BAPS North America began a new chapter of its history on July 21, 1991, when His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj performed the first murti pratishtha of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Edison, NJ that would commence the evolution of satsang in the Northeast Region. The pratishtha took place after the grand Cultural Festival of India (CFI) celebration that welcomed over 1.2 million visitors from around the globe for 31 consecutive days. On August 11, 1996, a second pratishtha was performed for the new murtis that currently reside in the mandir. Since then, satsang has grown deeply with the blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj – so deep, in fact, that weekly sabhas are held on both days of the weekend to accommodate all devotees.
On August 13, 2007, Pramukh Swami Maharaj infused the murti of Nilkanth Varni in the same mandir. After observing the number of devotees in regular attendance, Pramukh Swami noted, “This mandir is becoming small; we’ll have to make it larger.” It was this sankalp that sparked a motivation within the devotees of the Northeast, and years later on October 18, 2015, the foundation stone-laying ceremony (Shilanyas Mahotsav) of the Edison Mandir would begin yet another chapter of satsang in North America.
Shilanyas Mahotsav in Edison took place at Expo Hall, a place filled with memories where Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited in 1994, 2004 and 2007. Hundreds of devotees from across the region participated in the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the new mandir. During the ceremony, devotees sanctified bricks for the mandir with well wishes and sacred prayer. The children and youth of BAPS chanted various Sanskrit shlokas and performed graceful dances to invoke energy and enthusiasm among the celebrations.
Pujya Yagnavallabh Swami explained the inherent advantages that a mandir provides to communities and families across the globe. He shared his experience that mandirs develop and guide young people towards responsible decision-making, so they are empowered to build their adult lives on a firm foundation of Indian values. Irrespective of age, individuals are encouraged towards personal and spiritual development when they regularly attend the mandir and participate in mandir activities. Mandirs inspire people to invest in future generations by creating family harmony within their homes, and fostering a sense of unity within their communities.
Sadguru Pujya Mahant Swami also addressed the attendees virtually from Gujarat, India, explaining that satsang advances when each effort is performed with Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s vision at the forefront of spiritual pursuits. Devotees were encouraged to work together in pushing forward to complete the new mandir.
Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios, Freeholder Charles E. Tomaro, and Leonard Sendelsky, a local community leader were among a few Middlesex County members to attend the occasion and show their support for the new mandir. Having grown familiar with the social and charitable projects spearheaded by the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Edison over several years, Mr. Sendelsky noted, “Love and compassion are the two qualities that come to mind when I think of BAPS and the service they provide to the community.” On being a part of the Shilanyas celebration, Freeholder Director Rios stated, “The ceremony was really inspiring and it was so nice to see that BAPS is engaged in taking care of families and educating the youth.”
The evening ended with Sadguru Pujya Doctor Swami blessing the crowd and building momentum for the upcoming project with the simple reminder of strength in unity. He brought the crowd to their feet by recounting the importance and implementation of the four principles of Milan, Mahima, Madad and Maafi through this project. In essence, Shilanyas Mahotsav of Edison Mandir truly built up anticipation and excitement for the new mandir.
In the morning, a marriage and engagement ceremony was also organized. Four couples got married and seven couples got engaged on this historic occasion. One of the engaged couples explained, “Having received Pujya Doctor Swami’s aashirvad made our special day even more grand and memorable, we are thrilled to begin our lives together in the presence of true spirituality.”