The festival of Vasant Panchami was celebrated on Tuesday 4 February and Saturday 8 February 2014 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London. The event marks the birth of Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj, Sadguru Nishkulanand Swami and Sadguru Brahmanand Swami, and is also the day Bhagwan Swaminarayan bequeathed the Shikshapatri to his devotees.
The celebrations were performed on a grand scale across the UK to mark the launch of the year-long celebrations for Shastriji Maharaj’s 150th birth anniversary.
The date according to the Hindu calendar (Maha Sud 5) fell on Tuesday 4 February and the evening programme began with the traditional singing of the dhun as well as devotional songs by youths.
Amrutkirtan Swami elaborated upon the prowess and devotion of Brahmanand Swami through a sankirtan. Thereafter, Prabuddhmuni Swami discussed the relevance of the Shikshapatri and spoke emphatically on Shastriji Maharaj’s life and work.
The celebrations continued on Saturday 8 February. The life of Shastriji Maharaj was explored through the eyes of Harshadbhai Dave, author of Shastriji Maharaj’s biography, and Nirgun Swami, long-time disciple and companion of Shastriji Maharaj. Their narrations were theatrically enacted through dramas, a grand parade, traditional bhajans and spiritual discourses from sadhus, supported by vivid video interludes.
Paramtattva Swami provided some historical background and context to Shastriji Maharaj’s last days in Vadtal prior to the establishment of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in 1907. Satyavrat Swami elaborated on the spiritual and devotional connection that Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj shared with their guru, and the need for devotees to develop a similar relationship with him.
The festival culminated with the samuh arti which was performed by all members of the audience and cast.
The mahilas organised a similar festival on Saturday 1 February 2014, where they explored Shastriji Maharaj’s numerous virtues through a variety of dramas, speeches and devotional songs. The festival demonstrated Shastriji Maharaj’s dedication to his guru Bhagatji Maharaj and also elucidated the character of some prominent devotees from his time. A vibrant dance was performed by youths to conclude the celebrations.