Exactly one year after His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj performed the inauguration ceremony of the BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in Chicago, IL, devotees gathered on Aug. 20 to celebrate the first Patotsav of the majestic mandir, Janmashtami and to dedicate the main gate symbolizing entry into ultimate peace.

The historic festivities began with sadhus performing the abhishek of the murtis in all three shrines, with panchamrut (a mixture of water, milk, yoghurt, honey, sugar and ghee) and with devotees having the opportunity to perform the sacred ritual of abhishek to Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj. Beautiful Indian delicacies were also offered to the deities, as a grand Annakut was prepared in amazement to all those present. In honor of the occasion and to pray for world peace a mahapuja was performed shortly afterward inside the mandir with devotees taking part in the event.

The opening of the gate ceremony, which stands as a magnificent entrance to the mandir and structured in a traditional fashion with delicate statues and statuettes adored with various symbols to welcome all who come to visit God, took place thereafter. Bartlett Village President Catherine Melchert, DuPage County politicians and state legislators, Sen. John Milner and DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom took part in the ceremony. Afterwards the honorable guests addressed the audience with both word exclaiming the beauty of the mandir and the importance of BAPS to society.

The evening assembly witnessed the celebration of the 1st Patotsav and the festival of Janmashtmi. A grand assembly hall set the scene for the evening festival. Decorated with splendid lighting, a stage displaying frames of events allowing the devotees to reminisce on the 16-day festival was constructed. Cultural programs consisting of dramas, dances, speeches, and audiovisual presentation re-developed the memories, of all those present, centering on Mandir Mahotsav. The dedicated volunteers who have served the mission of Swamishri were recognized to warm and friendly applause of all those present. P.E.A.C.E., the underlying theme of the Mandir Mahotsav which stands for Purity in life, Education of the heart, Attachment to the Lord and Guru, Care for one's family and self, and the eradication of Expectations. These components were also the centerpiece of the evening program with stage programs going along with each component.

The indescribable joy and historic events, which took place during Mandir Mahotsav, were revealed to all via a special DVD set consisting of three illustrious DVD's highlighting the events during Mandir Mahotsav.

As the evening progressed, Kishores and Yuvaks held a kirtan aradhna, celebrating Janmashtmi, which lasted until midnight. The devotion-filled devotees headed to the mandir and performed the auspicious aarti celebrating the birthday of Shri Krishna Bhagwan.

The same enthusiasm and eagerness was relevant on this day as it was exactly one year ago when Swamishri performed the inauguration ceremony of the Chicago Mandir in Bartlett, IL.

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