His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj
His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj was born to Dahiben and Manibhai Narayanbhai Patel on 13 September 1933 (Bhadarva vad 9, Samvat 1989) in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India. A few days later, Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj, the founder of BAPS, visited Jabalpur, blessed the newborn child and named him Keshav. Shastriji Maharaj revealed to Manibhai, “Your child will grow up to serve Satsang in a big way.” His family lovingly called him Vinu.
Manibhai was originally a native of Anand in Gujarat and had settled in Jabalpur for business. Vinubhai spent his formative years in Jabalpur, completing his primary and secondary education in an English-medium school. He was exceptionally brilliant and completed his 12th grade at the Christ Church Boys Senior Secondary School in Jabalpur. Thereafter, he returned with his parents to his native town of Anand, where he enrolled at the College of Agriculture.
Despite his deep inner spirituality, his sharp intellect was inclined towards rational and logical reasoning. Only a great spiritual master could penetrate his reasoning and awaken the dormant spiritual spark within him. In 1951-52, he came into the contact of His Holiness Yogiji Maharaj, the spiritual successor of Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj. Impressed by Yogiji Maharaj’s spiritual charisma and selfless love, he travelled with Yogiji Maharaj during his summer vacations. Yogiji Maharaj’s love drew the young Vinubhai closer towards him. In 1956, Vinubhai graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, and through his association with Yogiji Maharaj he decided to take the path of renunciation. On 2 February 1957, Yogiji Maharaj joyously gave him the parshad diksha and renamed him Vinu Bhagat. Once Yogiji Maharaj, while addressing some youths inclined towards becoming sadhus, said, “Because of Vinubhai 51 youths will take diksha. The punya [of that] will go to him. He will be the first [to take diksha].” Then, Yogiji Maharaj told him to accompany him in his vicharan to look after his daily correspondence and other services. For four years he stayed with Yogiji Maharaj and received spiritual training.
On 11 May 1961, on the occasion of the Kalash Mahotsav of the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Gadhada, Yogiji Maharaj gave bhagwati (saffron) diksha to 51 educated youths. Among them, Vinu Bhagat was the first to receive diksha and named Swami Keshavjivandas. At that time many observed that the name ‘Keshav’, given by Shastriji Maharaj when he was a child, had reappeared when renamed as Keshavjivandas by Yogiji Maharaj. Thereafter, Yogiji Maharaj instructed the 51 newly initiated sadhus to study Sanskrit in Mumbai. Swami Keshavjivandas was appointed as their head (mahant) at Dadar Mandir. Hence, over time, he became respectfully known as Mahant Swami. Yogiji Maharaj used to frequently write to the newly initiated sadhus about the greatness of Mahant Swami, “All should remain under the instructions of Mahant Swami. If anyone feels troubled or worried tell Mahant Swami about it. He will solve it by giving spiritual knowledge.”
His outstanding virtues of austerity, self-control, devotion, humility and service earned him the blessings and joy of Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. In 1968, Pramukh Swami’s 48th birthday was celebrated in Yogiji Maharaj’s presence at Dadar Mandir, Mumbai. In his address to the satsang assembly, Pramukh Swami spoke about the glory of Yogiji Maharaj and added, “I feel very peaceful about Yogiji Maharaj having prepared these [young] sadhus. My heart experiences peace on having the darshan of Mahant Swami. Just as sadhus and devotees felt peace on having the darshan of Sadguru Purushottamdas Swami, today, one feels peace on seeing Mahant Swami.”
In 1971, after the earthly departure of Yogiji Maharaj, Mahant Swami totally dedicated himself to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the new guru, with the same devotion and allegiance he had for guru Yogiji Maharaj. His exposure to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s pure saintliness and spiritual glory had begun in 1951, when he first met him. Since 1971, as per the wishes and instructions of HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, he has relentlessly travelled throughout India and abroad to inspire and strengthen satsang in countless devotees. He has also offered his services during the Sanstha’s mega-festivals, in children and youth activities, the Akshardham projects, and other satsang activities. HH Mahant Swami Maharaj’s profound discourses have enlightened countless devotees and well-wishers and motivated them to adopt pious, addiction-free lives. His saintliness and devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and gurus Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj have left lasting impressions on innumerable devotees.
On 20 July 2012, in the presence of senior sadhus in Ahmedabad, Pramukh Swami Maharaj revealed Mahant Swami as his spiritual successor. Following the earthly departure of Pramukh Swami Maharaj on 13 August 2016, Mahant Swami Maharaj was declared as the sixth guru in the Gunatit Parampara tradition of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. HH Mahant Swami Maharaj now presides as the guru and spiritual guide of countless devotees and helms the worldwide BAPS socio-spiritual activities fostered by HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj.