The festival of Vasant Panchmi was celebrated on the evenings of Saturday 5 February, Tuesday 8 February and Saturday 12 February 2011 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London. The occasion marks four significant events in the Swaminarayan Sampradaya: the advent of the Shikshapatri, the births of Brahmanand Swami and Nishkulanand Swami (two senior paramhansas from the time of Bhagwan Swaminarayan), and the birth anniversary of Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj.
Mahila Utsav – Saturday 5 February
The Mahila Mandal celebrated Vasant Panchmi on Saturday 5 February 2011 with an enlightening programme of thought-provoking speeches, video presentations, and lively dances depicting the spiritually influential character of Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj. The Mahila Mandal also celebrated Vasant Panchmi in various centres across the country, including a devotional programme in Wellingborough.
Tithi Utsav – Tuesday 8 February
The actual day of Vasant Panchmi (Maha sud 5) fell on Tuesday 8 February 2011. The evening assembly focussed on Shastriji Maharaj’s tireless work in constructing mandirs and their role in sustaining the Akshar Purushottam Upasana (Vachanamrut Gadhada II 27).
Shukmuni Swami eloquently sang the bhajan ‘Swamiji to maha-pratapi’ which recounted the virtues of Shastriji Maharaj in relation to Gadhada Mandir. Anandpriya Swami elaborated further upon the history, before which Manoharmurti Swami presented the history of Gondal Mandir.
Yogvivek Swami concluded by quoting various people’s impressions of Shastriji Maharaj and his divine personality, before photographs of the Vasant Panchmi celebrations held in the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Atladra earlier that day were shared.
Pratik Utsav – Saturday 12 February
Vasant Panchmi was also celebrated on Saturday 12 February 2011. A joint kishore-kishori and yuvak-yuvati festival was organised wherein some 600 youths gathered to enjoy the programme entitled “Vasant Panchmi in 3D: Discipline, Dedication & Determination”.
The utsav began with dhun and prarthna and was followed by a Q&A session with Yogvivek Swami who explained how discipline can be brought to one’s life by imbibing the messages of the Shikshapatri.
Yagnatilak Swami spoke of the glory of Sadguru Nishkulanand Swami to highlight true dedication to God, which included the prarthna ‘Sahajanand Hari…’.
For the conclusion, Anandpriya Swami spoke enthusiastically of Shastriji Maharaj’s steadfast determination to propagate the Akshar Purushottam Upasana as propounded by Bhagwan Swaminarayan. His passionate discourse revealed the various difficulties that Shastriji Maharaj endured in his lifetime, in particular how he constructed five mandirs with such meagre means.
The Sanyukta Mandal celebrations on the same evening were themed around Ekantik Dharma. Vasant Panchmi is related to the four aspects of Ekantik Dharma as the birth celebrations of the Shikshapatri, Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj, Sadguru Nishkulanand Swami and Sadguru Brahmanand Swami all espouse dharma, gnan, vairagya and bhakti respectively.
Bhaktivallabh Swami highlighted the importance of vairagya and demonstrated how Nishkulanand Swami was the epitome of detachment from the world.
The devotion that Brahmanand Swami had for Bhagwan Swaminarayan was eloquently demonstrated through a series of bhajans composed by Brahmanand Swami strung together in a specially prepared medley.
The importance of dharma was explained by two yuvaks through a beautiful recitation of the Shikshapatri and an accompanying explanation based on the ‘Shikshapatri Bhashya’ – a poetic form of the Shikshapatri composed by Nishkulanand Swami and one of the many books from the Nishkulanand Kavya.
Yogvivek Swami concluded the assembly by explaining the greatness of Shastriji Maharaj and the many challenges he surpassed to propagate the true gnan of Akshar and Purushottam.