transformed into a decorative stage the night before. Swamishri and senior sadhus were seated in front of the 60th Youth Activities Celebrations’ logo. The murti of Shri Harikrishna Maharaj was to Swamishri’s left. The awards to be presented to the youths were displayed on the steps in front of the stage. Swamishri released a bunch of colourful balloons attached to a replica of the celebrations logo in thermocol. Simultaneously, all the boys and girls released their balloons, transforming the sky into a riot of colours. A wave of joy swept over the entire congregation.
The BAPS youth activities were inaugurated by Yogiji Maharaj in 1952. This year (2012) marks its 60th anniversary celebrations. Various programmes and events to uplift youths have already been accomplished during the year through the inspiration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and the Satsang Activities Central Office in Ahmedabad. The Youth Convention in Sarangpur was one of the highlights.
The BAPS Youth Convention (adhiveshan) was incepted by Yogiji Maharaj about 50 years ago. Ever since, many youth conventions have followed. The announcement for the present National Youth Convention was made in January 2012. The first phase was held on inter-regional levels at the main BAPS centres in Gujarat and other states. The winners were selected to participate in the final convention in Sarangpur. Preparations for the first phase were launched through the efforts of sadhus and youth volunteers in centres spanning from Delhi, Jaipur, all of Gujarat, to Mumbai, Pune, Nasik and Hyderabad. Even satsangi boys from the tribal regions of Dadranagar Haveli and Tithal began their preparations in earnest. Parallelely, preparations among girls began under the guidance and assistance of female volunteers. In all, 22,000 boys and girls, from 14 years to 27 years, enrolled for the competitions in the convention. The first phase or inter-regional adhiveshan was held during the first two weeks of May 2012. Boys and girls participated in 78 inter-regional adhiveshans at the local BAPS centres in Gujarat and Mumbai. The winners were awarded trophies, out of which 3,900 outstanding winners qualified for the National Youth Convention in Sarangpur.
The National Convention was held from 4 to 6 June 2012. Thereafter, from 6 to 8 June, a youth shibir (seminar) was held. The core attraction of the four-day event was the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
4 June (Tuesday)
The youths began arriving in Sarangpur on Tuesday, 4 June from noon onwards.
Meticulous planning was made for their lodging, boarding and timetable for the competitions. Each youth was given an identity card with a roll number and the timings of his or her competitions. For male youths, the competitions were arranged at the various locations in the mandir complex. For female youths, the accommodation and competitions were arranged at the BAPS Swaminarayan Vidyamandir (school). The sadhus and volunteers of the Satsang Activities Central Office had painstakingly organized the entire event.
By the evening of 4 June, the vast mandir grounds throbbed with thousands of ebullient youths. Illuminated spots of giant cut-out figures of Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj with inspiring messages and giant BAPS flags fluttering from steel poles and rooftops enhanced the convention’s ambience. After the seven o’clock evening arti in the mandir, dinner was served to all. Thereafter the youths assembled for an introductory session in the assembly hall. A traditional welcome dance was performed on the stage of Yagnapurush Sabhagruh (assembly hall). The introductory assembly was presided over by senior sadhus: Pujya Dr Swami, Pujya Tyagvallabh Swami, Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami and Pujya Viveksagar Swami. After the announcements of instructions for the four-day programme, Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami, the principal coordinator of the BAPS youth activities, addressed the gathering, “You are all very fortunate and blessed that you have prepared and come to take part in this convention. Truly, Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj are divinely seeing us all here. Yogiji Maharaj’s heart must be swelling with joy and congratulating you all. You have been showered upon with his infinite blessings and will be continued to do so…” Thereafter Pujya Dr Swami motivated the youths with his inspiring talks.
INAUGURATION OF YOUTH CONVENTION
5 June (Wednesday)
At about 9.00 a.m. Swamishri came out of his room and proceeded to the mandir for Thakorji’s darshan. On either side of his pathway youths dressed in white waved the BAPS flags and hailed the jais of Maharaj and Swamishri. After Thakorji’s darshan, he came onto the assembly stage. The entire congregation of youths became ecstatic. A welcome dance, “Rang chhãyo, ãnandno rang chhãyo re…” was performed by youths. Swamishri clapped to the tune of the welcome song and expressed his joy and grace upon the youths. Thereafter, an impressive skit depicting why so many youths had arrived in Sarangpur was enacted by youths. Then Swamishri kindled the inaugural lamp for the convention amidst a thunder of applause by youths, the auspicious sound of conch shells and jais. Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami placed an identity card for the convention around Swamishri’s neck. Senior sadhus honoured Swamishri with garlands. Then all the youths chorused the shlok “Tvameva mãtã cha pita tvameva…” to express their reverence to Swamishri, thus spiritually charging the inaugural session. This was followed by a dance on the convention’s theme song “Ham BAPS ki shãn hai…” (“We are the pride of BAPS…”). Finally, Swamishri and senior sadhus waved the BAPS flags for starting the convention. Thereafter the competitions were held in the morning and late afternoon. At night, a wonderful drama, “Mr I”, written by Jnanratna Swami, was performed by the youths of Vidyanagar Chhatralaya.
