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Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781 - 1830 CE) was born as Ghanshyam in the tiny village of Chhapaiya near Ayodhya in North India. Renouncing his home at the tender age of 11 after a deep study of Hindu scriptures, He performed an arduous seven year pilgrimage through Nepal, Eastern and Southern India before settling down in the Western state of Gujarat. Appointed as the spiritual successor of His Guru when He was just 21, Bhagwan Swaminarayan asked two boons from the Guru – "If your devotee is destined to suffer a single scorpion bite then let me, instead, suffer the pains of millions of scorpion bites on every pore of my body. And if your devotee is destined to take to the begging bowl then let it be my fate but your devotee should not suffer from want of food and clothing."

Bhagwan Swaminarayan then revolutionized society through spiritual and social reforms like,

  • stopping sacrificial killing of animals in yagnas
  • motivating all to live a value-based life
  • encouraging freedom from addictions like tobacco, alcohol, etc.
  • abolishing female infanticide
  • banning the practice of Sati (forced widow-burning)
  • promoting education among women
  • inspiring 3000 educated people to renounce the world and live as ascetics (sadhus)
  • ...and countless other activities for the spiritual salvation of His followers

Working in tune with the Vedic tradition and in harmony with the direction shown by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, the Sanstha has been continuously nourished by an unbroken chain of enlightened Gurus.

Gunatitanand Swami (1785 - 1867 CE) was a unique and choicest devotee of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. For forty years, through his divine splendor, glory and preaching, he raised many spiritual aspirants to the state of highest spiritual enlightenment. He was known as Aksharbrahma in the Sampraday. He fulfilled his mission of revealing and spreading the true grandeur and glory of Bhagwan Swaminarayan as the supreme Godhead. He was succeeded by Bhagatji Maharaj.
Bhagatji Maharaj (1829 - 1897 CE) relentlessly reached out, moving from village to village, spreading the Akshar Purushottam philosophy. He preached the philosophy of Akshar Purushottam - that Bhagwan Swaminarayan is Parabrahma (Supreme Godhead or Purushottam) and Gunatitanand Swami is Aksharbrahma (God’s Abode). People were dazzled by his spiritual and moral majesty, profound scholarship, splendor of devotion and radiance of knowledge. Bhagatji Maharaj was succeeded by Shastriji Maharaj.

It was Shastriji Maharaj (1865 - 1951 CE) who founded the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha in 1907. In fact, he was the architect of the movement during its recent history and of the form in which it exists today.

In order to establish the philosophy of Akshar Purushottam, he built five lofty mandirs installing the murti of Akshar alongside that of Purushottam, that is, the murti of Gunatitanand Swami alongside that of Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the central shrine. He first enshrined the precepts of Akshar and Purushottam in the temple at Bochasan in Gujarat, in 1907. He spread the message of Bhagwan Swaminarayan far and wide by travelling to the towns and villages of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Through letters, his message crossed the seas to East Africa. When Shastriji Maharaj passed away in 1951, the number of sadhus had increased from six to over fifty and the householder devotees had increased to several thousands.

He handed over the mission to Yogiji Maharaj (1892 - 1971). People fondly called him Yogi, for his mind was always united with God in divine ecstasy. Yogiji Maharaj became the first of the Sanstha’s gurus to travel overseas.

He built mandirs in East Africa and England. He affectionately imparted spiritual teachings to thousands, above all to youth. Many educated youth joined the order of sadhus; some studied Sanskrit while others learnt music. He respected and honored sadhus and religious leaders of all faiths. He founded schools and hostels and opened youth and children centers in India and abroad, promoting moral and spiritual values through weekly meetings. Yogiji Maharaj was succeeded by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj (1921 -  ) is the present form of Aksharbrahma through whom Bhagwan Swaminarayan is manifest on this earth. He tirelessly travels around the world; cleansing hearts, transforming lives and harmonising families. His gentle philosophy of socio-spiritual regeneration knows no barriers of caste, creed, color, wealth or literacy. He has visited over 15,500 cities and villages, sanctified some 250,000 homes, written more than 500,000 letters and personally counselled 810,000 people. He has delivered 22,000 discourses and built and consecrated 700 mandirs. He has weaned thousands from addictions and drugs and instilled fraternity and faith for God. He has established hostels and schools, hospitals and medical camps, provided aid in times of natural calamities and organized international festivals to preserve, protect and promote India’s rich culture, inter-faith harmony and universal brotherhood.

The followers are a peace-loving group of people wedded to a sincere discipline of no addictions, no stealing, and no illicit sex, a pure vegetarian diet and moral purity.

Today the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha is widely known and applauded for its work among the young generation, the socially and economically deprived and for its relentless drive against social evils, such as the dowry custom, drugs and other addictions. The Sanstha’s Volunteer Force of 45,000 is active in serving society. It is well known as the organization behind Akshardham (Gandhinagar) and Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir (London), two unparallelled landmarks of our age.





© 1999, Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, Swaminarayan Aksharpith
Bhagwan Swaminarayan Gunatitanand Swami Bhagatji Maharaj Shastriji Maharaj Yogiji Maharaj Pramukh Swami Maharaj