Thirty-five kishores and kishoris from across the UK travelled to India this summer for six weeks during July and August, to gain a deeper understanding and firsthand experience of its spiritual wonders. One of the highlights of the trip was the time spent with Pramukh Swami Maharaj. His guidance offered life-enhancing opportunities and his interaction formed lifelong memories. The group celebrated the festivals of Devshayani Ekadashi, Guru Punam and Raksha Bandhan in his presence. During this time, the participants were also fortunate to have interactive sessions with senior sadhus who shared their knowledge and experiences.
Another feature of the trip was the group’s stay in Sarangpur. Here they participated in a ten-day shibir entitled ‘Brahmavidyani College: Learn, Live, Inspire’. The shibir focused on Swaminarayan Theology, Vachanamrut, the Akshar-Purushottam Siddhanta, and Hindu Scriptures.
The trip to the Himalayas, known as the Uttarakhand Yatra, saw the group travel 10,000 feet above sea-level to the tirthdhams of the north – namely Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. These are sacred places graced by Nilkanth Varni and Pramukh Swami Maharaj on their respective yatras. Before the group left for their own yatra – organised by Ishwarcharan Swami – Aksharvatsal Swami explained the significance of the various pilgrimage places. He also described the difference between the journey taken by pilgrims today and that of the perilous trek taken by Nilkanth Varni over two hundred years ago, alone. After visiting these holy places, all the individuals agreed they had gained a far deeper understanding of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and a richer appreciation of Hindu traditions and heritage.
Swamishri had sanctified two murtis of Nilkanth Varni which the group took to all the holy places during their yatra. They bathed the murtis in all the holy rivers and offered prayers. The group travelled to the holy River Ganga via Haridwar and Rishikesh. Travelling to the sanctified sites visited by Nilkanth Varni, especially participating in the Ganga arti as well as bathing in the holy Ganga, were all unforgettable experiences.
The last part of the Uttarakhand Yatra saw the group travel to Chappaiya, the sacred birthplace of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Here the group visited all the holy sites Ghanshyam Maharaj had sanctified as a child. The group experienced firsthand the beauty of the Himalayas as well as its tranquillity and prowess.
Overall, the six-week trip proved immensely successful for all the members of the group. They learnt a great deal about the traditions of India, the history of BAPS, the fundamental principles of Satsang as well as how to apply these principles in one’s lives through the guidance and blessings of the Satpurush.