Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life as a guru and work as a leader are testament to his passion for bhajan. His each activity, social or spiritual, was bhajan-centric and inspired faith.
In fact, Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and work exemplify the sentiments stated by Mahant Swami Maharaj in shloka 124 of the Satsang Diksha:
This essay demonstrates Swamishri’s bhajan-based leadership through the lens of just two of his innumerable projects – Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi and the BAPS Cattle Camps conducted during the 1987 famine in Gujarat. These projects reveal three aspects of the special devotion, or bhajan, innate in Swamishri’s life – his natural inclination for prayer, the selfless sentiments with which he served and his faith in God’s doership.
Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi: A Project Driven by Prayer
On 6 November 2005, Swamishri inaugurated the largest Hindu mandir in the world, Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi. It was the culmination of over four decades of patience, perseverance and prayer. Even after BAPS acquired the 100-acre riverside plot in 2000, after 32 years of persistent efforts, the project was fraught with challenges. With the land sprawled across state borders, there were a range of administrative compliance, governmental regulation and legal considerations, as well as the demanding resource and financial requirements of such a project. Yet, Swamishri guided it to success through his leadership skills and his faith in prayer in a mere five years.
Even though Shastriji Maharaj had appointed him as the president of the Sanstha in 1950, Pramukh Swami Maharaj always remained a loyal and obedient servant and shishya of guru Yogiji Maharaj. In 1967, Yogiji Maharaj slowly introduced a new topic into his discourses saying, “Yamunaji is waiting. We want to build a shikharbaddha mandir in Delhi.” Pramukh Swami made this vision his mission, with prayer as his driving force. After Yogiji Maharaj’s passing in 1971, Pramukh Swami Maharaj encouraged local devotees to continue the search for land and himself visited Delhi on numerous occasions. His efforts commenced with and were complemented by constant prayer.
For over three decades, from concept to acquisition, not a mahapuja went by in which Pramukh Swami Maharaj did not pray that suitable land be found in Delhi to fulfil Yogiji Maharaj’s wish. During the annual Diwali-Annakut mahapujas in Gondal, the frequent ground-breaking ceremonies or murti-pratishtha rituals of other mandirs and on many other occasions, one prayer was always on Swamishri’s lips, “May land be acquired in Delhi and may Yogiji Maharaj’s wish be fulfilled.”
Suitable land in the eastern part of Delhi, on the banks of Yamuna, was finally acquired in the year 2000. On the day of the Poshi Purnima celebration that year (21 January 2000) in Dabhan, Dharmavatsal Swami and sadhus arrived to personally deliver the great news to Swamishri. Even during this moment of tremendous joy, Swamishri immediately offered the title documents to Shri Harikrishna Maharaj and prayed that Akshardham be erected on this land as soon as possible. A few months later, on 26 April, Swamshri arrived in Delhi to inspect the new land. As soon as he first set foot on it, here too, his first action was to gather the sadhus and volunteers to join together to offer prostrations to the land and pray for the unimpeded and timely construction of Akshardham.
Swamishri’s faith in prayer was so firm that it inspired others to engage in prayer themselves. After the first-stone laying ceremony on 2 June 2001, Swamishri requested all devotees to perform two extra malas daily for the successful completion of the Akshardham project. Devotees worldwide received this call with enthusiastically. Thereafter, for the following four years, thousands of men and women devotees, young and old, across the globe daily joined Swamishri in this prayer.
Even as construction progressed, Swamishri’s prayers continued to be an inseparable part of the project. At every milestone, at each hurdle and when unseasonable rain struck three days before the inauguration, Swamishri’s prayers were incessant. And when addressing the grand opening assembly of Akshardham on 6 November 2005 in the presence of the president and prime minister of India, Swamishri said, “I pray to God that whoever sees Akshardham is inspired and experiences peace… May there be an increase in spiritual faith in all.”
Each comment and action of Swamishri unveiled his propensity for prayer. The Delhi Akshardham project shows how, despite the hurdles he faced or the successes he celebrated, Swamishri remained constantly immersed in bhajan through prayer.
We now consider another activity led by Swamishri to understand other facets of his bhajan-based leadership.