AKSHAR-PURUSHOTTAM ENSHRINED IN BOCHASAN
Through the dedicated efforts of the devotees and sadhus, the mammoth construction work proceeded at such great speed that Shastriji Maharaj’s challenging deadline was met. The murti-pratishtha date was set for 5 June 1907 (Vaishakh vad 10, Samvat 1963). With just a few weeks to go before this historic event, invitations were sent out. Devotees everywhere planned enthusiastically to participate in the ceremony.
With all preparations complete, the murti-pratishtha day dawned. In the morning, learned and experienced Brahmins recited the traditional Vedic verses, guiding Shastriji Maharaj and other devotees devoutly through the yagna rituals. Then, the auspicious time for the murti-pratishtha approached. The metallic murti of Purushottam Bhagwan Swaminarayan was placed in position in the central shrine of the mandir. Then, the sadhus and devotees attempted to place the murti of Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami. But, even though it was lighter, the murti would not budge. More help was called, but still the murti could not be lifted. They tried again and again, but without success. Finally, they went to Shastriji Maharaj and informed him of the puzzling situation. He immediately got up and accompanied the devotees to the murti. There, Shastriji Maharaj prayed, “O Swami! We have left Vartal for you, and tolerated much abuse, hardship and danger. So please shower your grace on us by taking your rightful place.” Then, he took a small chisel and inserted it at the base of the murti, slightly lifting it off the ground. The sadhus and devotees then lifted the murti into place. Then Shastriji Maharaj performed the murti-pratishtha arti. In this way, for the first time, the murtis of Akshar-Purushottam were consecrated in the central shrine.
Now, Bochasan Mandir provided a centre for people to offer their devotion. As a result, more and more people throughout the Charotar region began to openly embrace the worship of Akshar-Purushottam. The philosophy that was once restricted to a corner of Vartal was now becoming widespread throughout Charotar, and beyond.
MANDIR AT SARANGPUR
Shastriji Maharaj used Sarangpur as a base and toured the surrounding villages to teach the message of Akshar and Purushottam. When Shastriji Maharaj arrived in Limbdi, Jhaverbhai, the Diwan proposed, “If you agree to build a shikharbaddha mandir in Sarangpur, I will convince the Thakor to give you enough land.” Nirgundas Swami and other sadhus and devotees were excited by this offer. But Shastriji Maharaj had his own way of dealing with things.
He told the Diwan, “We are short of funds, but if you give us a few acres we will build a small mandir.” The Diwan was well aware of Shastriji Maharaj’s capabilities and reasoned that such a small mandir would not be appropriate. So, again, he offered to obtain sanction for as much land as was necessary. Seeing the genuine intentions of the Diwan, Shastriji Maharaj agreed. After a few days, Shastriji Maharaj returned to Sarangpur. Meanwhile, Jhaverbhai, the Diwan, had talked to the Thakor of Limbdi and sent Meghabhai to meet Shastriji Maharaj. When he arrived, Shastriji Maharaj took him to the southern part of the village and requested for the entire 24-acre area Bhagwan Swaminarayan had sanctified and where he had performed the groundbreaking ceremony by riding his horse. In this way, the land was procured from the Thakor of Limbdi.
Work began in earnest to prepare the area for construction. Times were difficult and they received insufficient alms to feed all. Still, everyone worked with enthusiasm, realizing the glory of the service they were engaged in. All were eager to contribute their services for the cause of Akshar and Purushottam, no matter what hardship they had to endure. In due course, as the mandir construction neared completion, Shastriji Maharaj declared the date for the murti-pratishtha ceremony.
The opponents tried to interfere in Shastriji Maharaj’s work. They approached the Thakor of Limbdi, who had allocated the land for the mandir to Shastriji Maharaj, and convinced him that the murtis of Radha-Krishna should be consecrated in the central shrine. Thus, when the Thakor went to meet Shastriji Maharaj, he made several suggestions and asked where the murtis of Radha-Krishna would be installed. Shastriji Maharaj realized the purpose of his question and decisively replied, “We have tolerated many difficulties for Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Gunatitanand Swami. We have become sadhus and dedicated our lives for them. So, the murtis of Akshar and Purushottam will be consecrated in the central shrine, while the murtis of Radha-Krishna will be placed in the first shrine.” The Thakor and his accomplices were left speechless by Shastriji Maharaj’s bold and forthright statements and happily agreed to his plans. Invitations were sent to all devotees to attend the murti-pratishtha on 8 May 1916 (Vaishakh sud 6, Samvat 1972).
