What began as an ordinary day at the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, New Jersey, on July 24, 2023, became a historic night to remember. His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj expressed a desire to do the pujan of the Tapomurti Shri Nilkanth Varni. By early evening, devotees and volunteers filled Nilkanth Vatika with excitement, awaiting the most unexpected darshan amidst a clear, beautiful sky.
The setting sun of the early evening bathed the towering Nilkanth Varni murti in its warm glow. With a smile His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj arrived in Nilkanth Vatika, greeting eager devotees with humbly folded hands. He began the tour by looking with great detail at the map of Nilkanth Varni's extensive pilgrimage throughout India, Tibet and Nepal. Thereafter, coming to the base of Tapomurti Shri Nilkanth Varni, Mahant Swami Maharaj raised an incense stick in prayer to the 49-foot striking murti.
The Nilkanth Varni Stotram (Sanskrit hymns) being sung live by swamis created a divine atmosphere as Mahant Swami Maharaj applied a traditional sandalwood chandlo and archa with utmost devotion. Following this, he presented a thal and affectionately selected a sweet from it, offering it directly to Nilkanth Varni.
He then lovingly held both hands up to the chest of Nilkanth Varni's murti and continued the pujan at Nilkanth Varni's holy feet.
A short program began with Mahant Swami Maharaj seated at the base of Nilkanth Varni's murti. To have the living embodiment of the divine present at the feet of God, something often spoken of in scriptures but rarely witnessed in person, stirred intense feelings of divinity and devotion for all those fortunate to be in attendance. Honoring Mahant Swami Maharaj with a traditional garland of vivid flowers, Sadguru Pujya Ishwarcharandas Swami, a senior swami of BAPS, joined Mahant Swami Maharaj at the feet of God.
Tapomurti Shri Nilkanth Varni's murti holds a special place in Mahant Swami Maharaj's heart. He was overcome with immense happiness towards Pujya Ishwarcharandas Swami for his guidance and sincerest efforts in seeing his vision for Nilkanth Varni come to fruition at the holy land of BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham. Such joy and favor of the guru-disciple relationship was captured by an impromptu embrace at the behest of Mahant Swami Maharaj.
Mahant Swami Maharaj said, "My affection for Nilkanth Varni inspired me to perform this pujan ceremony today. Moreover, all of the acts and expressions of devotion you have performed here - like pradakshina - have been accepted by Bhagwan Swaminarayan - as it is."
A spiritually charged evening culminated with Mahant Swami Maharaj performing the arti of Tapomurti Shri Nilkanth Varni, while Akshardham's grandeur served as the perfect background. Fulfilling an inner wish of devotion, Mahant Swami Maharaj completed two pradakshinas before returning to his residence.