According to Sanatan Hindu Dhar- ma, a mandir is revered as the manifestation of the Divine. The ancient Indian scriptures on architecture have compared the various parts of the mandir with the physical form of God. In this perspective the mandir, prior to the murti-pratishtha ceremony, is consecrated as instructed by our ancient sages. The consecration ceremony is known as prasad-pujan or prasad-pravesh (where prasad means building).
Prasad-pravesh ceremony: 4-2-03:- The prasad-pravesh or mandir consecration ceremony commenced at 3.00 p.m. The rituals were being conducted under the mandir dome in the presence of senior sadhus, and devotees from UK, USA, E. Africa and India. At 5.00 p.m. Pramukh Swami Maharaj arrived to perform the rituals. Amidst Vedic chantings Swamishri offered a coconut in the yagna fire. The holy ash from the yagna pit was applied as a chandlo on Swamishri. After offering his humble pranams, Swamishri blessed the gathering, "It was Yogiji Maharaj's resolve to have a mandir built on the banks of the river Yamuna. There is power in his words and that is why it has finally fructified. Every time he would write a letter to Gadhiya and Trivedi Saheb saying, 'We want to build a mandir. So, acquire some land.' He sent garlands for the governor Saheb. Then Yogiji Maharaj passed away. Thereafter, Ishwarcharan Swami endeavoured immensely. Even I had come to look for the land, but the places we saw were not suitable and did not satisfy us. We would come running here at a new proposal, but on seeing it, we would not find it to our satisfaction.
"Swami's wish was to have a mandir on the banks of the river Yamuna. So by the wish of God and Yogiji Maharaj the proposal for this land was put forward to us. The government of Delhi gave this land to us. Formally, we had decided upon the land on the other side (of the bridge). Then by God's wish the proposal changed and we got this 30 acres of land. We were happy even if we were allotted 5 acres of land, but the wish of Swami was for more land. He desires to bless the entire world with satsang and to redeem all. Maharaj and Gunatitanand Swami had come from Akshardham with a resolve to redeem everyone. Not to redeem one or two souls but infinite souls. And that is why we have got this tract of land. Now it is 30 acres, with another zero added to it! Then the planning for this vast land began. Ishwarcharan Swami and the team of sadhus from Amdavad, Mahant Swami, Doctor Swami and other sadhus discussed and thought for days and nights. They even travelled to (other places to) get ideas as to what to do and how to do it. And after that they put forward a plan.
"The Sompuras are an authority in making plans. They follow an ancient tradition in building and construction which incorporates all aspects of engineering. Their children learn by tradition. This science is scriptural, Vedic and legal. There are prescribed measurements regarding the height of pillars, size of shikhars, barshakh and arches. No steel (iron) is used for construction, and so the foreign and Indian engineers feel that it is not possible to build anything without it. They think that it will fall down. But today our mandirs, where stones placed one on top of the other, still exist after thousands of years. Despite earthquakes they have not collapsed after even thousands of years. We still see them today. So here too, the Sompuras made the plans before construction work began.
"To set up an ordinary factory, one has to plan, think and employ people. And one comes across many obstacles. Still, however, by the profound wish of Shriji Maharaj, Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj the obstacles were overcome and our work progressed. We got the ownership of the land. The money was paid and we performed the foundation-stone laying ceremony.
"The beginning was made. The requirements were immense for such a project. Firstly, it was money. But we have you, the devotees, who are like strong banks. Devotees in India and abroad have generously donated and offered their abundant services. Everyone was enthusiastic to serve. Decisions were made to complete a certain amount of work in a given time frame. This was all planned out by Ishwarcharan Swami and others. The plans were prepared by Shrijiswarup Swami, who is our engineer among engineers. He drafted beautiful plans. Changes were made and the work was done nicely. The construction work began. The stones were quarried, then sculpted and transported here. All this had to be done according to time schedules. Vinubhai Bhatesha and Sagunbhai of London went to get the stones from the mines (in Europe). Harshad Chavda is an accomplished engineer. He is like a Sompura because he has learnt the trade. He was a 17 to 18 year old boy who offered his services with Yogiji Maharaj in Gondal. Yogiji Maharaj had told him to serve tea, deliver hot water and offer other services to the devotees during their stay in Gondal. He also did the housekeeping and cleaning of pots and pans. When Swami passed away, he started doing photography and became an expert. Then when the Akshardham (Gandhinagar) project began, the need to acquire stones arose. So he was told to stay by the mines (in Bansipahadpur, etc.) and the experience made him into an expert. Then he started doing this work (getting stones sculpted), and he has become so proficient that today he suggests to the Sompura. He also offers suggestions to the engineers. God has endowed talent to the young sadhus too. Since it is God's work, He inspires and gets the work done through anyone.
