A momentous three-day celebration in honor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s Akshar-Purushottam Darshan was organized in the sacred land of Puri in Odisha, East India. The celebration encompassed a scholarly conference focusing on Parabrahma Swaminarayan’s Akshar-Purushottam Darshan and its relationship with other Vedantic schools of philosophy, a devout tribute to His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj on the auspicious occasion of his centenary birth celebrations, a written endorsement offered by prestigious scholars of East India validating the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan as a distinct Vedic darshan, and felicitation of Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami in recognition of his remarkable work of authoring the Swaminarayan Bhashyam.
A Historic Offering
On the morning of 21 March, a devotional tribute that will be forever etched in the annals of Vedic tradition was offered. As per the wish of Brahmaswarup Mahant Swami Maharaj, the Swaminarayan Bhashyam and the Swaminarayan Siddhant Sudha were humbly offered at the holy feet of Shri Jagannathji by the bhashyakar himself, Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami. Vice chancellors of various universities as well as respected scholars and dignitaries were present to witness this historic event. While the commentaries were being offered, the atmosphere resonated with divinity as Sanskrit shlokas exalting the glory of Shri Jagannathji were recited by the sadhus and dignitaries. These shlokas were authored by Bhadreshdas Swami and their recitation along with this sacred tribute was recognized by scholars as a significant and momentous occasion. Many centuries ago, Adi Shankaracharya had offered his commentaries to Shri Jagannathji while reciting self-composed Sanskrit verses extolling Shri Jagannathji’s greatness. After centuries this was the first time that the commentaries on the Prasthantrayi were being offered to Shri Jagannathji by the bhashyakar himself while reciting Sanskrit verses.
A Festive Procession
Thereafter, a traditional festive procession was organized within the Sadashiv Campus of Central Sanskrit University to express the profound veneration towards the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan, and the unprecedented work and contribution of Mahamahopadhyay Sadhu Bhadreshdas. The metallic murtis of Parabrahma Swaminarayan and Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami along with the Swaminarayan Bhashyam and Swaminarayan Siddhant Sudha texts were placed in a decorated palanquin and carried during the procession throughout the campus and on the streets of Puri. Traditional Odisha singers sang bhajans while scholars and students recited Vedic mantras inspiring a sublime experience for all present.
A Memorable Ceremony
The inauguration ceremony of the three-day national conference organized by the Central Sanskrit University and Utkal Parishad was blessed with the honourable presence of the King of Puri, Gajapati Maharaja Divyasingha Deva, as well as prominent scholars and dignitaries of East India.
The king stated, “On the occasion of the centenary birth celebrations of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the commentaries were offered to Shri Jagannathji, which was a significant event… Moments that are passed within the presence of great saints create everlasting impressions within the heart. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was such a great saint.” Gajapati Maharaja Divyasingha Deva extolled Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s illustrious and selfless persona, and reminisced his personal memories with him.
Vice chancellor of Central Sanskrit University, Dr. Shrinivasa Varakhedi, said, “This commentary does not criticize any school of thought. Rather, it substantiates its own position while expressing reverence towards everyone. This is the reason why we have all gathered to welcome and honor this commentary. We have experienced a glimpse of only one disciple of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. There are one thousand such sadhus, more than a thousand mandirs, and numerous educational institutions. He inspired the creation of the Prasthantrayi commentaries. Hence, this felicitation will be forever etched in the history of this university.”
A Sacred Tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj: Shastra-parampara Kalpa-druma
Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s countless contributions to protect, foster and nourish India’s eternal Vedic tradition have touched and transformed thousands. An essential facet of his contributions was his continuous encouragement to promote and preserve the shastra tradition. By inspiring the creation of the Swaminarayan Bhashyam and numerous other texts in various languages, Pramukh Swami Maharaj revitalized the ancient shastra legacy. Recognizing this priceless contribution, five prominent institutions – the Utkal Parishad, Central Sanskrit University, Shri Jagannath Sanskrit University, Maharshi Vyasadeva Rashtriya Prachavidya Gaveshana Centre and Akhil Bharat Amrut Vani Seva Pratishthan – collectively awarded Pramukh Swami Maharaj a distinct accolade entitled ‘Shastra-parampara Kalpa-druma’. Engraved in copper, this recognition was offered to Pramukh Swami Maharaj by the royal hands of Gajapati Maharaja Shri Divyasingha Deva.
Grand Felicitation of Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami: Bhashyakar Mahacharya
By the inspiration of guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj along with his own tireless efforts and tremendous perseverance, Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami gifted the Vedantic tradition with an invaluable contribution by authoring the Swaminarayan Bhashyam. The Swaminarayan Bhashyam is an extensive Sanskrit commentary that thoroughly substantiates the Vedic authenticity of Parabrahma Swaminarayan’s Akshar-Purushottam Darshan. Thus, unanimously recognizing this contribution as a momentous and historic accomplishment achieved after centuries, several prestigious universities and organizations of East India collectively bestowed Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami the ‘Bhashyakar Mahacharya Award’. The award was presented by Gajapati Maharaja Divyasingha Deva. In his address, Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami humbly offered the award at the holy feet of ishtadeva Parabrahma Swaminarayan and guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj stating that Pramukh Swami Maharaj is truly the Bhashyakar Mahacharya.
