Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s spirituality appealed to people from all strata of society. He was revered as God by the rich and poor, educated and illiterate, and young and old. He was revered even by Muslims, such as Dosa Tai, Kesar Miya, Miyaji and others. The following are brief accounts of two such Muslim devotees of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
AALSI GHANCHI OF MANAVADAR
Before Bhagwan Swaminarayan came to Loj, among Ramanand Swami’s devotees, the four main householder disciples were Anandji Sanghedia of Mangrol, Parvatbhai of Agatrai, Mayaram Bhatt of Manavadar and Aalsi Ghanchi. The four had taken a vow that come what may they would never acknowledge anyone else as God except Ramanand Swami. They were so devoted to him that they had resolved to stick to him even if Narayan himself came in person with Lakshmi. Even if somebody showed them Radha-Krishna in their palm, their conviction in Ramanand Swami would never waver.
Even other disciples had firm faith that Ramanand Swami was divine. But these four excelled all in their conviction. They were always eager to have his darshan and to serve him. They continually praised Ramanand Swami’s sterling qualities, which always brought happiness and prosperity to others. But Ramanand Swami himself never said that he was God.
Once, Ramanand Swami came to Manavadar. He bathed in Lakshmi Vadi and was sitting under a berry tree. Then Shyamji Jatakia, who was present in the assembly, asked Ramanand Swami, “Swami, is there anyone greater than you?”
Ramanand Swami said, “Yes, he who is greater than me, and by whose will I have come here, is the supreme God. He is currently on a pilgrimage. He will come here after some time. His glory and spiritual charisma outshines everyone.” Among the disciples listening to the guru’s prophetic words were the four leading devotees. At that point Aalsi Ghanchi got up and said humbly, “Lord, we believe you as supreme.”
Ramanand Swami said, “Listen Aalsibhai! God alone is above everyone else, and I, too, have worshipped him to become great. If you seek moksha, then believe him as God, and live according to his wishes.”
This was the first time that Ramanand Swami talked of someone superior to him. Everybody was surprised by what he said. Aalsi asked, “Swamiji, when he comes here, how will we recognize him?”
Swamiji said, “I will recite a couplet and explain its meaning to you. Ask the meaning of these same verses to him when he arrives. If what he explains and what I have explained is the same
then understand him to be the greatest of all.”
Ramanand Swami recited the verses,
“Nabhmã udao jo gano, to udupati mukh malkãy;
Pan rajnichir raj tulya chhe, brahmãndoni may.
Ude rommã anant je, enã pan ãdhãr;
Nar-tan chhupyo olkhe no bedo par.”
“If you count the stars in the sky, the moon will smile. Since they are like a grain of sand when you take all the brahmands (universes) into account. In whose every pore there are infinite (such brahmands) and he who is their support; one who recognizes him in his human form, attains moksha.”
Ramanand Swami called Aalsi to his side and whispered the significance of the couplet in his ear. Aalsi remembered every word of what his guru explained. After going home, he wrote it down to be doubly sure. Many years passed. Nilkanth Varni arrived in Loj and Ramanand Swami declared his glory to all. Ramanand Swami initiated him and named him Sahajanand Swami and Narayan Muni. Then, in Jetpur, Sahajanand Swami was appointed as guru by Ramanand Swami, who shortly afterwards passed away to Akshardham. Sahajanand Swami treated the old disciples of Ramanand Swami with great respect. He visited village after village and made the devotees very happy. He put them in samadhi and they all experienced his glory.
In the course of his vicharan, Maharaj came to Manavadar. He had his meal and after taking rest, went to Lakshmi Vadi in the evening. After having a bath, Maharaj was sitting in the assembly. Aalsi Ghanchi requested Maharaj to explain the meaning of the couplet that Ramanand had recited. Maharaj explained the couplet in exactly the same way that Ramanand Swami had explained. Aalsi experienced an inner light. He had great faith in his guru’s words. So he at once recognized Maharaj as God.
Aalsi was a Muslim and his income was meagre. He operated a ghanti (mill) and earned very little. Farmers would bring their peanuts and sesame seeds to be crushed in the ghanti to extract the oil.
He used to sit on the edge of the ghanti and drive the bullock with pride, as if he was king of the world, and daily offered devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
People who knew of his difficult financial circumstances would ask him, “Aalsi, what have you found that you are so happy?”
He would reply, “What shall I say brother? A poor fellow like me has found a diamond. I have attained the supreme Purushottam Narayan. That is why I am happy.”
Aalsi was so close to Maharaj that Shri Hari would be very informal with him. Aalsi would sing bhajans to please Maharaj. Also, whenever Maharaj visited Manavadar, he bathed in the river Ksharvati and would play in the water with Aalsi.
Aalsi’s body was very bulky. Sometimes Maharaj would sit on his back and ride him like a horse. He would pass his hand over his large bald head. He would press his feet as if they were in stirrups and urge Aalsi to go fast as if he were a real horse, “Move, horse, move. Move properly, OK…”
Aalsi would joke, “The horse has not been properly fed, yet you are kicking it. So, sit straight otherwise it will throw you off.”