"Harshad told Ishwarcharan Swami that we want to quarry stones from mines. But there is a lot of hassle in stone mines. Mr. Bhatesha knows about that because he has experienced the process of getting stones from the mines. Even Harshad is experienced in these matters. He deftly strikes the price deal with the owners. Then we have Yogesh Swami, who is an engineer and gold medallist. He too goes inside the mines. The engineers draw the plans in Amdavad, but he has to get the stones quarried in measured pieces from the mines in the heat. There's a lot of trouble and argument entailed in getting the right sized stone out of the mines. But they have all put in a lot of effort and labour. The work has been done wonderfully.
"In this way, the stones started arriving on site. We also got stones in containers from Italy. A plan had been drafted for the quantity of stones to be quarried, for the magnitude of stones to be sculpted and for them to reach Delhi in fixed time periods. The act of transporting them was a big task! And when the stones arrived in Delhi they had to be fitted. The construction of the mandir was accomplished according to the time schedules. Everyone was enthusiastic in their work. We can call it to be God inspired, the pervading inspiration of Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj. Every person felt that he wants to do the work, no matter what hardships arise. Everyone's heart was filled with God's presence. There are also other difficulties here too. Recently, there was rain. How could one perform the pratishtha in the rains? But by God's grace there has been sunshine in the past two-three days. In such tasks man believes that he is the doer, but it is God who is the doer.
"Maharaj said that whoever wants moksha can come and ask for it. Yogiji Maharaj wished to spread the colour of satsang in the whole of Delhi; that there be joy through satsang in Delhi and people from throughout the world and universe be inspired with satsang. He (Yogiji Maharaj) was open-hearted. However, we nourish the narrow attitude of 'no admission' (in our homes). But God has said that everyone is welcome to the mandir. It does not matter whether you can contribute or not, but by lovingly doing darshan one becomes redeemed. Man only blesses those who give, but God redeems also those who do not give! Because, He is large hearted.
"Today, by the grace of Maharaj the doors of dharma, that is the doors of Akshardham, will be opened in Delhi. Hundreds of thousands of people will experience harmony and joy. Such will be the magnitude of work that will be accomplished here. And today we have all got this opportunity.
"The gruh-pravesh (house-entry) is a ritual. One enters one's home after performing elaborate rituals in which God is worshipped with Vedic mantras and prayer rituals are performed so that there will be no problems, difficulties or miseries. Similarly, we have entered into God's house. But what is God's house? It is called Akshardham. We have entered into Akshardham, so don't go out. This is gruh-pravesh, and we are to sit in Akshardham. So everyone must have the single resolve to please Maharaj. Everyone should commit themselves to abide by the commands of Maharaj, to have faith in Him and to serve Him. No matter what happens we must resolve to commit our lives to God.
"We have made the gruh-pravesh in Akshar- dham because we have the association of God and His Sadhu. So we must decide firmly that we want to attain the divine happiness of God. Maharaj and Swami will not forsake us and we should not forsake God either. God protects us in all ways. We are fortunate to have had this opportunity to offer our services to Bhagwan Sahajanand Swami, His devotee - Gunatitanand Swami, Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj, our guru. This seva is not ordinary. It is infinitely better to serve God and His sadhus than to engage ourselves in other services, because one attains moksha. We look after and serve our physical body, and we offer our services to gain honour and fame. But this service should be done to please God and not to attain honour and fame. By doing this great seva one attains a highly noble result - one's sins of innumerable births are destroyed, merits are awakened and one attains God's happiness. Having attained this (seva) is our great fortune. May God bless everyone with strength to perform such seva and bhakti.
"It was Yogiji Maharaj's desire that such unity and harmony prevails. In satsang, one must always look at oneself. By looking at others' (faults) one does not accomplish one's work. To seek one's own moksha one must look at one's own base nature and faults, get rid of them and focus on Maharaj and Swami. We sing, "Bhakti karta chhute maro pran." This prayer says that may one's soul depart while offering bhakti to God, and not while earning money. We need to attend to our mundane duties but do it along with bhakti. Dada Khachar, Parvatbhai and others had performed bhakti as a priority in their mundane lives. Just as devotees who performed bhakti and attained Akshardham by predominantly having God and His Sadhu in their lives, you too will be blessed with Akshardham by God."
