In an emotional jubilation, filled with dances and excitement, thousands of devotees from across North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India, and Australia joined the 90th birth anniversary of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj with a program themed “Celebrating Spiritual Legacy” in Robbinsville, New Jersey on October 7, 2023. The theme highlighted the love and humility that Mahant Swami Maharaj embodies with every breath, expounding on the virtues of service, saintliness and divinity.
Compassionate humanitarianism as lived by Mahant Swami Maharaj for decades was showcased through his life messages and unmatched virtues. Through the course of nine decades, he has practiced, promoted, and instilled the spirit of selfless service in thousands across the globe. During the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most devastating times of the 21st century, Mahant Swami Maharaj appealed with a compassionate message that the value of saving one life is priceless, and responded to the global suffering by launching numerous relief efforts and awareness campaigns. Similarly, at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, he made a call to action for volunteers to encourage all to help understand the value of saving one life is priceless. In those moments, however, these volunteers drew inspiration from Mahant Swami Maharaj and his steadfastness, along with his resolve that acts of service have no borders.
Alongside the virtue of service, Mahant Swami Maharaj has been the epitome of saintliness for ninety years. Sadguru Pujya Ishwarcharandas Swami shared his experiences of this godly virtue in his guru. He described how over the decades traveling with Mahant Swami, there had not been one instance in which he failed to exhibit dasatvabhav (serving the divine in all), nirmanipanu (humility), and sevakbhav (desire to help others). Continuing this sentiment, Pujya Brahmaviharidas Swami captured that today is a celebration of saintliness at its peak because he has given a new dimension and depth to its meaning. Through his pure love, the language and light of Mahant Swami Maharaj’s saintliness is that he forgives, gives and believes in us.
The story of Mahant Swami Maharaj’s life is also a celebration of ninety years of divinity. Pujya Anandswarupdas Swami, speaking on his personified form of humility, explained that a person's greatness lies in the fact of how virtuous he is. His life is God-centric, living according to the commands of God, never in transgression. Mahant Swami Maharaj’s divinity shined even brighter after the passing of his guru, when he said “God is the all-doer; we are merely the instrument and hands of God, and this is a legacy which has been left to us by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.” Having spiritually grown alongside Mahant Swami Maharaj, Pujya Swayamprakashdas Swami (Doctor Swami) recalled his divinity and desire to join the path of renunciation from his youth. Despite being the leader of such a large organization, he has exemplified how no act of service is too small.
On a day meant to celebrate the extraordinary life of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, he instead took the occasion to write and share his innermost feelings on the inauguration of Swaminarayan Akshardham. “To all of Pramukh Swami’s beloved devotees and all the volunteers of Akshardham, you all have done seva without looking at your own comforts. I stand witness to this, how much you all have sacrificed. It pains me deeply that I will not be able to meet you all during the inauguration of Akshardham. I will perform the ceremony remembering each of you. You all are my hands and feet, and I am grateful to all of you. Due to the immense seva of 12,500 volunteers, this consecration will happen tomorrow. Wherever you are, please believe that Maharaj (God) is sitting across from you and I will remember all of you dearly tomorrow.”
Joining in the celebration, the assembly was privileged to hear from several respected guests.
Swami Paramatanandaji, founder of Acharya of Arsha Vidya Mandir - “I have had the fortune to meet [Mahant Swami Maharaj] almost 48 years ago. All these years, one thing I observed is that he is nothing but the embodiment of Hindu culture, values and dharma.”
Wesley Matthews, President and CEO of Choose New Jersey, attended on behalf of the Governor of New Jersey and First Lady recalling a motto from his own faith “If there is an ethos in my 10 years of knowing the BAPS community, it is that this community is lightened to enlighten the community that they are in. You have done that in such a beautiful way here.”
Jack Hawley, Barnard College Claire Tow Professor of Religion and Columbia University - “To see this (Akshardham) being constructed around us is a miracle for those of us with the eyes to see, and I would say there is something, at least for me, very special about being here on this day, the day before the great event itself."
Jack Ciattarelli, Former New Jersey Assemblyman District 16 - “This magnificent cultural center will be a beacon for the practice of Hinduism. It is often said that New Jersey is the most diverse state in the country, indeed it is. There is power and beauty in that diversity when we embrace it. This magnificent cultural center and this magnificent place of worship for Hinduism will help us to be better in terms of that diversity.”
The program concluded with the presentation of two proclamations marking Akshardham Day in New York. Heartfelt moments unfolded as all the senior swamis presented Mahant Swami Maharaj with beautiful garlands and decorative shawls on behalf of all devotees for the occasion of his birth celebration. Keeping in the spirit of Mahant Swami Maharaj’s love and compassion for all, he then led the assembly in prayers for the recent conflict in the Middle East.
The nine-day inaugural ceremonies, known as Akshardham Mahotsav, will conclude with the inauguration ceremony and grand celebration of Swaminarayan Akshardham on the evening of October 8, 2023.