|Mul Akshar Murti Gunatitanand Swami
concluded his mortal existence at 12.40 a.m. in 1867 (Vikram Samvat
1923 Aso sud 12) in Gondal. Next morning, Swami's mortal body was
placed in a palanquin and taken to the outskirts for the crematory
rites. His asthi (bone relics) were placed in a copper urn and buried
in the ground. To commemorate the place of cremation, Abhaysinh
Darbar of Ganod, a disciple of Gunatitanand Swami, built a beautiful
shrine called Akshar Deri. Balmukund Swami and other disciples of
Gunatitanand Swami consecrated the carved black stone charanarvind
of Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the shrine. Thousands of devotees come
for darshan and pray for the fulfillment of their wishes (manta).
Several years later when the charanarvind wore out, Balmukund Swami
of Junagadh had another pair prepared from the sacred stone in Panchala
on which Bhagwan Swaminarayan had bathed a number of times. Today,
one finds the same charanarvind in Akshar Deri.
of Akshar Mandir, Gondal
In 1927 (Samvat 1983) the mahant of Junagadh, Narayandas Swami,
who was a disciple of Balmukunddas Swami, desired to build a one-shikhar
mandir but was refused permission to do so from the Acharya and
Kothari of Vartal. At that time Narayandas Swami said, "In
future a sadhu will build a supreme three-shikhar mandir. Let
them say no now but the three-shikhar mandir will be built and
the murtis of Swami and Shriji will be installed."
Swami appeared in his divine form to Narayanji Maharaj of Virsad
and said, "I would like a three-shikhar mandir to be built
in Gondal. Tell your disciples to take a pledge to help build
the mandir." Then Narayanji Maharaj went to Gondal with his
disciples, Shankarbhai Amin (Virsad), Haribhai Amin (Virsad),
Bhikhabhai Shukla (Jhadeshvar), etc. Here they met Maharaja Bhagvatsinhji
of Gondal and requested him for the farm in which Akshar Deri
was located to build a mandir. The Maharaja agreed to give the
land for a nominal Rs. 25,000 under the conditions that Akshar
Deri, the memorial shrine, be kept intact, a three-shikhar mandir
be built at a cost of one million rupees and within three years.
Then Narayanji Maharaj and Haribhai Amin thought that only Shastriji
Maharaj could do this so they went to meet him in Sarangpur. Haribhai
Amin asked Shastriji Maharaj to help them build a mandir on Akshar
Deri. Shastriji Maharaj said that if they gave the land free of
cost to him then he would build a three-shikhar mandir. Narayanji
Maharaj and Haribhai Amin agreed and in 1932 (Samvat 1988 Posh
sud 10) Shastriji Maharaj performed the foundation-stone laying
ceremony and started the excavation work for the pillars of the
mandir. Shastriji Maharaj had the mandir plans drawn by Vajeshankar
Mistry of Vadhwan. During the excavation a silver elephant with
a chariot was found. Shastriji Maharaj said, "In future there
will be decorative elephants in front of the mandir and devotees
will flock for darshan in large numbers. The mahapuja that people
will pledge here will fulfill their desires. This is an auspicious
occurrence and in future there will be no shortage of resources
in Akshar Deri."
Several sadhus and
devotees were engaged in the construction work and other services.
Once the sadhus had gone to Sarangpur to celebrate a festival
and Mohan Bhagat and Mulji Bhagat had stayed behind to look after
the cows and the land. One night when Mohan Bhagat was about to
retire to sleep by the Akshar Deri, he saw four intruders enter
a papaiya grove nearby. They started cutting the papaiya trees
and said, "Let's cut him to pieces so that no one will come
here again." On hearing this Mohan Bhagat felt that the intruders
were definitely going to do something to him. So he got up and,
placing his head on the charanarvind in Akshar Deri, prayed, "O
Maharaj, O Swami, this time I will stay alive only if you save
me. So please protect me!" At this, Gunatitanand Swami appeared
to Mohan Bhagat and reassured him by placing his hand on his head,
"Bhagat! why are you afraid? Do you believe that you are
alone? In this place I am always present with Maharaj." Then
Gunatitanand Swami told Mohan Bhagat to look at the tamarind tree
nearby. To his surprise he saw the illustrious form of Shriji
Maharaj and Gunatitanand Swami on every leaf of the tree. With
this divine darshan Mohan Bhagat realised that Maharaj and Swami
was present with all their powers in every part of the lonely
and deserted land. He then got up bravely from his bed and roared
at the intruders, "Hey, why you have entered the grove. Get
out!" Mohan Bhagat's thunderous cry scared the intruders,
who then fled on their heels. In this way Gunatitanand Swami appeared
to Mohan Bhagat in Akshar Deri and protected him.
Despite financial hardships Shastriji Maharaj completed the mandir
in two years and performed a three-day yagna for the murti-pratishtha
ceremony. On 23-5-1934 (Samvat 1990 on Vaishakh sud 10) Shastriji
Maharaj consecrated the murtis of Akshar Purushottam Maharaj in
the central shrine. When Shastriji Maharaj held the mirror before
the murtis it cracked. Everyone was convinced of the divine power
of Shastriji Maharaj and that Maharaj and Swami had been invoked
in the murtis. Yogiji Maharaj was appointed as the Mahant of Akshar
Mandir. For years Yogiji Maharaj served the deities and the devotees
who visited Gondal. He always chanted the dhun in Akshar Deri,
sometimes for an hour praying for the development of Satsang and
well-being of devotees.
used to say that like the mandir in Shrinathji, where thal worth
Rs. 700 is offered, here too, the deities will be offered thal
worth more than Rs. 700. Yogiji Maharaj used to say, "This
place has been sanctified by Gunatitanand Swami. By sitting and
having darshan here one experiences peace. One becomes free of
bad thoughts, becomes happy and one's wishes are fulfilled."
The murti of Ghanshyam Maharaj was sculpted under the guidance
of Shastriji Maharaj who stayed for one month in Jaipur. The murti
has been made according to the size of Shriji Maharaj (64.25 tasu)
and was installed by Shastriji Maharaj two years later in 1936
(Samvat 1992 Vaishakh sud 10).
Dhami and Mukta
The murtis of Dham (Gunatitanand Swami), Dhami (Shriji Maharaj)
and Mukta (Gopalanand Swami) were also prepared by Shastriji Maharaj
in Jaipur while the murti of Ghanshyam Maharaj was being made.
The three murtis were installed by Shastriji Maharaj in the first
shrine in Gondal.
Later, an assembly
hall, kitchen hall and Akshar Ghat were built by the bank of the
holy river Gondali.
In 1975 Pramukh Swami
Maharaj inaugurated the Yogi Smruti Mandir, built over the site
where Yogiji Maharaj was cremated. In 1979 Swamishri inaugurated
the impressive red-stone gateway of Akshar Mandir.
Today the glory of
Akshar Deri has increased immensely. Devotees and pilgrims come
in multitudes for darshan and to perform pradakshina in Akshar
Deri. Many come to perform pradakshinas and offer mahapujas to
seek the fulfillment of their desires, freedom from disease and
peace of mind. And by virtue of the glory of Gunatitanand Swami
their desires are fulfilled.