Junagadh is a land of ascetics, yogis and the devout. The renowned Mt. Girnar has a spiritual history of great yogis and sadhus who have resided and performed sadhna and guided aspirants towards God-realization. In the annals of the Swaminarayan Sampraday Junagadh and the district of Junagadh have been sanctified by Bhagwan Swaminarayan after he had completed his seven year sojourn throughout India as Nilkanth Varni. Nilkanth Varni first came to Loj and met Ramanand Swami at Piplana. Ramanand Swami appointed him as his successor. On 2 May 1828 (V.S. 1884, Vaishakh vad 3) Bhagwan Swaminarayan performed the pratishtha and opening ceremony of the Swaminarayan Mandir in Junagadh. Shriji Maharaj appointed Gunatitanand Swami as the mahant, and the latter spread the glory and message of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He stayed in Junagadh for 40 years and 4 months.
In the Swaminarayan Sampraday Gunatitanand Swami is revered as Mul Akshar and the ideal Devotee of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Brahmaswarup Bhagatji Maharaj and Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj revealed the glory of Gunatitanand Swami as Mul Akshar and established the murtis of Akshar and Purushottam.
To pay obeisances to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Gunatitanand Swami, HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired the newly built BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir (shikharbaddh) at Akshar Vadi in Junagadh. The three-day pratishtha festival took place from 30 April to 3 May 2006.
30 April 2006, Sunday
Swamishri honored and blessed all those who had offered their time, skill and donations for the construction of the mandir in Junagadh.
1 May 2006, Sunday
From 9.00 am to 12.00 noon senior sadhus performed the prasad-pravesh rituals of the newly built mandir.
In the evening, from 8.30 pm to 10.00 pm, part 1 of the life and work of Gunatitanand Swami, ‘Jai Jai Gunatitanand’ was enacted by 300 BAPS youths and children. The colorful and riveting drama depicted the childhood years and the later years of Gunatitanand Swami during which he had inspired moral and spiritual transformations. Through dialogues, dances and drama the brilliant performance was received with applause by 25,000 devotees and well-wishers.
2 May 2006, Tuesday; Yagna and Nagar Yatra
At 8.00 am the ‘Aksharbrahma Vishvashanti Mahayagna’ commenced in the yagnashala opposite the mandir complex. The grand yagna mandap had 200 yagna kunds and 2000 yajmans (participants). Amidst Vedic chantings the yagna commenced as a prelude to the murti-pratishtha ceremony that was to take place on the following day. The main stage had three large yagna kunds with devotees performing the yagna rituals at the behest of Brahmins chanting Vedic mantras. The stage also had the murtis of Shri Akshar Purushottam Maharaj, Shri Radha-Raman Dev, Shri Harikrishna Maharaj, Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj, Shri Nilkanth Varni, Shri Shiv-Parvati and Ganeshji, Shri Ram-Sita and Shri Hanumanji and Guru Parampara, viz, Bhagatji Maharaj, Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Swamishri arrived at 10.00 am to perform the yagna rituals. Thereafter Swamishri performed the arti and pujan rituals of all the murtis.
From 3.30 pm to 6.15 pm a colourful nagar yatra (procession) of the murtis took place on the streets of Junagadh. The procession had seven decorated and thematic floats (raths), namely, Sinh Rath, Mayur Rath, Girnar Rath, Surya Rath, Garud Rath, Hansa Rath, Prasad Rath and Vad Rath, with the deities blessing the citizens of Junagadh. The procession resounded with dhun, bhajans and dance by youths and devotees. More than 300 BAPS sadhus also chanted dhun and bhajans during the 8 km procession route.
In the evening, from 8.30 pm to 10.00 pm, part 2 of the life and work of Gunatitanand Swami, ‘Jai Jai Gunatitanand’, was performed.
3 May 2006, Wednesday; Murti-Pratishtha Day
The preliminary pratishtha rituals of the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir were performed by the senior sadhus. At 9.30 am Swamishri performed the final murti-pratishtha rituals. Thereafter he performed the pujan ritual of all the murtis and finally performed the pratishtha arti. Swamishri also consecrated the murti of Shri Nilkanth Varni in the rang mandap of the mandir.
The pratishtha assembly was addressed by Viveksagar Swami, Siddheshwar Swami, Dr Swami, Mahant Swami, Vice-chancellor of the University of Agriculture Shri B.K. Kikani and BJP President of Gujarat state Shri Vajubhai Vala. The collector of Junagadh Shrimali and other dignitaries were also seated on the main stage. Finally Swamishri blessed the assembly, “It is through the wish of Gunatitanand Swami that Satsang has progressed and spread. Bhagwan Swaminarayan had also wished to bless all with moksh. The sadhus live selflessly and desire to make everyone happy. The uniqueness of Hindu dharma is that it wishes for the good of all and has given whatever it has for the benefit of all. Bhagwan Swaminarayan travelled to inspire morality in everyone and he served without any distinctions of caste, creed or colour. Narsinh Mehta and Mirabai tolerated pain and misery to reveal true devotion to God. Today people respect them because they tolerated to serve and reveal the glory of God…”
Finally Swamishri was honored with garlands by senior sadhus and leading devotees. Over 20,000 devotees were present in the pratishtha assembly.
Details of BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, Junagadh
The mandir, built of pink stone of Rajasthan, was completed in three years.
Length: 163 ft
Width: 133 ft
Height: 71 ft
Guru Shikhars: 4
Main ghummat and small ghummats: 21
Ornate pillars: 136
Carved ceilings: 79 with 30 designs
Mandovar and pillars: 300 murtis of divine incarnations and devotees
Garden: 37,100 flowers and plants