The grand Mandir Mahotsav to mark the opening of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Mayfair West, Johannesburg, South Africa, took place from 26 to 28 April 2012 in the presence of Pujya Ghanshyamcharan Swami and 13 sadhus. Devotees from BAPS centers in South Africa, including Durban, Cape Town, East London, Rustenburg, Pretoria, Tzaneen and Louis Trichardt, were joined by devotees from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Botswana for the inauguration celebrations.
In 1991, Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj had opened the first BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Southern Africa, here in Mayfair West. The new complex includes a new Hari Mandir, assembly hall, dining hall and rooms for children and youth assemblies and Gujarati classes. Children, youths and elders all wholeheartedly served in the construction project to help ensure its timely completion.
The three-day Mandir Mahotsav commenced on Thursday 26 April with the Vishwashanti Mahayaag in which prayers were offered for world peace and the happiness of all. Five learned pundits guided the 57 kundi mahayaag in which a total of 228 yajmaans participated.
At noon, the murtis to be consecrated in the Mandir were taken around the town in a festive Nagar Yatra. Five beautifully decorated floats carried the royally adorned murtis through the 5 kilometer procession route from Mary Fitzgerald Square in the heart of Johannesburg city to the Mandir. Over 1,200 devotees joined the procession which stretched for 800 meters. Some highlights of the procession:
- The Parktown Boys’ High School band.
- Balaks held country flags and signboards of all the major satsang centers in Southern Africa.
- The chhablika mandal sang kirtans in traditional style with large drums and bhungal pipes.
- Yuvaks performed the peacock dance.
- Children and youths dressed in traditional costumes.
- Fireblowers, jugglers and stilts men also added to the fun and joy of the occasion.
- Ladies carried kalashes filled with the waters of the important rivers from Southern Africa and holy rivers from India on their heads. This water was used to perform abhishek of the murtis before the pratishtha ceremony.
- At the conclusion of the procession, arti was performed at each float. During the arti, a helicopter showered flowers on the new Mandir, murtis and the entire procession.
On the morning of Friday 27 April (Vaishakh sud 6), the sacred murtis of Shri Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj, Shri Guru Parampara, Shri Radha-Krishna Dev, Shri Sita-Ram Dev, Shri Parvati-Mahadev, Shri Ganapatiji and Shri Hanumanji, all of which had been previously sanctified by Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj in India, were installed in the new Mandir with Vedic rites by Pujya Ghanshyamcharan Swami. More than 2,000 devotees from all around Africa were present to witness this historic and auspicious occasion.
During the murti-pratishtha assembly, Pujya Ghanshyamcharan Swami emphasized the importance of Mandirs in the community, and how they reinforce moral teachings and preserve spiritual values. Also present in the assembly were the Ambassador of Nepal and other dignitaries.
That evening, the sadhus and youth presented a melodious kirtan aradhana. The day’s celebrations ended with a fireworks display.
On the afternoon of 28 April, about 100 young and senior women of the Mahila Wing presented an inspiring cultural program of dance, drama and music titled ‘Yug nario ni gatha’. The program shed light on the lives of great women devotees, such as, Shabri, Draupadi, Suniti and Jivuba.
In the evening, children, teenagers and youths presented a wonderful cultural program. Balaks performed a drama titled ‘Mandirno Chamatkaar’ which showed how BAPS mandirs inspire virtuous living in individuals and entire communities. Kishores and youths delivered talks on how coming to the mandir has helped transform their lives. The program ended with an address by Ghanshyamcharan Swami, in which he emphasized the importance of Satsang in living a fruitful life.