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."
then revolutionized society through spiritual and social reforms
- stopping sacrificial killing
of animals in yagnas
- motivating all to live a value-based
- encouraging freedom from addictions
like tobacco, alcohol, etc.
- abolishing female infanticide
- banning the practice of Sati
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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.