Pramukh Swami Maharaj and two of his greatest creations, Swaminarayan Akshardham in Gandhinagar, Gujarat and New Delhi, represent the very best of Hindu culture and values. Akshardham, in Swaminarayan theology, is the heavenly abode of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. By building grand Akshardham mandirs as representations of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s eternal abode, Pramukh Swami Maharaj fulfilled the wish of his guru, Yogiji Maharaj, and offered tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He hoped that those visiting Akshardham would experience peace, gain inspiration from the life and teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and learn more about Hindu heritage and culture. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s vision did not remain bound to India. The first Swaminarayan Akshardham outside India is currently under construction in New Jersey, USA.
Akshardham, as the home of God, has and will continue to inspire generations. Pramukh Swami Maharaj selflessly dedicated his life to serve others. The Akshardham mandirs serves as a symbol of his selfless efforts and devotion to his guru.
The evening programme on 12 January 2023 commenced at 5.00 pm with a musical symphony. More than 150 youths from across 19 countries of the world sang devotional songs accompanied with traditional and western instruments. This was followed by various videos, dramas, speeches and cultural dances that presented the creation and consequent influence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s master creations, the Swaminarayan Akshardham mandirs in Gandhinagar, New Delhi and North America.
Adarshjivandas Swami continued his ‘Pramukh Charitam’ series in which he narrated several inspiring incidents from Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life. He said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a ‘Purna Purush’, which means he could encompass several seemingly contradictory virtues within his life. He could be detached from the world yet deeply connected with anyone he met, remembering their names and families years later. He could be immensely active through his travels, meetings and works for society, yet remain extremely calm and composed, enough to spend part of each day in personal prayer, meditation and reading of scriptures. He could plan his time to ensure he made use of every single moment in the service of society yet have the patience to wait for others. He was especially thrifty for himself, ensuring nothing would go to waste, and yet generous in giving freely to society. He was the epitome of humility himself yet could freely praise others. In this way, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a ‘complete’ being and a constant source of inspiration to all through his exemplary life.”
Anandswarupdas Swami, head of Swaminarayan Akshardham in Gandhinagar, explained, “All mandirs and the Swaminarayan Akshardham complexes are based on the philosophical teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He himself revealed in these teachings that he built mandirs to preserve and foster pure devotion to God. It is in this sacred tradition that Pramukh Swami Maharaj built Swaminarayan Akshardham mandirs in India and continues to build mandirs around the world to inspire others to better their lives and serve society.”
Senior BAPS swami Ishwarcharandas Swami said, “To honour Yogiji Maharaj’s intense wish, Pramukh Swami Maharaj constructed Akshardham in five years in New Delhi, taking personal interest in its design, stonework and construction. Millions have come and been inspired by Akshardham.
“Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s own wish was to build an Akshardham in North America. In 2014, at the age of 93, Pramukh Swami Maharaj travelled to New Jersey, inaugurated the temple there and performed a ceremony for the construction of Akshardham. He blessed everyone there that Akshardham would transform countless lives. Through the tireless efforts of the volunteers and swamis there, it is nearly complete. Akshardham in New Jersey will be even larger than the Akshardham in New Delhi. Inspiring everyone, especially youths, it will foster faith and increase people’s appreciation for our spiritual and cultural heritage. These three grand Akshardham mandirs in India and America symbolise Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s divine work, sincere devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and deep respect for Sanatan Hindu Dharma.”
David Fried, Mayor of Robbinsville, New Jersey, USA, shared in a video message, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj lived his entire life in the service of the community and the world. He made his final trip to America in 2014 at the age of 93 to inaugurate the temple here. His life and work have inspired millions across the world to dedicate themselves to humanitarian causes. Today, we still experience that spirit of service through the thousands of volunteers serving here every day.”
Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Education and Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship of the Government of India, said, “After observing each corner of Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar, I feel that much here could offer inspiration to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about how to craft our national education policy in order to make ideal citizens of the world in the 21st century. The entire 600 acres of the campus is like an Open University, a research centre. There is enough to learn from this Nagar that a PhD thesis could be written on each aspect of it, which shows 21st-century science, technology, processing, marketing, branding, and so much more. I had the darshan of God here, and I also learned how this Nagar can bring transformation in people’s lives. Inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life, through education, a person can be taken to the heights of the Himalayas, and this is a site for such inspiration. It is an invaluable store of wealth for the country.”
Dr. L Murugan, Minister of State in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, added, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj has done exceptional work for our cultural and spiritual heritage through the creation of Akshardham. He worked his entire life as a servant of the people, going to the tribal areas for the uplift of the poor and forgotten. In the 2004 tsunami, BAPS rebuilt three villages in Tamil Nadu, which we will never forget. My visit to Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar is a memory of my lifetime.”
H.E. Dr. Hugo Javier Gobbi, Ambassador of Argentina to India, said, “The Argentinian government and people congratulate BAPS. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s spiritual contributions to the community and the world are examples of his eternal legacy. Values of social and family relationships are important to our nation. Pramukh Swami Maharaj fostered these values in abundance, encouraging peace, dialogue and harmony. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was an exceptional leader and humanitarian. Argentina takes pride in our capacity to develop and foster interreligious dialogue and in our respect for all creeds and beliefs. This has allowed our society to open its doors to Hinduism, which has many followers in Argentina. This has facilitated the development of multiple Hindu religious organizations, bringing diversity and enriching Argentina’s spirituality. I am confident that this celebration will impart the ideals of Pramukh Swami Maharaj to thousands of people across the world.”