Swamishri's blessings inspired joy and divinity in everyone. Swamishri also inaugurated the BAPS residential 'Swaminarayan Primary School' in Abu, with classes from kindergarten to grade 5, by doing pujan of the auspicious pot (kumbha) and signboard.
Thereafter, Swamishri arrived at the nearby marquee for the evening assembly. Swamishri honoured and blessed Pujya Mahant Swami and the group of sadhus who had returned after a 243-day Satsang tour abroad.
Yagna: 5-2-03:- The yagna, which is customarily performed as part of the murti-pratishtha rituals, commenced at 7.30 a.m. with the arrival of Swamishri. The large 'Gnanjivan Yagnashala' with 82 yagna kunds was decorated with festoons. Each yagna kund accommodated ten couples. About 770 couples from England, America, New Delhi and India had taken their places in the yagnashala.
Swamishri and 36 principal participants took their seats by the main yagna kund on the stage. The murtis of the deities were arranged before the main yagna kund. Parmanandbhai Shastri, Ghanshyambhai Shukla and many Brahmin pundits initiated the rituals at the hands of Swamishri. The yagnashala resounded with Vedic mantras. Swamishri bathed Shri Harikrishna Maharaj with panchamrut and performed pujan of the murtis to be consecrated in the mandir. Thereafter, Swamishri blessed the participants, saying, "Today, we have commenced this Vedic yagna as part of the murti-pratishtha rituals. The pundits from Gujarat have performed the rituals. When Bhagwan Swaminarayan and His Bhakta have been installed in the capital of Bharat the bells of glory have tolled throughout the world. People, who come from all over the world to the capital, will avail themselves of the darshan here. We have begun the consecration rituals with the yagna. This puja is performed to please the gods so that they become helpful in all ways.
"For thousands of years this puja (yagna) has been performed. From Vedic times the sun-god and fire-god have been worshipped. And the God of all gods is Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He is supreme and the incarnation of all incarnations. Today we have worshipped Him. By having worshipped Him we have worshipped all the gods. All the gods will be pleased when God is installed here in Delhi. The entire nation is ruled from here and everyone will have good thoughts, religious feelings will spread and God will be pleased.
"Today, devotees from India and abroad who will perform the rituals are present. They have come here to perform the yagna with love, feelings and enthusiasm. I pray to God to grant them with inner peace, peace in their family and in their businesses. You may not understand the mantras that will be chanted during the remaining rituals. You will offer flowers and rice grains according to the instructions of the Brahmins. But there are sentiments in the mantras. One becomes pure when one listens to the mantras with devotional feelings. You become pure by listening to God's holy name. Though you may not understand them, but if you even unknowingly drink amrut you become immortal. Likewise, knowingly or unknowingly listening to these mantras from the Vedas will grant you peace and happiness. You may think that you sat through the rituals but didn't understand anything. But your presence and participation will give you infinite spiritual merits.
"God is seated here before us. This yagna is held before the supreme God. Since you are seated before Him you will experience peace and you must perform the rituals with full faith. God will definitely bless all of you who are participating in the yagna, but He will also bless those who will hear about the yagna and talk about the yagna. So, you should talk afterwards about the festival and yagna to people in India and abroad. The bells of jubilation and glory have tolled. Talk enthusiastically about the installation of Akshar Purushottam Maharaj in Delhi. Whoever hears of this will experience happiness. We pray to God to bless everyone with abundant peace, happiness and wealth. May there be peace in the world and in India. We pray to Maharaj that religious feelings flourish in everyone."
Thereafter, Swamishri departed from the yagnashala and the Brahmin pundits continued the rituals.
Spectacular Procession: 5-2-03:- The colourful procession of the deities through the streets of New Delhi was carried out in beautiful floats prepared by Brahmacharan Swami and a team of sadhus. The decorated deities were installed in four floats, namely: 1) Yamuna Rath: Shri Akshar Purushottam Maharaj, 2) Kutir Rath: Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj, 3) Mayur Rath: Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj, 4) Hansa Rath: Brahmaswarup Yogiji Maharaj and HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Another float echoed with kirtans and dhun sung by sadhus. A marching band took the lead in the procession, followed by four horsemen, 80 flag bearers and 16 motorcyclists from Vadodara (who had pilgrimaged 4,644 km in 17 days from Chansad to Delhi). The senior sadhus were seated in four decorated horse drawn carriages. The presence of 250 sadhus and thousands of devotees chanting the Swaminarayan dhun in the procession evoked joy and reverence among the citizens of Delhi. The ladies wing in their traditional colourful wear also chanted dhun and bhajans. The procession commenced at 2.00 p.m. from Gujarat Vihar Park and progressed through Vikas Marg, Mother Dairy Road and National Highway 24, covering a distance of 5 km before terminating on the grounds of Akshardham complex. Swamishri saw the entire procession enter the Akshardham precincts from his quarters and offered his respects to the murtis.
