38 balaks and balikas from the UK embarked upon a formative excursion to India between 20 July and 14 August 2019 to gain a deeper understanding of its rich culture and profound spirituality.
The children and their mentors travelled more than 3,000 miles around India to explore the elegant fabric of its Hindu heritage by visiting major mandirs and centres as well as important places of pilgrimage associated with the Swaminarayan Sampradaya. In particular, they developed their knowledge and understanding of Akshar-Purushottam Darshan as revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
The travellers’ experiences of India spanned across sprawling urban metropolises, such as Ahmedabad and Mumbai, through to the rural farms of Bhadra, the birthplace of Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami. Delegates were humbled by the affectionate welcome and famous Indian hospitality afforded to them wherever they visited.
The highlight of their trip was a seven-day programme with Mahant Swami Maharaj where they received his personal guidance and blessings. Members of the group also performed short skits, speeches and kirtans in his presence, garnering lifelong memories for everyone.
In Surat, the children presented a cultural programme to an assembly of over 3,000 people which helped enhance various skills and boost their self-confidence. An interactive seminar was organised for the participants in Sarangpur with sessions led by senior and learned swamis who shared their profound spiritual knowledge and experiences.
The group further learned about India’s ancient Hindu culture, spirituality and architecture at the Swaminarayan Akshardham complexes in Gandhinagar and Delhi. They also travelled to Chhapaiya, the birthplace of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and Ayodhya, where Bhagwan Swaminarayan spent his childhood. In Gujarat, they visited each of the five mandirs built by Shastriji Maharaj: Bochasan, Sarangpur, Gondal, Atladra and Gadhada.
During their 25 days in India, the children grew in maturity and self-reliance. They fostered values of unity and teamwork and gained a deeper insight into Hindu philosophy and traditions. In particular, participants strengthened their understanding of and bond with Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Mahant Swami Maharaj. They returned home having personally explored the history of Akshar-Purushottam Darshan.