On 14 January, the sun commences its north-bound journey from the zodiac constellation of Capricorn. This is known as Uttarayan, or Makar Sankranti. On this auspicious occasion, devotees offer food and donations as it is believed to be exceptionally meritorious. (To learn more about the Uttarayan festival, please click here.)
Bhagwan Swaminarayan and His sadhus travelled from village to village asking for alms and would use whatever they received to help the poor and needy. This tradition has been continued in BAPS mandirs, where sadhus symbolically ask for alms on this special festive day. Devotees enthusiastically offer their donations to Thakorji (God) in cash and kind by placing a representative card in the jholis (saffron-coloured cloth bags) of the sadhus.
This year, the festival of Uttarayan was celebrated at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on the evening of Saturday 16 January 2010.
Vivekmurti Swami (head sadhu of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Chicago), narrated the acute hardships faced by Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj, emphasising their tireless commitment amid unprecedented difficulties.
A short musical drama followed thereafter depicting the friendship between Shri Krishna Bhagwan and Sudama, reinforcing the message that God never forgets those who give selflessly.
Youths then sang the bhajan ‘Uttarayan-ni Punya Parvani’, extolling the merits of offering alms on this auspicious occasion.
Yogvivek Swami addressed the assembly thereafter, explaining the spiritual significance of the festival. He further emphasised that one should also renounce one’s unfavourable traits and habits as a form of offering to God, thus bettering one’s self. This was followed by video highlights of the Uttarayan festival celebrated in the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Atladra two days earlier.
The traditional call for alms was then performed by the sadhus, after which devotees duly placed their pledge cards in the jholis.
The gathered devotees also offered special prayers for the victims and all those affected by the devastating earthquake to have recently struck Haiti.