In Bhuj on Saturday 24 March, over 5,000 people from Bhuj and 25 surrounding villages gathered for a special assembly.
His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj - the spiritual leader of BAPS performed the traditional Vedic pujan of the bricks to be laid in the foundation in 8 of the 10 villages adopted by the Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS). After the traditional pujan, he presented the consecrated bricks to the villagers amidst widespread applause.
An "Earthquake Rehabilitation Assembly" was convened in the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Also present on this occasion were: Nitin Patel, Minister; P.K. Lehri, a senior aid to the Chief Minister; Mr. Mukim, Collector of Bhuj; His Highness Pragmalji, the Maharao of Bhuj; and other dignitaries.
This special assembly was held in a marquee set up in the grounds of Swaminarayan Nagar. Addressing the gathering, minister Nitin Patel said, "We are all acquainted with the situation following the earthquake. But the brave and far-reaching work of Pramukh Swami has given us great hope that we will be able to tackle this extremely difficult work. I have seen the temporary residences here. If the temporary homes are this good, then one can imagine how good the permanent homes will be. We cannot thank Pramukh Swami enough."
P.K. Lehri said, "Pramukh Swami Maharaj has promoted the cause of Indian culture not only in Gujarat, but also throughout India and the world. The Sanstha has accomplished many great tasks through its voluntary dedication, service and devotion. Without discrimination, the Sanstha performs great humanitarian work. The work of Pramukh Swami is, like rivers, trees and mountains, for the benefit of others. Through the bricks he has worshipped here, he has worshipped our wishes. These bricks are the symbols of our wishes."
Collector, Mr. Mukim said, "We gain much inspiration from Pramukh Swami, his sadhus and volunteers. And that is not all, we have also learnt a lot from them. On behalf of all our citizens I thank Pramukh Swami very much."
Pujya Viveksagar Swami spoke to the audience, saying that everyone should learn not only how to attain relief from the earthquake from Pramukh Swami and the sadhus, but also how to be relieved from the cycle of birth and death.
Pujya Brahmavihari Swami described details of the BAPS earthquake relief work and, also, how from the very start Pramukh Swami Maharaj has been constantly aware of the situation and has coordinated the work of the sadhus and the Sanstha. He said, "Pramukh Swami does not harbor a desire to create goodwill by giving you food and shelter. He is extremely compassionate and wishes that you all become happy in all aspects of your lives. He wants to help improve our present life and our afterlife."
At the occasion, many came forward and praised the relief work of BAPS. Some of them were:
Shri Arvindbhai, President, Chamber of Commerce;
Dr. Vagadia, a reputed anesthetist from the Bhuj Civil Hospital;
Dr. Kashyap Buch, Bhuj General Hospital;
Shri Mith Haamad, Muslim leader from Saila;
Kumar Acharya, journalist,
Rajiv Malik, editor of Hinduism Today from Delhi;
His Highness Pragmalji, the Maharao of Bhuj and
Leaders of the adopted villages.
They all applauded and praised the work of the Sanstha. Many of the leaders of the adopted villages became emotional and tearful. Some could find no suitable words to express their gratitude.
HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj performed the traditional worship of the bricks and village name-boards and then blessed the assembly, saying, "Kachchh is a region which has many special features. Its greatest feature is its self-dignity. Despite this great disaster everyone has patiently and courageously faced the difficulties. The values of culture and devotion in the people here have ensured this. Everyone has expressed their appreciation here. But as a Sanstha we have merely done our duty. Bhagwan Swaminarayan spent much time in this region. The seeds He planted have blossomed. When the earthquake struck you did not appeal through phones or letters for help but relief came in abundance. Who sent you this relief? It was God. God inspired countless to send you relief and aid. So whatever work is done is due to God and His grace only. To stand by each other in times of happiness and misery is our Indian tradition. To repay our obligations is the Indian way of life. You are all full of such qualities and so deserve congratulations. We pray that your faith in God is strengthened, your devotion to God increases and that your inner strength to follow the wishes of whichever deity or guru you revere flourishes."