Maharaj would reply, “This horse seems to be very unruly.” In this fashion Shri Hari would play and joke with Aalsi.
Maharaj was so pleased with his selfless, pure devotion that he often gave Aalsi gifts as a sign of grace and showered him with blessings.
ALIBHAI OF GANOD
Alibhai, another Muslim devotee of Shri Hari, was a native of Ganod. People also called him ’Junabhai Khatri’. Alibhai became a satsangi through the company of Abhaysinh Darbar of Ganod. There was great opposition from his family and community for his Satsang connection. But he did not bother about it in the least and continued to seek refuge in Shri Hari. He openly observed all the norms prescribed for a satsangi. Such was his boldness. Because of his steadfastness, he had to face many difficulties in his daily life. But he brushed aside all the travails and courageously offered devotion.
Once, Shriji Maharaj visited Ganod and held a meeting in the garden on the banks of the Bhadar river. He was delivering a discourse on good conduct. At that time Alibhai was on his way to get married. His carriage stopped at the garden. He knew that Maharaj was addressing the assembly in the garden, so he went for darshan.
Ali prostrated before Maharaj and stood with folded hands before him. All he wished was to be blessed by Shri Hari as he was going for an auspicious ceremony. “With his blessings there would be no problems,” Ali thought. So he patiently waited for Maharaj’s permission and blessings. But Shriji Maharaj went on with his discourse without taking notice of him. The parshad observed Ali’s predicament. He told Maharaj, “Ali is waiting for your blessings and permission to go.”
Maharaj ignored the pleadings of the parshad and continued with his discourse as if nothing had happened. After a few minutes the parshad once again said, “Maharaj! Alibhai will not go without your permission. Grant him permission.” The parshad repeated this twice, but Shriji Maharaj did not utter a word!
The people attending the marriage got upset as time passed by, but Alibhai was patiently waiting with folded hands. Finally, Muktanand Swami said, “Maharaj, Alibhai is waiting for your permission to go. He has come to seek your blessings as he is going for his marriage. His carriage is waiting outside. Bless him and grant him permission to go.”
Then Shri Hari acknowledged Alibhai’s presence. “Go, go get married. How can one worship God when he is deeply inclined towards marriage!” Shriji Maharaj repeated this three times. Ali once again prostrated before him and went on his way. But Shri Hari’s words left a deep impression on his mind.
Two years after the marriage, Ali was blessed with a son. He was brought up in the tradition of Satsang. When he was 18 years old the time came for his betrothal. Ali had brought up his son with care and educated him properly as per his ability. He took him aside and said, “Son, all these days I have been looking after you. I educated you, taught you a trade and even performed your betrothal. You are now 18. There should be no difficulty for you hereafter. Whatever you feel fit and proper, you do. The day I was going to get married, what Maharaj told me became etched on my soul. Since then, I have been waiting for you to grow up so that I can hand over the business to you. You have to look after yourself. I have performed my duty. I shall stay in the mandir and engage myself in singing bhajans and performing puja. Once a day, send food for me. This is all you need to do for me.”
The son replied, “Father! It is my duty to serve you. You worship God and I shall serve you the way you want me to serve.”
Thus, Alibhai detached himself from worldly worries in his youth. After this he would accompany Abhaysinh to listen to discourses, bhajans, etc. Both of them would together discuss spiritual matters and enjoy the full benefit of Satsang.
Purani Raghuvirdas Swami was a great Sanskrit scholar and a noted speaker at the Junagadh mandir during the time of Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami. He progressed because of the encouragement and support provided by Gunatitanand Swami. He was a great speaker and could speak on any subject for hours on end. Once he came to Jaliya (Varjang), near Ganod, to give discourses. Alibhai regularly attended the discourses in the company of Darbar Abhaysinh. The discourses lasted for a month. A day prior to the end of the discourses Alibhai touched the Purani’s feet after the discourse, embraced him and said, “Purani Maharaj, this is my last ‘Jai Swaminarayan’ to you. I shall not be able to come to your discourse again.”
The devotees, who were standing around, said, “Tomorrow is the last day, please do come.”
Alibhai said, “Tomorrow I am going to Akshardham. So, for me, today is the last day of the discourse.”
The next day Alibhai attended the mandir service along with Abhaysinh and when the time came for shedding his body he went home. He told the Darbar, “Now, I shall go home since, if I give up my body here, my relatives and friends will have to come to the mandir and that is not proper.” At home Alibhai sang bhajans for some time. Then he had the divine darshan of Shriji Maharaj with his sadhus! He told the people around him, “See, Bhagwan Swaminarayan has come to take me to Akshardham. I am going with him.” He said his last ‘Jai Swaminarayan’ to all and passed away to Akshardham. His life is an excellent example that satsangis from any community and background can attain the highest spiritual state.