On the preceding day, Shastriji Maharaj blessed, “This mandir, which has been built here in Sarangpur, fulfils the promise made by Shriji Maharaj to Jiva Khachar. Tomorrow, the murtis of supreme God, Purushottam, and his divine abode, Akshar, will be consecrated here. The glory of this mandir will increase in the years to come.”
The following day, Shastriji Maharaj performed the Vedic yagna rituals and then consecrated the murtis of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Gunatitanand Swami and Gopalanand Swami in the central shrine.
Once again, everyone experienced Shastriji Maharaj’s devotion and determination in establishing and enshrining the Akshar-Purushottam philosophy.
AKSHAR MANDIR, GONDAL
In a relatively short span of nine years, Shastriji Maharaj had inspired two majestic mandirs, consecrating the murtis of Akshar and Purushottam in the central shrines. Shastriji Maharaj continued his spiritual tours to the villages, towns, and cities, explaining the Akshar-Purushottam philosophy as revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the Vachanamrut.
In the summer of 1932 CE (Samvat 1988) Shastriji Maharaj was in Sarangpur, where Haribhai Amin, a native of Virsad, a village near Borsad, came to meet him. Haribhai had negotiated a deal with the Maharaja of Gondal, Bhagvatsinhji, to purchase the land surrounding the Akshar Deri, the auspicious memorial shrine built over the cremation site of Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami.
The all-knowing Shastriji Maharaj stated, “The price of Rs. 25,000 you have accepted is reasonable.” Haribhai was left speechless. Since that, in fact, was the price he had agreed upon with the Maharaja. He realized that he could not hide anything from Shastriji Maharaj. He told Shastriji Maharaj about the terms the Maharaja had stipulated: that the memorial shrine be preserved and a mandir be built over it in three years at a cost of at least one million rupees. Shastriji Maharaj assuringly said, “Gunatitanand Swami’s memorial shrine is very sacred and miraculous. Maharaj and Swami are eternally manifest there. Over a million rupees will be spent there, so there is no need for you to worry about it.” Then with Shastriji Maharaj’s approval Haribhai returned to Gondal to finalize the land deal.
Throughout Gujarat, the devotees were thrilled that a mandir was to be built in Gondal over the auspicious memorial shrine of Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami. Thousands attended the groundbreaking ceremony on 18 January 1932 (Posh sud 10, Samvat 1988). Soon afterwards, construction work began on the site. Many devotees eagerly contributed their time, energy and other necessary resources for this noble cause.
Shastriji Maharaj instructed the young and spirited Yogiji Swami to cook for the sadhus, devotees and labourers serving there and also to help in the construction work. The building work proceeded at full speed and soon, with the enthusiastic and devout efforts of the sadhus and devotees, the mandir neared completion – it had taken just two-and-a-quarter years – much less than the time stipulated by the Maharaja of Gondal.
Invitations were sent for the murti-pratishtha ceremony on 24 May 1934 (Vaishakh sud 10, Samvat 1990). Devotees began to arrive in Gondal several days beforehand to attend the spiritual discourses and participate in the preliminary Vedic rituals. Shastriji Maharaj and other senior sadhus and devotees spoke in detail about the Akshar-Purushottam philosophy and the glory of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Everyone revelled in the divine and joyous atmosphere.
On the day of the murti-pratishtha, the murtis of Akshar and Purushottam were placed in the central shrine and Shastriji Maharaj performed the Vedic rituals, invoking the divine presence of Maharaj and Swami in the murtis. Then, when Shastriji Maharaj held the mirror before the murtis it cracked due to the divine gaze of the Lord, demonstrating Shriji Maharaj’s divine presence in the murtis to all.
In the murti-pratishtha assembly, Shastriji Maharaj described the glory of the Akshar Deri, emphasizing that Gunatitanand Swami was the incarnation of Aksharbrahman, and that only by total surrender to such a God-realized Sadhu can one attain virtues like Akshar and become eligible to worship Purushottam. Then, Shastriji Maharaj appointed Yogiji Swami as the mahant of the Akshar Mandir in Gondal, to the universal approval of all.