Eminent Hindu speaker and leader of Sandipani Ashram, Acharya Bhaishri Rameshbhai Oza, was also present in the evening assembly. He normally observes a vow of silence every Thursday, but especially addressed the audience on this day to offer his personal tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj. He said, “Whoever met Pramukh Swami ‘Bapa’ even once, came to love him. People of all religions and nations from around the world experienced his love deeply. He had the capacity to love everyone, from simple villagers to President Kalam. It was this love that inspired improvement in people’s lives. In his presence, people gave up their addictions and bad habits, and transformed their lives to serve others. I experience an avalanche of love whenever I remember him as ‘Bapa’. He had graced Sandipani Ashram and we would often speak on the phone. He also graciously invited me to several BAPS events here and in other parts of the world.
“In the Ramayana, Tulsidas describes Shankarji as if calmness and peace had taken a human form. I often think that this is an apt description of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. When we are celebrating Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life today, his grace, humility and simplicity continue to inspire everyone. People’s own resolve to improve their lives will find a renewed energy here in the divine presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, even though his physical presence is no longer with us. This Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar is like the Kumbh Mela, a ‘Kumbh of Inspiration’.
“I am proud that in the mandirs and Swaminarayan Akshardhams that Pramukh Swami Maharaj has built, you can see Sanatan Dharma flourishing around the world.”
Dr. Chinmay Pranav Pandya, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya and Senior Leader of the All World Gayatri Pariwar, shared, “Today, on this auspicious day of Swami Vivekanand’s birthday, I am here to strengthen the relationship between Akshardham and Gayatri Parivar.
“On the inauguration of the Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, Dr. Pranav Pandya [Head of All World Gayatri Pariwar] had remarked, ‘There are two kinds of people in the world – those who have visited Akshardham, and who have not.’ Today, on being present at the centennial celebrations of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, I feel blessed to be one of the persons to witness the presence of Akshardham. The mere presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj was enough to let us follow in his footsteps
“Universal Indian values such as compassion, renunciation, humanity, spirituality can enlighten the world. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was like the crown of the Himalayas; even if they saw him from afar, millions could still find contentment and inspiration. I offer my hundreds of prostrations to Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”
D.R. Kaarthikeyan, Former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), said, “I feel we are in the midst of a Kumbh Mela. What beautiful arrangements! I don’t think any other organization could create this perfect Nagar, because it is Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s perfect life that has inspired 80,000 volunteers to serve with so much dedication and affection out of gratitude for their guru.
“The features and exhibitions in this Nagar are each perfected with themes that were dear to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, whether it is family harmony, education, care for the environment, or humanitarian relief work.
“Pramukh Swami Maharaj built 1100 temples. Every fortnight there is a temple, hospital or educational institute inspired by him. But for me, the greatest feat is his power to transform lives and inspire them onto the path of spiritual redemption. And even more impressive is that despite all his achievements and works to relieve the sorrows of millions he retained his deep sense of humility and devotion to God.”
Sunil Hali, media, marketing and entertainment promoter from the USA, said, “I had heard from my mother when I was a child that every person wants to go to heaven after death. But I have experienced that heaven here at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar. Wherever you look, you will experience heaven.
“I have been fortunate that I spent a lot of time with Pramukh Swami Maharaj. I always feared that one day will come when I will no longer be able to hold his soft hands. These hands had given me support whenever I felt down or incapable. When I became a publisher from an engineer, Pramukh Swami Maharaj had told me that I should fill my newspapers with goodness. ‘You can never run out of space for goodness.’ I strive to follow his teachings.
“I remember that I would also ask my mother what would happen when she is not with me. She told me, ‘Close your eyes, remember me, and I will be there.’ Here at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar, whether you close your eyes or keep them open, you will see Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”
Swami Shantatmananda Ji, Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission, added, “Today is Swami Vivekanand’s birthday. After travelling around India, Swami Vivekanand observed, ‘The ideals of India are renunciation and service.’ Today, after attending the centenary celebrations of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, I feel that Pramukh Swami Maharaj was an embodiment of renunciation and service. Pramukh Swami Maharaj saw the presence of God in others. Swami Vivekanand also espoused that saints should transform society while staying within it and established Ramakrishna Mission with this very vision. I feel that there is a synergy between the ideals of Ramakrishna Mission and the Swaminarayan sect.
“Only those who have come and seen this festival will realize its magnanimity. It is unbelievable! Only those who have visited will get some idea of the perfection with which Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar has been created by the extraordinary efforts of the volunteers and swamis.”
In his blessings to the assembly, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “The Akshardham mandirs are Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s epoch-making creations. As long as this world exists, the Akshardham mandirs will propagate our spiritual heritage and faith. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s sentiment in the creation of Akshardham was absolutely pure. He had written, ‘May Akshardham inspire all to transform their lives.’ During Akshardham New Delhi’s inauguration, he had said, ‘This Akshardham has been created not out of competition or to increase our glory, but because it was Yogiji Maharaj’s wish.’ Even the sentiments driving all of Yogiji Maharaj’s actions, including devotion to God, were absolutely pure.
“I was a witness to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s devotion to his gurus. In all that he has created, he never inscribed his name on any part of the campus. When we tried to name the hospital he built in Ahmedabad, ‘Pramukh Swami Maharaj Hospital’, he forced us to remove his name, declaring, ‘I am a servant, and this does not befit a servant.’
“I have often been together with Pramukh Swami Maharaj during the various meetings for Akshardham. Not once did he ever express the sentiment that ‘I have done this.’ In this way, Pramukh Swami Maharaj created the Akshardham mandirs solely out of devotion to God, but not with an iota of intent to increase his glory.
“He was himself a living and breathing embodiment of Akshardham. From head to toe, he was suffused with devotion to God, devotion to the guru, and replete with the highest spiritual virtues. Therefore, his life continues to grant millions of people inspiration and spiritual strength.”