31 August 2011, Mumbai
For several days Swamishri had been informed about the details of the Shilanyas (foundation stone-laying) ritual for Akshardham in New Jersey, USA, to be performed in the mandir at Dadar. Swamishri thoroughly understood the entire planning, from every ritual procedure to where the ritual stones would be placed, and the accommodation and seating arrangements of the devotees. He also gave several suggestions.
Formerly, the rituals were planned to be done by senior sadhus in the abhishek mandap in the presence of five devotees from USA. Then, as decided, Swamishri would arrive at the end and shower flowers on each of the shilas. But everything changed at Swamishri’s behest. Swamishri declared that he would like to do his morning puja beneath the mandir dome and be present for the entire Shilanyas ritual. Several sadhus requested Swamishri that because of his ailing health he should come later. But Swamishri was determined to be present and declared, “I’ll be there at 7.00 a.m.”
In the morning, prior to Swamishri’s arrival for Thakorji’s darshan, more than 60 devotees from USA and some principal devotees of Mumbai were accommodated beneath the mandir dome for the Akshardham Shilanyas ritual. The principal shilas for the rituals were placed beneath the mandir dome and the rest were arranged in the vestibule outside Thakorji’s shrine. A live telecast by Aastha Channel was arranged so that devotees in North America and the UK could have darshan of the entire historic ritual. Swamishri arrived at 7.00 a.m. After Thakorji’s darshan he started his puja beneath the mandir dome. The dome and pillars were decorated with festoons of flowers and an arched backdrop of colourful flowers adorned Swamishri’s seat.
When Swamishri commenced his puja the Shilanyas ritual began simultaneously with Vedic chantings by Brahmins. To Swamishri’s right Pujya Kothari Swami and Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami and to his left Pujya Dr Swami and Pujya Viveksagar Swami were performing the Shilanyas rituals. The devotees were also performing the rituals before Swamishri. Shri Harikrishna Maharaj was pedestalled on a golden throne and adorned in golden clothes. Swamishri happily responded to the devotees during the ceremonial rituals. The ritual worship of pujan and panchamrut snan were performed on Shri Jabreshwar Maharaj (small metallic murtis of Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj) and Shri Harikrishna Maharaj.
At 7.45 a.m. Swamishri completed his personal puja and the main shila for the foundation was arranged on a platform before Swamishri. Shri Harikrishna Maharaj was placed on the shila. Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami spoke briefly about the Akshardham project. Then Swamishri performed pujan of the main shila and the golden yantras with rice grains. Thereafter, Swamishri performed pujan of six nidhi-kumbhs and one main kumbh and then ritually placed Anant and Kurma inside the main kumbh. On behalf of all, Shri Kanubhai Patel (CEO of USA Satsang Mandal) placed gold coins inside the main kumbh. Then Pujya Kothari Swami, Ishwarcharan Swami and Viveksagar Swami performed pujan of the remaining shilas placed before the mandir shrines. Swamishri then scooped a mixture of cement and concrete and placed it into a golden vessel, thus marking the climax of the ritual. The entire congregation joyously chorused the jais of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the guru parampara.
Thereafter Swamishri and the devotees performed arti, mantra-pushpanjali and chanted dhun to pray for the success of the Akshardham project, Swamishri’s good health, happiness of devotees in mind, body and wealth, and for peace and prosperity in the world. Finally, the pujan of a coconut and chanting of prayers concluded the Shilanyas mahapuja rituals.
Swamishri tied nada-chhadis and applied chandlo to the Brahmin priests, Shri Ghanshyambhai Shastri of Anand, Mukeshbhai from Ahmedabad and others, for beautifully conducting the Shilanyas rituals. Swamishri also tied nada-chhadis to Kanubhai Patel and Harshadbhai Chavda. Then the senior sadhus honoured Swamishri with garlands and a shawl.
Swamishri also inaugurated Prasangam, 2010, a Swaminarayan Aksharpith publication.
In conclusion, Swamishri gave his blessings for the festive occasion, “We built the first Akshardham in Gandhinagar and countless people have experienced peace in its precincts. Then we built another one in Delhi. Both projects were supervised by Ishwar Swami and the team of sadhus with him.
“Whatever works we accomplish are done to please God. They are not done for fame, but to please God and for peace to prevail in all. After the inauguration of Akshardham in Delhi [in 2005] the devotees of America were overjoyed and resolved to have one built in America. You have all happily come here from America to participate in this foundation-stone laying ceremony of Akshardham in New Jersey. Such wishes, inspirations and enthusiasm are inspired through the grace of Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj. Everyone is excited and charged with firm faith and belief that what can’t one do for God and his Sadhu. One can see this spirit of robust faith in the hearts of devotees residing in India and abroad. It is through your enthusiasm that such big projects are accomplished.
“We have acquired a piece of land there and work on it has already started. The construction work for the mandir is going on and the Shilanyas [for Akshardham] we have done here today.
“The Akshardham in Delhi has amazed and pleased all. The reason being that it was the wish of Maharaj, Swami, Shastriji Maharaj and Yogi Maharaj. You have all pledged and started giving your support. Though it may be small [before God’s effort], but God believes it to be of importance. This is because you have served with devotion and an understanding of God’s glory. I pray to Maharaj that the mandir [Akshardham] be completed in no time, and there be no obstructions along the way. May the glory of Akshardham spread everywhere and that all come for darshan. May Maharaj and Swami bless you all with happiness in mind, body and wealth and enable you to offer seva in this manner.”
Finally, to commemorate the occasion, several shlokas and a poem in Sanskrit composed by Bhadresh Swami and Aksharjivan Swami respectively were sung.
Swamishri was beaming with joy as he showered his pleasure upon the devotees for their effort, faith and enthusiasm.
A few days later, Swamishri, with reference to the Shilanyas ceremony, explained to Kothari Abhayswarup Swami, “Look, it was good that I came early for the [Shilanyas] ritual! If I had come late then the devotees would not have been satisfied. All our occasions are never small or minor, they gradually grow in size. If we had finished the rituals simply the devotees would not have been satisfied. Everyone was satisfied with the Brahmin priests’ performance of the rituals. If I had arrived late and the rituals had been cut short and completed in only 15 minutes, then no one would have been satisfied. But I came [early] and sat beneath the mandir dome to perform my puja. See how the devotees, who made great efforts to come from America, were pleased and satisfied. The rituals were conducted properly and thus everyone was happy.”
Despite Swamishri’s ill-health he had insisted upon coming early at 7.00 a.m. to preside over the entire ceremony. He also desired to have the cremony done elaborately and satisfy all the devotees.