Swamishri's presence is always a reason to celebrate.
Special days of festivals, then, are especially enriched with
joy and jubilation whenever celebrated in his divine presence.
And among all celebrations perhaps,
nothing arouses more auspiciousness and elation
than the end and beginning of a year.
This year, in the presence of HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the 5-day festivals associated with Diwali, including the Annakut festival and the Murti-pratishtha ceremony in the Swaminarayan Haveli will be held in Chicago, USA.
Significance of Festivals
Bestu Varsh or New Year’s day (Kartik sud 1; 28 Oct. 2000) is the first day of the Indian calendar year. It was the day when Lord Vaman was granted three steps of land from King Bali. To fulfil the Lord’s third step, King Bali surrendered everything and earned His eternal grace.
On New Year’s day, Lord Krishna stopped the tradition of Indra puja in Gokul and introduced the ritual of offering fodder to cows and worship to Mount Govardhan. Subsequently, Lord Indra (god of Rain) was angered and rained mercilessly upon the village of Gokul. But Lord Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan with his little finger and provided refuge and protection to the citizens of Gokul. Hence, this day is also remembered as a reflection of God’s tremendous power and the benefit of taking His refuge.
On the morning of New Year’s day, Mahapuja is performed in Swaminarayan mandirs, where devotees participate to seek the blessings of Lord Swaminarayan and the Guru. At 12 noon, as a symbol of appreciation and prayers to remain God-centered, the Lord is offered a feast of food items - called Annakut. A sumptuous and colorful array of vegetarian items, decoratively arranged by the devotees and sadhus, are devoutly offered to the Lord.
New Year's Day (Bestu Varsh) :28 October 2000 (Kartik sud 1), Chicago, USA
With folded hands Swamishri exited his room and greeted all the sadhus and devotees gathered outside for their New Year's first darshan of Swamishri.
Swamishri's route to the haveli assembly hall was lined by expectant devotees. As he passed by all bowed in respect with folded hands.
The assembly hall was crowded with eager devotees seated for Swamishri's first pooja of the new year.
Flowers and lighted candles decorated the stage as Swamishri performed pooja.
During Swamishri's pooja all the devotees sang the prayer "Maha Balavant Maya Tamari..." in unison.
After pooja, Swamishri read Vachanamrut Sarangpur No. 7and blessed all, saying, "We should develop a firm understanding that God and His Sadhu are the only route to moksha….By controlling one's senses, one's mind is able to focus on God….We should have faith in the words of God and live according to His commands.
At 10:15 am Swamishri arrived in the giant tent adjacent to the haveli to intiate the traditional Vedic yagna for World Peace.
1400 people participated in the yagna. Then, Swamishri performed pujan of the murtis of Lord Swaminarayan, Gunatitanand Swami, Radha Krishna and the guru parampara to be installed in the haveli tomorrow.
After this, Swamishri initiated two youths into the parsad fold. Then, Swamishri blessed the assembly.
Swamishri arrived in the evening assembly led by the Akshar Marching Band, Dalls.
Today's assembly was a symbolic celebration of Swamishri's 80th birthday.
The youths performed cultural programs to celebrate the occasion. Several leading National and State political leaders, enterpreneurs and other dignitaries also came to extend their best wished to Swamishri and to receive his blessing.
In his blessing to the assembly Swamishri said "Our life is dependent on the blessings of God. It is our faith in God which drives us to visit mandirs offer worship and serve God…We should pray daily and read holy scriptures like the Vachanamrut and Gita daily. Then we should live by the teachings of these holy scripures.