The procession was carried out unimpeded due to the arrangements made by the Delhi Police. After the procession an assembly was held to felicitate the contributors and supporters for the mandir project.
Felicitation Assembly: 5-2-03:- At 5.15 p.m., after the procession, an assembly to felicitate all those who had offered their services in building the mandir commenced.
A column of flags of different countries fluttered in the evening air outside the main assembly marquee. The assembly was attended by devotees from all over the world. About 1000 artisans and managers who had worked in sculpting and constructing the mandir were also present. Addresses by Dr. Swami, Dr. K.C. Patel, and Mahendrabhai Barrister set the tenor of sacrifice and appreciation. The coordinator of the mandir and Akshardham project,
Ishwarcharan Swami, described how Yogiji Maharaj had desired to have a mandir built on the banks of the river Yamuna. Thereafter, kishores performed a beautiful welcome dance, "Avo bhakto bhale padharo..." Then in the felicitation programme Swamishri first garlanded and blessed Ishwarcharan Swami and the team of sadhus involved in the Akshardham project. Shri Harshadbhai Chavda, who had performed the service of getting the mandir stones carved, site engineer Shri Ashwinbhai Patel, Shri Vinubhai Bhatesha, Sagunbhai Patel and Mahendrabhai Singhodia, who acquired the Italian marble, were blessed. The leading devotees of Delhi, namely, Yogeshbhai Wadhvana and brothers, Nitinbhai Gadhiya and family, Nandubhai Patel and family, Prabhudas Ajmera, Aspi Patrawala and others were also felicitated by Swamishri. Swamishri remembered the late Shri Kishorebhai Ghadiya to whom Yogiji Maharaj had written abundant letters for acquiring the land. Shri Chandrakantbhai Trivedi, who was also blessed with letters by Yogiji Maharaj to acquire the land, was brought on stage in a wheelchair and blessed by Swamishri. Shri Sumanbhai Sompura and Manojbhai Sompura who had drafted the plans of the mandir and Shri Virenbhai Sompura and Bachubhai Sompura who have made plans for Akshardham were also felicitated with shawls by Swamishri. The main construction work done by the proprietor of T R & Company Shri N.T. Ahuja and the foundation work done by Shri Apurva Mukharjee of Simplex Company were also honoured and blessed by Swamishri. The clearing and forwarding of the marble was done with dedication by Rajendra Rathod, Munindra Patel and Yogesh Sadhurambhai Patel. Swamishri blessed all the contributors for their dedicated services.
The assembly also saw the owners of Carrara marble mines from Italy, Mr. Vando D'Angiolo, Mr. Giovanni D'Angiolo, Mr. Paolo Lorenzoni and Mr. Gianluca Lorenzoni, being honoured with shawls and blessed by Swamishri. The Italian guests were amazed by the intricate carvings of the mandir. Mr. Vando had been honoured with an award by the Prime Minister of Italy last year as an outstanding businessman. Mrs. Pauola D'Angiolo, wife of Vando, and Mrs. Anna D'Angiolo, wife of Giovanni, were also honoured in the women's wing.
During the assembly, devotee Shri Lilabhakta Vishnuprasad Acharya from Nepal, who is the Vice-president of 'Vishwa Hindu Mahasangh Rashtriya Samiti', presented a box of prasad , a shaligram, holy saptaganga-jal and a proclamation to honour Swamishri.
The assembly climaxed with Swamishri's blessings. He acknowledged the services of everyone in building the mandir. The devotees of the UK, through the inspiration of Swamishri and motivation of Atmaswarup Swami and sadhus of London, had contributed for the entire construction of the mandir from its foundation, shikhar and kalash to the sinhasan, murtis and various articles of decoration. There were 550 devotees from UK alone who had flown specially to Delhi to participate in the yagna and murti-pratishtha ceremonies.
The evening felicitation assembly was most memorable. After the assembly, a spectacular firework display was held in the backdrop of the beautiful, luminescent, pearl-like mandir.