History, legacy and ideals have been woven into the fabric of Indian culture since time immemorial. The values found within this rich culture are the same values upon which the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham has been constructed. On October 1, 2023, a program “Celebrating Indian Culture” paid homage to this diverse heritage that has found a home in Robbinsville, New Jersey.
The program began with thoughtful insights by swamis who have studied India’s rich history and heritage through the centuries. Pujya Anandswarupdas Swami established an understanding of the various components that define one’s culture such as lifestyle, values, and traditions. He brought to light how Bhagwan Swaminarayan was a social reformer who spent decades reviving traditional arts, improving upon the lifestyles of people in all echelons of society, reinforcing the core values and practices of Hinduism.
Thereafter, Pujya Yogananddas Swami retold a story from the Ramayan, reminding the audience that our character is rooted in the values and lessons that have been passed down through great Hindu epics and the lives of influential figures. These stories cement core traditions that have become central in Indian culture, such as offering seva (selfless service) and success through perseverance. He shared stories of over 12,000 volunteers who paused their journeys in life to dedicate their time to creating Swaminarayan Akshardham. These 12,000 examples are testament to how one’s culture can impact and benefit individuals, families and communities within which they live.
Through personal experiences the program drew a parallel between service to God and service towards others. Two fathers spoke about how their cultural upbringing helped them along their personal and professional journeys, enabling them to become selfless leaders of the community. Mohak Shroff, senior VP and Head of Engineering at LinkedIn shared how he has embodied the idea of servant leadership in the workplace, investing in the success of others. He recounted how his path to success came from the idea of purpose, seeing this driving force as a form of service and devotion towards God. Dr. Chirag Patel, an emergency physician and healthcare entrepreneur, shared how family values drove him to finish medical school, be accepted into a residency program, and obtain a good career placement. The inspiring stories of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj paired with the understanding of the ancient epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana motivate many to succeed and guided his decisions throughout life.
Several distinguished guest supporters of BAPS shared their perspectives on witnessing Swaminarayan Akshardham. Texas Congressman Pete Sessions said, “My message to you today is quite simple: thank you for your devotion to this cause. When we gather together as people we can find relationships, we can find the things that bind us together, and we can find truly this spirit of love and care and service, and that is what is present in this beautiful temple.” Illinois State Senator Seth Lewis has often visited the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Bartlett, IL. He said, “Akshardham here is an absolutely gorgeous place. It's inspiring, and I know all of you have been inspired by the intricate details, the thousands of years of Hinduism that are permanently engraved in the stone.”
In his blessings, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj shared how Hindu culture teaches us to live with values. He said that this is our sanskruti (culture) that teaches numerous values, a primary one being to serve each other, and as a result, all problems will dissolve. This culture also emphasizes seeing God in all, along with deepening conviction, devotion, and to live with pure intentions to see others flourish in their paths. He spoke of how Indian culture stresses the importance of family values bonded with unity and respect. It is a central reason why Pramukh Swami Maharaj has created Swaminarayan Akshardham, which has been built for generations to live by Indian values and carry it forward to future generations.
The program extended its honor to a distinguished list of guests. Among those recognized were Mr. Pete Sessions, a U.S. Representative from Texas, and Mr. Jonathan Lavine, the Co-Managing Partner of Bain Capital, who was accompanied by his wife, Jeannie. Illinois was represented by Mr. Seth Lewis, a State Senator, and Mr. Don Tracy, the Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, with his wife Wanda. From Ohio, State Senator Mr. Niraj Antani graced the occasion. The program also acknowledged Mr. William Robert Woodall, a former U.S. Representative. Mr. Hardha V. Agadi, the CEO of Crawford & Company, was present with his wife Geetha. Wisconsin's Congressman, Mr. Glenn Grothman, was another esteemed U.S. Representative in attendance. The business community was well represented by Dr. Ravi Kapur, the Co-Founder of BendBio, Mr. Austin Rabine, the CEO of Rabine, Mr. Anu Mehta, the Global Solutions Executive at Insight Technologies, who was joined by his wife Kalpana, and Mr. Joe Johal, the CEO of Wendy’s of the Pacific.
Throughout the nine-day inaugural ceremonies, Akshardham Mahotsav will celebrate the significant aspects of the mahamandir, and the universal values upon which it was constructed.