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Pramukh Varni Din
Pramukh Varni Din

This celebrates the day on which Shastriji Maharaj appointed Pramukh Swami as head of the BAPS Sanstha.

BAPS Sanstha - Historical Backdrop
In Samvat 1963 Vaishakh vad 10, 5th June 1907, Shastriji Maharaj, the third spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, consecrated the murtis of Purna Purushottam Shri Swaminarayan and His choicest devotee Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami, in the central shrine of the Bochasan mandir. This founded the Bochasanwasi (wasi meaning `based in') Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan (BAPS) Sanstha.
In the nearly half century that elapsed, prior to him returning to Akshardham in 1951, an immensely loyal group of sadhus and devotees aided him in constructing mandirs in Sarangpur, Gondal, Atladara (Vadodara) and Gadhada. In Samvat 2006, Jeth sud 4, 21st May 1950, he summoned some of these to a committee meeting at the Hari mandir in Ambliwali Pol, in Shahpur, a ward just inside the old city wall of Amdavad.

Appointing the Head of BAPS.
He convened the general administrative committee of the BAPS Sanstha at 5 p.m. on Sunday 21-5-1950 to appoint the new president of BAPS. The following sadhu members presided in the meeting:

  1. Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj - Bhagwan Swaminarayan's present spiritual successor, Guru and Head of BAPS.
  2. Sadguru Yogiji Maharaj - Sadhu Jnanjivandasji
  3. Sadguru Sadhu Aksharpurushottamdasji
  4. Sadguru Kothari Shastri Narayanswarupdasji
  5. Sadguru Kothari Sadhu Harijivandasji
  6. Kothari Sadhu Aksharswarupdasji
  7. Kothari Sadhu Bhaktivallabhdasji
  8. Kothari Sadhu Dharmavallabhdasji
  9. Kothari Shastri Purushottamcharandasji
  10. Kothari Soma Bhagat
  11. Kothari Ramji Bhagat

The gruhastha devotee members present included:

  1. Sheth Shri Champaklal C.Banker
  2. Shri Ashabhai Prabhudas Patel
  3. Shri Vinayakrao Trivedi
  4. Shri Hirabhai Chaturbhai Patel
  5. Shri Mathurbhai Makandas Patel
  6. Shri Ramchandrabhai Thaakar
  7. Shri Narayandas Chhaganbhai Patel
  8. Sheth Shri Bhaichandbhai Shah
  9. Shri Motibhai Patel
  10. Shri Ramjibhai Khatri
  11. Shri Sidibhai (of Gondal)
  12. Shri Badrinathbhai Vyas
  13. Shri Girdharbhai Patel
  14. Shri Rasiklalbhai Dhanjibhai Patel (Secretary)

Other invited devotees included:
Shri Keshavlal Karbharisaheb, Shri Ishvarbhai Patel, Shri Khengarjibhai Chauhan, Shri Gordhanbhai Brahmbhatt, Shri Tulsibhai, Shri Arjunbhai Chavda, Kothari Babubhai, Shri Vasantrai Pandya, Shri Bhogilal Choksi, Shri Maganbhai Suratwala, Shri Ranchhodbhai , Shri Parsottambhai Jorabhai, Shri Purushottam Brahmbhatt, Shri Babubhai Mistry and other devotees from Radhu, Sarangpur, Gondal, Jetpur and Junagadh.

In this meeting 3 new gruhastha members were appointed in the committee:

  1. Shri Khushalbhai Shankarbhai Patel of Naar (Secretary Shri Rasikbhai's grandfather)
  2. Shri Manilal Nanalal Bhatt of Salaad, and
  3. Darbar Shri Hakabhai Rukhadbhai Khachar - Assistant Secretary (direct lineage of Jiva Khachar, Kathi chief of Sarangpur during Shriji Maharaj's time).

Shastriji Maharaj then jubilantly proclaimed:
"Just as Sadguru Ramanand Swami appointed the young Sahajanand Swami as head of the Satsang, I hereby appoint in my place, Sadguru Shastri Narayanswarupdasji as head of the Sanstha." He then ceremoniously draped a saffron chaadar (cloth) around his shoulders. Lovingly glancing at the 28-year-old sadhu, he said, "Yogiji Maharaj here (gesturing towards Yogiji Maharaj) is vachansiddh (one whose words always prove true), and a spiritually stalwart sadhu. You are to ennoble the Satsang under his auspices." Turning towards Yogiji Maharaj, he said, "Kindly place your hands on his head so that he may be graced with your virtues."

To the sadhus and devotees, Shastriji Maharaj then revealed,

"With my parikshak shakti [insightful ability] I have scrutinised everything and so appoint him as head for his whole lifespan, in my place. Just as you have accepted my commands and leadership, [now] in my stead, I command you all to accept and instruct others to accept Shastri Narayanswarupdas's commands and leadership."