6 June (Thursday)
Prior to Swamishri’s arrival in the morning, Pujya Viveksagar Swami addressed the youths. When Swamishri arrived, the youths who had memorized a large number of Vachanamruts, kirtans, etc. were graced by Swamishri. On arriving at the assembly stage, an effective skit on niyam-dharma was presented by youths. Thereafter Swamishri showered his grace upon the youths while the bhajans, “Yogi ãvo te rang mane shid lagãdyo…” and “Mãrã Swãmini thãye vãh vãh vãh…” were relayed on the speakers. Swamishri happily clapped and blessed everyone.
All day, till 6.00 p.m., the youths participated in their scheduled competitions. The night session commenced with the inauguration of the youth shibir. The central theme was “We Are the Pride of BAPS”.
7 June (Thursday)
At about 9.00 a.m. the youths welcomed Swamishri when he arrived on the assembly stage. Swamishri, too, responded by clapping and gesturing to the bhajan, “Ãje Yagnapurushne dwãr…” The youths of Bhavnagar danced to the Youth Convention’s theme song, “Ham BAPS ki shãn hai…” Thereafter a skit on samp, suhrudaybhav and ekta was enacted. At the end, a youth asked Swamishri whether they will attain Akshardham if they practiced unity and brotherhood. Swamishri replied positively by raising his hand. The entire assembly hall resounded with thunderous claps and joy. Thereafter, Swamishri took leave and the youths attended the shibir for the whole day.
8 June (Friday)
Today was the final day of the convention and shibir. The youths had assembled in the open grounds before the mandir steps at the front. Swamishri arrived on the newly decked stage on the mandir podium. The summer sun was scorching the grounds through patches of an overcast sky. When Swamishri released a bunch of balloons the youths also released a balloon each to mark the final day of the convention. The trophies for the winners were displayed on the mandir steps before Swamishri. Pujya Yagnapriya Swami, head of the BAPS Satsang Activities Central Office, took a trophy to be sanctified by Swamishri. Swamishri also blessed a congratulatory certificate and a memento to be given to all the participants. Thereafter, a skit echoed the message that all the youths would receive awards in the form of Swamishri’s blessings. Swamishri gestured by raising his hand to endorse the message. Swamishri also responded with a gesture when asked by the master of ceremonies whether he was happy upon all the youths. Then, senior sadhus placed the prayer and confession chits written by youths into yagna vedikas placed before Swamishri. When Swamishri took several chits and placed them into a vedika, Narayanmuni Swami asked, “Swami, have their mistakes been forgiven?” Swamishri replied, “Their mistakes have been forgiven because they have been placed before Maharaj, Swami, Bhagatji Maharaj, Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj.” The entire congregation was touched by Swamishri’s profound compassion and love. Thereafter, senior sadhus, sadhus of Satsang Activities Central Office and sant nirdeshaks offered garlands to honour Swamishri. This was followed by an audio relay of the convention’s theme song. With this, youths, senior sadhus, and Swamishri waved the BAPS flags. The mantra pushpanjali ritual was performed before Thakorji and Swamishri with a prayer voiced on behalf of everyone by Aksharvatsal Swami. Thereafter, Swamishri took leave from the stage to return to his residence. In all, Swamishri had stayed for 45 minutes in the hot sun to bless the youths. Thereafter the youths broke off for a short recess and assembled later for the shibir.
The prize-giving ceremony was held in the afternoon for girls and from 8.00 to 10.30 p.m. for the boys. In all, 475 trophies were awarded to girls and 435 trophies to boys. During the ceremony each male winner received a sacred nadachhadi from Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami, a trophy from Pujya Mahant Swami, a certificate of felicitation from Pujya Dr Swami, a murti of Nilkanth Varni to outstanding winners from Pujya Kothari Swami and a memento from Pujya Tyagvallabh Swami.
Pujya Dr Swami and Pujya Mahant Swami addressed the youths saying, “All should daily continue reciting whatever they have memorized. It will help you in all aspects of your life.” Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami announced that the grand finale of the 60th Anniversary Celebration of Youth Activities will be held on 30 December 2012, in Ahmedabad. He invited all the youths to attend.
In conclusion, Pujya Yagnapriya Swami offered a vote of thanks to Swamishri, senior sadhus, nirdeshak sadhus, and the youth volunteers in making the event a success and to the youths for their participation. The Kothari of Sarangpur, Pujya Jnaneshvar Swami, and Pujya Narayanmuni Swami and the team of sadhus were also appreciated for their immense efforts in making all the arrangements. The Youth Convention provided opportunities to thousands of BAPS youths to bring out their hidden talents and boost their pride for BAPS. The youths departed with joy and divine memories and inspirations of Swamishri and the whole event.