A Scholarly Conference
The three-day national conference entitled ‘The Akshar-Purushottam Darshan: A Dialogue with Other Darshans’ provided a special opportunity for scholars to gain a deeper insight into Parabrahma Swaminarayan’s Vedic doctrine. Professors and students from various universities presented more than 30 scholarly research papers on topics such as ‘Akshar-Purushottam Darshan within the Kathopanishad,’ ‘Daharavidya within the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan,’ ‘A Reflection of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita’s Aksharbrahma Yoga,’ ‘The Characteristics of Sthitapragna within the Bhagavad Gita Swaminarayan Bhashyam,’ ‘Comparing Advaita and the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan on the Basis of the Brahmasutra’s Jignasa-adhikaran’ and ‘Satsang Diksha – A Pragmatic Guideline for Living’.
The unique aspect of this conference was an invaluable opportunity to engage in a philosophical discussion with the bhashyakar, Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami, himself. During this discussion substantiated the Vedic authenticity of Parabrahma Swaminarayan’s Akshar-Purushottam Darshan by extensively referencing the shastras. Receiving satisfying responses to their questions, scholars unanimously and joyously accepted the Akshar-Purushottam Doctrine as a distinct Vedic darshan.
Expressing his experience, the secretary of Maharshi Vyasadeva Rashtriya Prachavidya Gaveshana Centre, Prof. Buddeshwar Sarangi, stated, “We were able to experience the prestige and intellect of a true scholar by the humble responses of Bhadresh Swamiji.”
Dr. Bhagirath Nandaji, a professor of literature at Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri National Sanskrit University, said, “The River Ganga ultimately flows into the ocean, but the sacred Akshar-Purushottam Darshan Ganga will continuously flow within the hearts of scholars. This darshan has earned a position amongst the succession of prestigious darshans that have been gifted from time to time by the great acharyas of India. The responsibility to promote this darshan is ours.”
Mahamahopadhyay Dr. Harekrishna Shatpathiji, a renowned vice chancellor of several universities and prominent scholar bestowed with numerous awards and accolades, proclaimed, “Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s Akshar-Purushottam Darshan will liberate society. This event signifies the commencement of an aspiration to further this darshan. This darshan will have an impact on the entire world from every perspective – social, spiritual, cultural and educational. This darshan is a complete and holistic darshan. The aspiration to further this doctrine will be fulfilled if the study of this darshan is integrated within the academic curriculum of the new education system that will soon be implemented in our country. A distinguishing characteristic of the guru parampara of this sampraday is that it upholds vairagya, but not indifference. Even upon renouncing the world, [the gurus and sadhus] serve society. Today, let us hope and wish that we promote the Swaminarayan Darshan throughout the entire world and establish peace and benevolence. I can confidently say that this commentary is the world’s eighth wonder.”
Ceremonial Honouring of the Commentaries and Bhashyakar
On the third day of the conference, all the scholars wished to perform pujan of the commentaries as well as honor the bhashyakar, Bhadreshdas Swami. Hence, with Vedic mantras being recited, all the scholars participated in this event at the Saraswati Mandir located on the university campus.
Recognition of a Distinct Vedic Doctrine: The Akshar-Purushottam Darshan
The conference concluded with the valedictory ceremony that was attended by more than 250 scholars from five different states of East India: Odisha, West Bengal, Tripura, Bihar and Assam. The presence of distinguished intellectuals and dignitaries, including Prof. Harihar Hota, Vice Chancellor of Shri Jagannath Sanskrit University; Prof. Khageshwar Mishra, Director of the Sadashiv Campus of Central Sanskrit University; Prof. Vishnupad Mahapatra, a renowned scholar of Nyaya; Dr. Harekrishna Pattajoshi, an acclaimed Advaita scholar, and others, enhanced the ceremony’s dignity.
All the scholars endorsed the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan’s Vedic authenticity and its distinct darshanic identity by presenting a written declaration engraved in copper entitled ‘Anugna-patra-prativi’. Having meticulously examined and analyzed the Prasthantrayi commentaries and sampradayik texts, such as the Vachanamrut, for more than a month, all the scholars decided to offer this declaration unanimously accepting the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan as a novel Vedic tradition. The declaration clearly expressed that the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan is an eternal Vedic darshan that is ‘distinct from Advaita, Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita, and all other Vedic doctrines’.
The overall success of this three-day historic celebration was due to the efforts of Prof. Gnanranjan Panda, secretary of the Utkal Parishad; Prof. Radhagovinda Tripathi, chief trustee of the Utkal Parishad; Prof. Satyanarayan Acharya, chairperson of the Utkal Parishad; and Dr. Somnath Dash, a scholar of sahitya. Atmatruptdas Swami, Aksharnandandas Swami, Purnavatsaldas Swami and other BAPS sadhus also greatly contributed to the success of this event.