When one elderly devotee voiced his concern to Shastriji Maharaj about Narayanswarupdasji's young age and that he (Shastriji Maharaj) should think deeply in case he may regret the decision in the future, Shastriji Maharaj instantly and confidently replied, "I have never done anything which I regretted. Even in this, I will never have to regret"

Humble Pledge
On this historic occasion, Shastri Narayanswarupdas humbly pledged to his Guru:
"Whatever the power and inspiration that I possess, have wholly been graced by you. Now for the mammoth task that you bestow upon me, please kindly grace me wholeheartedly with shakti and strength. Similarly, let all your devotees remain happy in body, mind and wealth. Let them offer worship happily to Swami-Shriji and attain Akshardham. For this, I pray for your blessings. Also, with your phenomenal divinity, grace Akshardham to those who even unknowingly utter Akshar-Purushottam."
     "Today, O Gurushri, in front of you and this gathering, I pledge that I shall sincerely uphold my duties, without caring for my body, and in every way remain loyal to the Sanstha and faithful to you."
     All the senior sadhus and elderly devotees then wholeheartedly voiced their sentiments, supporting Shastriji Maharaj's decision in appointing Narayanswarupdas as Pramukh.
After the gathering dispersed, Pramukh Swami noted a heap of cooking utensils in a corner on the outer porch of the Hari mandir. Instantly he sat down in the small washing cubicle and washed them. Such humble service has been the hallmark of his unique personality since early life.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj & BAPS Sanstha
In 1951, Shastriji Maharaj returned to Akshardham. Pramukh Swami, then only 29 years old, shouldered all the administrative duties of the Sanstha, which included the ongoing construction of all 5 mandirs - the fifth being Gadhada, leaving Yogiji Maharaj free to tour the villages, towns and cities to nurture and fulfil the devotional aspirations of devotees.
     Mandir construction posed a monumental task, wrought with obstacles at every step. This often involved travelling to the stone and marble quarries in the deserts of Rajasthan, to personally oversee the quarrying and transportation of the appropriate type of stone, without being swindled by local merchants. At home, working with stone masons and sculptors too demanded the coolest mind and the noblest heart.
     Additionally, all the festivals celebrated on a grand scale required efficient management involving thousands of volunteers, all under the guidance of only one sadhu - Pramukh Swami Maharaj! Circumstances and shortage of young, able bodied sadhus necessitated him handling all the departments himself. This comprised: procuring a good water supply, transportation, catering, lodging, supply of bedding, erecting the sabha mandap, power supply, loudspeaker facilities and the whole gamut of seva that a grand festival entailed. Prior and post-festival periods saw Swami averaging three hours of sleep every night. The laborious winding up process posed the toughest challenges; for even the most dedicated volunteers had to resume their vocations, leaving all the chores squarely on Swami.
When travelling, he invariably chose public transport buses and third class compartments on trains, in Yogiji Maharaj's footsteps. While visiting mandirs he usually slept either on a heap of building sand or the bare floor and had meals with the other sadhus, in true monastic order. Even as head of the Sanstha, no special demands. No fuss. With a thousand ears and an ocean heart, he patiently listened to the grievances, suggestions and on rare occasions, orders, from the mandirs' Kotharis. He listened, to their demands, their debts, their encroached farmlands - and the thousand other bones of contentions - all insolvable headaches, in the midst of extreme penury. Despite their physical miseries, fully aware that they would not see the light of day in the near future, the Kotharis - all old enough to be his father - would be appeased; solaced by his ineffable personality and words of wisdom. He also gave an ear to the most lay devotee serving in the mandirs; from the farmer to the rabari (cowhead) tending the mandir's cows.
Forever remaining in the background and never exercising his power as head, he devotedly obeyed Yogiji Maharaj's commands and fulfilled his wishes. He once revealed, "By Shastriji Maharaj's grace, my opinion never differed from that of Yogiji Maharaj. Even during Shastriji Maharaj's tenure I endeavored to please Yogiji Maharaj."
     Such humility renders Pramukh Swami Maharaj indistinguishable from the sanstha. As a senior sadhu aptly says,"He is not only the Head of the sanstha, but also the Heart. As his heart beats, so does the Sanstha. Verily, Swamiji has become the Sanstha, and the Sanstha Swamiji!"
It is this humility which renders him so astonishingly accessible relating to other leaders and heads of states. Even the lowest tribal boy can approach him personally to unload his anxieties, without having to fend through a stringent protocol. Therein lies the key to his successful management of BAPS.
     Hence it may not be an exaggeration to claim that, among any institution in the world with a president, Pramukh Swami Maharaj [as head of BAPS] is the only one to have been " in office"
so to speak, for the longest span, of over 50 years; not only without the slightest dissension from its members, but with pride and earnest prayers in their hearts to remain there as long as possible! A supremely mind boggling achievement.

