Mandir Vastu Pravesh
20 July 2007
During Swamishri's morning puja, the kalashes and flagposts to be placed atop the new shikharbaddh mandir were arranged in the backround. After his puja, Swamishri performed their pujan and arti and showered sanctified flowers.
Today marked the Vedic entry ceremony to the new mandir – the Vastu Pravesh ceremony. Tyagvallabh Swami, Ishwarcharan Swami, Viveksagar Swami and other sadhus performed all the preliminary rituals. Thereafter Swamishri arrived to perform the main rituals.
After the ceremony, Swamishri went on a round to inspect the mandir. He was very pleased by the intricate stone sculpting and commented, “On seeing the carvings on the stones and of the sinhasans, Shastriji Maharaj will be pleased.”
Then Swamishri went to see the exhibition on the ground floor – Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians – set up by the efforts of sadhus and volunteers.
Swamishri understood the panels with keen interest and observed the displays in great detail. He was delighted by the aesthetic presentation of India’s ancient culture and traditions, dating from over 10,000 years ago.
In the evening an assembly to celebrate the BAPS Centenary Year was held. Through speeches, video presentations and thematic traditional dances, the story of BAPS’ services and spirituality was highlighted. Blessing the assembly, Swamishri said, “Man always becomes so entangled with his family, relatives, work and business that he forgets the real task for which God has given this human body. Some ask, what is so rare about the human body. But only by the combined merits of many births is this human body attained. Science has advanced, but nobody has been able to make such a body.
“This human body is to be used for attaining moksha. Every morning, on waking up, one should pray. The shastras advise that duties relating to dharma should be carried out promptly. With faith in God, the shastras, and mandirs one’s work will be accomplished.”
Yagna for World Peace
21 July 2007
As part of the Mandir Murti-Pratishtha celebrations a Vedic Yagna for World Peace was held in which 1,401 men and women devotees, seated in groups around 151 yagna kunds specially set up in the 50,585 sq.ft arena, participated. Of these, the 30 main participants were seated on the stage, from where all the participants were guided in performing the Vedic yagna rituals by the experienced pandits, Ghanshyambhai Shukla and Mukeshbhai.
Swamishri arrived in the yagna marquee at 9.30 am. First, he performed pujan of all the murtis to be consecrated in the new shikharbaddh mandir the following day. Then he took his seat in the yagna ceremony. After performing the yagna rituals, Swamishri blessed the devotees, “The sole purpose for holding this yagna is for attaining moksha and for the prosperity of one’s family, and peace for our society, country and world. This yagna is being performed as directed in the shastras.”
21 July 2007
After the completion of the yagna, the murtis to be consecrated were taken on beautifully decorated chariots for a colourful procession through downtown Toronto. Over 4,000 eager devotees were transported by 32 buses from the mandir to the starting point in downtown.
The procession began at 4.00 pm and was flagged off in the presence of invited dignitaries: Mike Cole, Minister of Citizen Township & Immigration; Dr. Alok Mukherjee, Chairperson of Toronto Police Service Board; Devon Sheriff of No Frills food stores, and others.
The procession was led by mounted officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Behind them the sequence of the procession participants and items was as follows:
Sadhus and male devotees carrying BAPS Centenary banners.
Devotees carrying the flags of over 40 nations where BAPS has a significant presence.
Akshar Dhwani Marching Band, Dallas.
Youths joyfully singing devotional songs.
Peacock chariot with the murtis of Akshar and Purushottam; sadhus singing bhajans.
Youths performing traditional dances.
Lion Chariot with the murti of Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj.
Children dressed in traditional costumes and performing traditional dances.
Swan Chariot with the murtis of Shri Harikrishna Maharaj and Shri Radha-Krishna Dev, as well as sadhus singing bhajans.
Male devotees enthusiastically singing bhajans.
Kumbh Rath, decorated with traditionally embroidered cloths. Murtis of Shri Ram-Sita, Hanuman and Shri Shiv-Parvati, Ganapati. Circling this float were traditionally dressed kishoris dancing.
Women devotees carrying auspicious kalashes on their heads.
Elephant chariot with the murtis of Bhagatji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj.
Kishoris and yuvatis performing traditional dances.
Centenary Chariot with the murtis of Shastriji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Women devotees carrying auspicious kalashes.
As this lively and colourful parade made its way through downtown Toronto, thousands of onlookers, young and old, watched to appreciate the spectacular sight.
The 3 km route from start to finish included the city’s four major hospitals: Toronto General Hospital, Princess Margaret Cancer Research Hospital, Sick Kids Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital.
The procession concluded at 6.00 pm at Willington Street.
