Brahmaswarup Yogiji Maharaj, the fourth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, was born in the village of Dhari in Gujarat on 23 May 1892. His life of purity and devotion, and his exuberant and charming personality, captivated the hearts of young and elderly alike.
The birth celebrations of Yogiji Maharaj were devoutly celebrated on Thursday 2 June (the actual birthdate according to the Hindu calendar) and again on 4 June and 11 June 2016 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.
Devotees gathered at the Mandir on 2 June for a special evening assembly where youths elaborated upon the finer details of Yogiji Maharaj’s saintliness through a selection of devotional bhajans, while discourses by Mangaltirth Swami and Bhaktivallabh Swami provided a deeper insight into his life, work and teachings from the Yogi Gita.
Yogiji Maharaj’s birthday was also celebrated in the presence of Sadguru Pujya Bhaktipriya Swami (Kothari Swami) on Saturday 4 June 2016. The festivities began with a powerful video portraying Yogiji Maharaj’s spiritual virtues discernible throughout his life.
These ideals were explored further by Tyagratna Swami and Satyavrat Swami, who shared examples of devotees who have imbibed these principles in their respective lives. Video presentations and vibrant devotional singing brought these concepts to life.
The festival was also the occasion for the launch of Swaminarayan Hinduism: Tradition, Adaptation, and Identity, an academic book newly published by Oxford University Press. The volume has been edited by Raymond Brady Williams (LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities Emeritus and Professor and Chair Emeritus, Department of Religion, Wabash College, Indiana) and Yogi Trivedi (Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University and doctoral candidate in religion, Columbia University), with contributions by scholars from all over the world.
The publication includes ground-breaking research on one of the fastest growing Hindu devotional communities in the world from a variety of disciplines, including art history, literary history, transnational studies, new media studies, performative studies, and theology. Both editors and Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, were present for the book launch ceremony.
Kothari Swami addressed the gathering and spoke about Yogiji Maharaj’s untiring service and dedication which fostered growth of Satsang activities across Africa and Europe, and encouraged the audience to imbibe his way of life in their daily activities.
The celebrations concluded with a vibrant and colourful dance that artistically brought together the messages shared throughout the evening.
A special celebration of Yogiji Maharaj’s birthday for the mahilas was held on the evening of Saturday 11 June 2016. Themed around prayer and perseverance, two prominent virtues epitomised in the life of Yogiji Maharaj, the programme included powerful personal testimonies from young women who have imbibed these virtues in their own lives.
Young children enacted a short drama that conveyed the power of unity - a message that was very close to Yogiji Maharaj’s heart. A vibrant and colourful dance created a spiritually uplifting atmosphere before Swamishri’s reflections on Yogiji Maharaj via a video recording brought the evening to a fitting close.