The 2014 National Kishore-Kishori Mandal Shibir was held at Warwick Conference Park near Coventry, UK from Tuesday 26 August to Thursday 28 August in the presence of senior sadhus from India, including Sadguru Bhaktipriya Swami (Kothari Swami) and Sadguru Ishwarcharan Swami, as well as sadhus from BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.

In keeping with the year-long celebrations for Shastriji Maharaj’s 150th birth anniversary, the shibir was themed ‘For the Sake of Akshar Purushottam’– an inspiring journey into the life and work of Shastriji Maharaj in establishing BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.

The delegates were introduced to the eternal truth of Akshar Purushottam upasana through a montage of Hindu scriptural passages, a captivating video presentation, and short addresses charting the transmission of these teachings from ancient Vedic times, through the yugas, to the presence of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Gunatitanand Swami and Bhagatji Maharaj. A stunning shadow dance introduced the life of Shastriji Maharaj, while sadhus elaborated further on the challenges he faced through engaging presentations. These were interspersed with live singing by kishores.

The wisdom of Ishwarcharan Swami provided a deeper insight into this passage of history, as he explained in greater detail the construction by Shastriji Maharaj of the first BAPS mandir in Bochasan. This was followed by an emotional recreation of the first arti at the mandir as sadhus and delegates performed the evening arti together in front of the mandir backdrop.

The early years of the Sanstha then became the focus, defining the monetary and physical hardships that Shastriji Maharaj endured as well as opposition from adversaries. Ishwarcharan Swami then shared his personal experiences with Yogiji Maharaj in taking this work forward.

A practical understanding of Shastriji Maharaj’s qualities was explored in the form of an entertaining television show production where a panel of sadhus offered their analysis of a kishore’s daily spiritual endeavours. The aid of technology, a production crew and live performances of bhajans created an authentic atmosphere. Kothari Swami’s discussion on agna, upasana, sadbhav and paksh thereafter provided a fitting conclusion.

The final day began with an innovative insight into the life of Pramukh Swami Maharaj through an analysis of his ‘CV’. His relationship with Shastriji Maharaj was presented through a poignant video presentation, which was elaborated upon by Kothari Swami.

The concluding session looked to the future of BAPS where sadhus and kishores conveyed the relevance of the principles of upasana to youths of today, and inspired the delegates to continue the work of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the Guru Parampara into the future.

The auditorium sessions were complemented with an interactive classroom session, and sports and leisure activities provided further opportunity for fun and team-building skills.

The three-day programme proved to be an enlightening experience for the more than 500 delegates, with many commenting on the positive impact the shibir had in imparting a clearer understanding of Shastriji Maharaj, the roots of BAPS, and the Akshar Purushottam upasana, and in enthusing and guiding them towards a stronger spiritual grounding in their lives.

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