22 July 2007
After years of patient, persistent and productive efforts, the first ever shikharbaddh mandir in Canada was about to be inaugurated. To make this grand auspicious occasion extra-special, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen J. Harper; the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty; the Mayor of Toronto, David Miller and the High Commissioner of India, Rajmani Lakshmi Narayan, along with numerous other distinguished officials had accepted invitations to attend. Several weeks previously, the Prime Minister had visited the mandir for an important community meeting. At that time, he agreed to attend the inauguration ceremony.
The Prime Minister arrived for today’s occasion directly from the airport, returning from a meeting of Heads of State in South America.
The murti-pratishtha ceremony and assembly were broadcast live on Aastha, TV Asia and Sahara-1 to 162 countries.
Swamishri was scheduled to arrive for the murti-pratishtha rituals at 10.00 am.
However, to enable the completion of the Prime Minister’s security arrangements, his chief security officer requested that the area under the main dome of the mandir, where the murti-pratishtha mahapuja was being performed, be vacated. Thus, Swamishri arrived at 9.25 am.
In the presence of senior sadhus, over 500 senior devotees and major patrons had completed the preliminary Vedic mahapuja rituals. Swamishri requested them, “The day we have all been waiting for has arrived today. By God’s grace this superb mandir has been made. You have all performed the mahapuja ceremony. But now, as per the security officer’s instructions, you are all requested to go downstairs. and take your seats. All of you have come for this murti-pratishtha, so may you all be blessed.”
With this, the devotees left for the assembly. At the designated auspicious time, 9.58 am, Swamishri began to perform the murti-pratishtha rituals.
Swamishri performed the murti-pratishtha ceremony before the murtis of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami in the central shrine. Simultaneously, Tyagvallabh Swami performed the rituals in the first shrine of Shri Harikrishna Maharaj and Shri Radha-Krishna Dev and Ishwarcharan Swami performed the rituals in the last shrine of Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj.
After completing the rituals in the central shrine, Swamishri performed pujan of the murtis in all the other shrines. During this time, annakut was arranged before the murtis. Then at 10.43 am Swamishri performed the murti-pratishtha arti before the central shrine.
Meanwhile, outside, at 10.45 am, the Prime Minister arrived to a red carpet welcome. At the entrance he was received by the senior sadhus, directors of BAPS and other senior devotees. The Dallas Marching Band played a vibrant welcome tune, while thousands of devotees waved flags.
The Prime Minister, the Premier, the Lord Mayor and the High Commissioner were led up the main stairs to the mandir porch, where Swamishri was waiting to greet them all. Swamishri garlanded the dignitaries and tied nadachhadis on their wrists. Then the national anthems of Canada and India were sung.
Thereafter, the commemorative plaques were unveiled to the accompaniment of Vedic verses. The plaque to the right of the main door was unveiled by the Prime Minister and Swamishri, while the plaque on the left was unveiled by the Premier and Lord Mayor.
Then, while the sadhus recited Vedic mantras, Swamishri and the Prime Minister pushed open the main doors to officially inaugurate the mandir. Swamishri then respectfully requested the dignitaries to enter with their right foot first as per the Vedic tradition. Anandswarup Swami, who was mediating between the Prime Minister and Swamishri as interpreter, began to describe the details of the mandir. Seeing the intricate carvings all around, the Prime Minister remarked, “Incredible! This is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen.” Swamishri, too, pointed out many details.
After darshan here, Swamishri and the dignitaries descended the stairs leading to the exhibition. Here, the Indian High Commissioner officially inaugurated the exhibition.
The dignitaries were guided to a room in the Haveli. Before joining them there, Swamishri performed the murti-pratishtha of the abhishek murti of Shri Nilkanth Varni and offered abhishek.
Then, a private meeting between Swamishri and the Prime Minister took place. Swamishri said, “Here, one can see the beauty of Indian architecture. This mandir will provide peace for all. We pray to God that you may spread goodness and peace throughout the country. May everyone in the country be happy. Whenever you come to India, please visit Swaminarayan Akshardham in Delhi.” Anandswarup Swami conveyed Swamishri’s message to the Prime Minister, who replied, “Despite your busy schedule you have come to our country. I feel that it is an honour for us. This place is worthy of a visit not just by the people of Toronto but for all throughout Canada. It will become a landmark. I am grateful to you. I, too, hope that I can come to India and visit Akshardham.”
After this meeting Swamishri and the Prime Minister made their way to the assembly, where over 13,000 devotees and well-wishers were seated.
On stage, Tyagvallabh Swami garlanded all the dignitaries and Swamishri presented them golden kalashes as mementos.
The assembly continued with a recital of Vedic mantras; their meanings were explained in English. Then, Anandswarup Swami spoke in English on the necessity of mandirs in today’s society. This was followed by a short video presentation about the activities in BAPS mandirs and then a traditional dance was performed by youths.
Thereafter, the Lord Mayor, David Miller, addressed the assembly, “This mandir to me is symbolic of who we are in Toronto as a people.
