Even before the morning sun had peeked above the horizon, the mandir was abuzz with streams of devotees, young and old, eager to witness today’s historic occasion. For the first time since Pramukh Swami Maharaj became spiritual guru of BAPS, the Guru Purnima Celebration was to be held in his presence in Ahmedabad.
Today was the climax of many days of detailed preparations to cater for the 30,000-plus devotees expected for this momentous celebration. Sadhus and volunteers of the parking, kitchen, sabha, audio-visual, security and other departments had planned meticulously to ensure everything went smoothly. The decoration department volunteers had spent the night adding finishing touches to the embellishments throughout the mandir premises. Volunteers of all departments took up their duties before dawn.
The dining arrangements for the devotees had been set up in the Pramukh Vatika grounds behind the BAPS Yogiji Maharaj Hospital opposite the mandir. Six large marquees had been erected to shelter devotees in the event of unpredictable monsoon rains.
Everything was ready for the grand historic celebration. Devotees had filled both the upper Yagnapurush Sabhagruh and lower Pramukh Swami Auditorium, as well as, occupied every inch of available space in the mandir compound, where the assembly was relayed live on three large LED screens.
Swamishri emerged from his room, greeting everyone with folded hands on the way up to the main mandir for Thakorji’s darshan. The mandir pradakshina was lined on both sides with over 300 sadhus, who had come from many mandirs throughout Gujarat. Swamishri placed his hand on their heads to bless them all while going around the parikrama. After Thakorji’s darshan Swamishri returned to his room to perform his morning puja.
Meanwhile, the Guru Purnima assembly had started with dhun, prathana and bhajans by the sadhus. Thereafter, there were speeches by senior sadhus. Viveksagar Swami spoke on the need for a guru on the spiritual path, since without him atmagnan cannot be attained. Anandswarup Swami spoke on how Pramukh Swami Maharaj had obeyed all of Yogiji Maharaj’s wishes and served as an ideal disciple. Ishwarcharan Swami spoke about Yogiji Maharaj’s understanding of Shriji Maharaj’s divine glory and how Yogiji Maharaj saw divinity in every act of Shastriji Maharaj. In between, youths performed a splendid traditional dance to the tune of the bhajan, “Gurudev tumhãre charan kamalme…”.
Just before 11.00 a.m. Swamishri exited his room and passed through the jam-packed mandir compound towards the assembly halls. First, Swamishri went to the lower auditorium where the devotees, who were watching a live relay of the sabha, greeted him with rousing applause and heartfelt jais. Then Swamishri took his place in the upper sabhagruh where the celebration assembly was in progress. The stage was beautifully adorned with a backdrop of floral arches and murtis of Akshar-Purushottam and Guru Parampara.
After Swamishri’s arrival on stage, balaks enacted a skit reminiscing the tough times Shastriji Maharaj and his sadhus had faced in the early days of the Sanstha’s history.
Then, the sadgurus and other sadhus honoured Swamishri with decorative garlands devoutly prepared by devotees from India and abroad.
Thereafter, Swamishri inaugurated two new English publications produced by Swaminarayan Aksharpith: Essence of the Upanishads (translation of the Gujarati publication Upanishad Marma) and Contemplative Poems – a collection of inspiring poems promoting family values.
Then, all the devotees offered mantra pushpanjali after the sadhus had recited Vedic shloks.
Finally, Swamishri blessed the assembly, “The goal of human life is to attain the knowledge of God and atma. And God himself manifested to give us this knowledge of Akshar and Purushottam, Brahman and Parabrahman, and Atma and Paramatma. We have taken many births, but only when God and his true Sadhu are attained does the jiva attain liberation. There is darkness due to ignorance, but when a true guru is attained and true knowledge is acquired from him, moksha is achieved. One who removes our ignorance is a guru. ‘Gu’ is darkness and ‘ru’ is light. What is our ignorance, that ‘this is mine, this is mine…’.
Then, as Swamishri departed from the assembly, balaks performed a dance based on the bhajan, “Mãrã Swãmini thãye vãh vãh vãh…”
Thus, this historic Guru Purnima festival was celebrated with great devotion and fanfare. The entire celebration was webcast, enabling thousands of devotees all over the world to witness this grand historic occasion.