BAPS Today
After Yogiji Maharaj's departure in 1971, the Satsang has witnessed an astonishing phenomenon, rarely seen elsewhere; his dynamism surged as he aged! In keeping with his pledge, in not caring for his body in the benefit of the sanstha, he set a gruelling pace in his life; the hectic and incessant tourings at home and abroad to boost the religious fervor of devotees - visiting them in cities, villages and forest tribal areas, the ever-increasing correspondence, the construction of new mandirs, celebrating mega-festivals and nurturing his beloved sadhus on to the path of saintliness and God-realization. All this while strictly observing 3 to 5 waterless fasts a month and Dharna-Parna (a fast every alternate day) during Shravan. This ultimately affected his health; with his first prolonged illness in 1978, at the age of 58! Later followed cataract and gall bladder removal in 1980 and 1981 respectively and a heart attack in 1983. Incredibly he remained unfazed, stretching his activities beyond human limits. Two years later, at the age of 65, one part of his rural schedule unimaginably entailed visiting devotees in 96 villages in only 19 days! Even arthritic knees and recurrent viral fevers have failed to break his dynamism. After his by-pass heart surgery in 1999, his tourings to uplift humanity continue unabated! And it is this superhuman dynamism which has imbued BAPS Sanstha national and international plaudits.
     Ishwar Petlikar, a renowned literary figure of Gujarat averred that, "The side vine of the banyan tree has grown thicker than the original trunk!"
     By inspiring the celebration of mega-international Hindu festivals such as the Cultural Festivals of India, in London in 1985, and in Edison, N.J. in 1991, constructing grand stone edifices such as Akshardham, the Vedic mandirs in London, Nairobi and at home, Swami has revived the Hindu Dharma in 52 countries. A management expert who played a key role in organizing the Indian government's Festival of India programmes abroad, Dr.Kartarsingh Luthra was flabbergasted when he attended the CFI in Edison. He sincerely lauded Swami's remarkable organizing flair and the BAPS Sanstha's volunteers.
     At home, a Charity Commissioner of Gujarat revealed that in his opinion, of the 92,000 charitable trusts in Gujarat, BAPS stands first!
     Swami's humble pledge to strive for the Sanstha without caring for his body, is mirrored by the figures.

BAPS today has:

  • Over 450 mandirs,
  • 7050 Satsang centres worldwide
  • 5 fully fledged hospitals
  • 11 mobile dispensaries for tribals in north and south Gujarat, and quake victims in kutch
  • 10 youth hostels including one solely for girls in Anand, Gujarat
  • 17 schools - including the only Independent Hindu School in Europe, in London, opposite the new Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
  • 5 Information Technology institutes
  • Computer Education classes in over 8 villages and cities
  • AARSH research centre in the Akshardham complex in Gandhinagar

Swami's greatest, most awe-inspiring project is to fulfill Yogiji Maharaj's wish, to consecrate a Vedic shikharbaddh mandir on the banks of the sacred Yamuna, in New Delhi, along with a second Akshardham.

His crowning chaitanya assets are his group of sadhus, nearing 700, as prophecied by Yogiji Maharaj.

The above achievements stem from his humility, purity and saintliness, his selfless, unfathomable love for humanity, unalloyed devotion to Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj and constant rapport with Bhagwan Swaminarayan.

The former US President, Bill Clinton, experienced these virtues when he met Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Akshardham on 5th April 2001:

"He (pointing to Swami) is different. He connects with everyone around him... I saw in his eyes that he is a man who has not come ahead by eclipsing others. He has come forward by always placing others before him. And that is why I had a deep desire to meet him again [after first meeting him in Miami in 2000].... Like the statue [of Bhagwan Swaminarayan in Akshardham] he has a heart of gold.."

Import of Draping the Chaadar
The physical chaadar that Shastriji Maharaj draped on Shastri Narayanswarupdasji is not just an emblem of appointment as head. Rather it reflects the latter's pure Brahmic state and as ideal sevak his constant rapport with Shriji Maharaj. Therefore the chaadar itself is symbolic of Swami and Shriji Maharaj.
Paramatma has graced us with a chaadar too in the form of the human body. However
the poet and mystic Kabir cries out ,
"How can I clean this chaadar soiled in countless births?
I dirty it day after day ---"
However, since infinite births we have tended to dirty it with mayic impressions, and continue to do so. The only means to cleanse it is to use `pure water' of Aksharbrahma, devoid of and transcending Maya.
      Therefore as disciples of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the manifest form of Aksharbrahma, we can only pray to him to cleanse our soiled chaadars and dye them with the colour of Akshar, thus becoming Akshar-rup.

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© 1999, Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, Swaminarayan Aksharpith