“Just as Toronto embraces people from different backgrounds, this Mandir and museum opens its doors and embraces Torontonians and tourists of all backgrounds.
“It’s a place where people from all walks of life are welcomed and come together to learn about the traditions, history and culture.
“One cannot enter this magnificent building, without being awed by the vision, the craftsmanship and most of all the peace and serenity.
“It truly is a gift that all Torontonians can share.
“I’d like to congratulate and thank BAPS, and thank you for your continued contribution to the growth and success of Toronto.
“I’d like to recognize the thousands of volunteers for your hard work, dedication and for giving back to communities around the world.”
After this, the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty spoke, “It seems to me that Toronto is the perfect place for this Mandir.
“We are all here to witness the grand opening of this truly exceptional and magnificent architecture – inspired by both genius and faith.
“On the occasion of the opening of our new Mandir we are once again embracing our destiny. We are welcoming into our lives, this magnificent expression of a faith and a culture.
“And we know that Toronto, Ontario and Canada, we know that all of us are the better for our new Mandir.
“They tell me your divine holiness that you are 87 years of age. That you pursue a more aggressive world travel circuit that I can possibly undertake myself. It is truly an honour to have you here today.
“Because of this Mandir and following my recent trip to India, my admiration for the Indian people and Ontario’s own South Asian community has further deepened.
“I think of the people, people like you, who cherish their history and work hard to build a brighter future.
“To all those who have devoted themselves to the creation of our new Mandir, thank you for this wonderful gift to the people of Ontario and Canada. You have enriched us in so many ways.”
Then the High Commissioner of India, Rajmani Lakshmi Narayan spoke, “This wonderful temple symbolizes all that is most magnificent about Indian culture. It symbolizes the ties between India and Canada.
“I congratulate BAPS for taking up this initiative and putting up this wonderful Temple.
“I think of the hundreds of volunteers who worked tirelessly to bring this project to life. I think as well of all the humanitarian projects that BAPS followers take on. So I want to thank you for your devotion to your families and for your commitment to your faith and culture.”
Following him, the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, addressed the gathering, “Tracing its beginnings to prehistoric times, the country has amassed a millennia-old history of linguistic, ethnic and spiritual pluralism.
“Such diversity at times has posed significant challenges for India. But the country is making a determined effort to alleviate tensions and reconcile interest through its democratic institutions.
“Where far too many countries have failed, India is succeeding.
“The BAPS Swaminarayan Complex stands as a testament to Canada and India’s proud tradition of pluralism.
“This awe-inspiring work of architectural brilliance will serve as a source of pride not just for Indo-Canadians, but I hope all Torontonians, all Ontarians, all Canadians and all visitors to our country will come to see this magnificent facility.
“I’d like to thank his Divine Holiness and BAPS Canada for seeing this ambitious project through to fruition.
“I’d also like to commend this organization for the role you’ve played over the years in fostering peaceful co-existence among all communities through heightened understanding and co-operation, while preserving heritage and faith.”
After the speeches by the dignitaries, Shukmuni Swami gave a brief introductory speech in English about Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Finally, Swamishri blessed the murti-pratishtha assembly, “We are grateful to the Prime Minister, Premier, Mayor and High Commissioner and other dignitaries for gracing our function. Their presence has delighted us all. Their support has made this work possible.
“Shriji Maharaj incarnated on this earth and explained the need for spirituality. One may do many things but one’s base nature and inner faults have to be overcome with spiritual wisdom. Believe one’s atma to be akshar and offer bhakti to Purushottam. All this work has been based on this principle.
“Again, may this country prosper and all become happy. You have all come here, so abide by the laws, co-operate with the people and live peacefully.”
Swamishri’s blessings concluded at 12.52 pm. After the vote of thanks, the stage dignitaries departed. Then the Leader of the Opposition, Stephane Dion, was honoured on stage by Swamishri with a garland and mementoes.
With this the murti-pratishtha assembly concluded. Before leaving the mandir, the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty also had a private meeting with Swamishri.
Premier: I feel it is our great fortune that you have come here.
Swamishri: We are thankful to you all for your great support.
Premier: I have also seen Delhi Akshar-dham. It is a magnificent place. I especially enjoyed the boat ride.
Swamishri: It is good you came today. Your speech was very good. May God bless you with great strength and may the country prosper.
Premier: You have fulfilled the great res-ponsibility of inspiring not only your devotees but people all over the world. I derive inspiration from you that I may serve as Premier until I am 87!”
Swamishri: May God fulfil your wish.
In the afternoon, a special assembly for women was held.
At the same time, thousands, including Canadians, Chinese and others, queued at the main mandir staircase to await their turn for darshan of the newly consecrated murtis.
The local and national print and electronic media also gave extensive coverage to this auspicious occasion. As a result, news of the new mandir became widely known and appreciated throughout Canada.