A beautiful fall morning in the metro Phoenix area was colored with the vibrant traditional dresses of the hundreds of men and women that had gathered to celebrate the inauguration of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Phoenix, Arizona. The inauguration festivities included a yagna, a Vedic ritual for world peace, an evening of cultural programs, and the murti pratishta rituals in the presence of Sadguru Pujya Tyagvallabh Swami and other senior swamis from India.
The current BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Mesa, Arizona was opened in 2000 through the inspiration of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. The opening of the new Mandir in 2014 marks a new milestone in the growth of activities in the city over the past 15 years. Regular weekly assemblies held by devotees and visits by swamis at the old Mandir site helped necessitate the need for a new mandir in the central part of the city, where families can continue to gather to strengthen their faith and devotion while also give back to the community. For years to come, the new BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Phoenix will continue nourishing the social and cultural foundation in the Indian-American community in Arizona.
The Mandir inauguration spanned over two eventful days. Consisting of the opening of the new facility along with the Murti Pratishtha ceremony on Sunday, November 2, 2014, the event attracted devotees and well-wishers from all parts of the local and regional community. “Murti” means sacred image and “pratishta” means installing; thus this event is a traditional Hindu ceremony of installing the sacred images of Bhagwan in the Mandir. Sadguru Pujya Tyagvallabh Swami, in the presence of devotees, infused divinity in these sacred images. Following the Murti Pratishtha, youths of all ages presented various cultural programs including folk dances and dramas, which contributed to the lively atmosphere.
Prior to the Murti Pratishta, a grand “Vishwashanti Mahayagna” was held on Saturday, November 1, 2014 in the morning followed by a melodious “Kirtan Aradhana” in the evening. Attendees of the yagna performed Vedic rituals led by senior Swamis in order to give prayers for world peace on the occasion of the opening of the Mandir.
The celebrations started on Friday, October 31, 2014 with the “Shobha Yatra” itself when young and old alike, were dressed in colorful traditional Indian attire and lined up to walk or dance in the procession of the sacred images of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, the Guru Parampara and Hindu deities.
The underlying recipe leading up to the successful completion of the Mandir can be attributed to the devotion and hard work of the volunteers of BAPS, who in turn dedicate their inspiration to the spiritual leader of BAPS, Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Apart from this being a huge milestone, this is a very emotional event for a lot of volunteers personally, many of whom have dedicated their days and nights in the construction of this Mandir – A place of peace and worship. And all of this work would not have been possible without a “Community Giving Back Spirit” in volunteers’ hearts and blessings and inspiration of their guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
A lead volunteer of the Mandir, shared: “The Mandir will not only serve as a place of worship but will inspire family values and moral living among children, youths and the elderly. It will be an important part of the local community and so it was very heartening to see so many people at the opening ceremony.”
A youth leader, who has been involved with various activities leading to the opening of the Mandir, spoke about the role it will play in her life: “The Mandir will be a place where I can connect with God and my guru and also become involved in doing things that help other people. It’s my spiritual home and school, where I feel safe but also where I learn different skills and values that will be useful for me in so many different ways.”