A Friend in Need:
morning I was injured at a Government labour camp. I had no money
for dressing my wounds so I applied turmeric powder... Tomorrow,
this young boy will go to work in my place." The sadhus looked
at the boy next to him. He was only seven years old. "While
my mother digs the ground this boy will carry and dump the earth
away. Then we'll get paid at the end of the day, from which we'll
buy grains for food."
Parts of central India buckled and lurched when an earthquake
struck in the early hours of 30th September, 1993. The terrifying
force, 6.4 on the Richter scale, put more than 30,000 people to
sleep forever. The earth had shuddered with an explosive roar
and a violent convulsion swept across the southern sector of the
Deccan Plateau. It was India's worst earthquake since Independence
in 1947 and ranked as among the 10 most destructive quakes of
this century. Scores of villages were flattened, causing untold
of mayhem and anguish.The feeble houses of mud, brick and local
stone collapsed like cardboard houses, crushing and burying the
sleeping occupants under tons of debris. Death and destruction
were on a mass scale.
On hearing of the disaster, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, made an urgent
phone call from Sarangpur, instructing the sadhus and volunteers
of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Sanstha in Dadar,
Bombay, to rush to the aid of the earthquake victims. Under the
guidelines and suggestions given by Swamishri, sadhus and volunteers
made plans and preparations with military speed.
On the night of 1st October, a team of 25 sadhus and volunteers
under Ghanshyamprasad Swami left for the quake hit area. They
distributed two tons of puri and 2 tons of cooked potatoes. Pramukh
Swami Maharaj kept in touch with Dadar centre to get updates on
the relief work and responded with fresh instructions. He soon
sent 10 more sadhus and 50 more volunteers to join the relief
project. More food supplies and raw materials were immediately
rushed to the site of the disaster. In 4 jeeps, 2 matador vans
and 4 trucks, 10 tons of sugar, 10 tons of vegetable oil, 10 tons
of milk powder, 10 tons of flour, 4 tons of biscuits and 4 tons
of clothes were sent off from Dadar temple. Other voluntary organisations
also offered their assistance.
From the local council of Patoda, an irrigation guest house was
given for use to the Sanstha. The kitchen was opened there to
feed the afflicted. To meet the escalating food demands, a kitchen
was also opened in the village of Barshi. The sadhus and volunteers
of the Sanstha camped at Kondjigadh and Samudral for the relief
work. The work here was directed by devotees like Shri Markandbhai
Patel, Karsanbhai Patel, Ramnikbhai Thakkar and Dilipbhai Patel
of Bombay. Medicines to the tune of Rs. 250,000 were collected
by a devotee, Dr. Kiran Doshi, and supplied to the relief centre.
Medical doctors, devoted to the Sanstha, Dr. Sanjay Patel, Dr.
Vajjar (Bombay) and Dr. Vrajlal H. Patel (Ahmedabad) rushed to
Samudral to help the sick and injured.
As the Sanstha's sadhus and volunteers visited other affected
villages, a clearer picture emerged of how the people could best
be helped. Ration cards were given to each family. Appropriate
measures of tea, biscuits, flour, millet, rice, vegetable oil,
ghee, potatoes, sugar and clothes were given. To facilitate living
and hygenic cooking standards, tents, soft plastic for flooring,
dishes and cooking utensils, a stove and a paraffin lamp were
provided. Besides this, hair oil, soap, clothes and other essentials
were also provided. To keep them warm, Solapuri bedsheets and
blankets and huge trunks for storage were also handed out.
The planning and organisation of the relief work by the Sanstha
impressed the Government of Maharashtra and in response to this
they decided to allocate the responsibility of rehabilitating
some of the villagers. Finally, the Government asked Swamishri
to adopt the villages of Samudral and Kondjigadh. They wanted
the Sanstha to provide new housing facilities, in effect build
a new village.
Lt. Yashpal Yadav, Officer in Command at Military Camp in Kondjigadh
said, "The efforts put in by Dr. Patel and Shri Swaminarayan
temple organization in helping the earthquake victims of the village
Kondjigadh (P.O. Salegoan, Dist. Osmanabad) is highly appreciable.
The sense of basic management and the ability to go into details
is certainly admirable. The conduct, the way of functioning of
the staff in the organisation is again a place where I personally
feel that each time I come in contact with them, I have learned
something new and good only. The organisation is self contained
in all respects, may it be the field of conduct, supervision,
cooperation management. The cooperation extended by Dr. Patel
is unforgettable. The unselfish devotion and dedication to the
work itself shows the gravity of the sincerity of the men and
But first, basic relief work still needed to be done. The volunteer
work was a challenge. Working amidst the revolting stench of decay,
rain, and resulting muddy grounds was not easy. Inspite of all
personal discomforts, rough living and eating, the sadhus and
volunteers never for once thought of retreating. The first few
days were hectic and exhausting. Besides caring for Samudral and
Konjigadh, the Sanstha also provided aid in other neighbouring
villages. Pramukh Swami Maharaj had instructed that whatever was
required should be provided but the relief work should not be
discontinued or suffer breaks. As a result the Sanstha exhaustively
thought of even the smallest and subtlest of requirements. As
news of the Sanstha's work filtered through, various organisations,
associations, companies and donors began donating in kind and
The temple in Dadar, Bombay, had turned into a buzzing relief
depot where materials and food grains were collected, recorded
and systematically sent off. In Bombay about 450 volunteers and
sadhus worked under the direction of Siddheshwar Swami and Ramcharan
Swami who were in constant touch with Swamishri.
As the scope of relief work increased the demand for food spiralled
tremendously. And so 25 tons of flour, 10 tons of sugar, 10 tons
of mag and lentils, 18 tons of juvar, 23 tons of rice grains,
16.5 tons of wheat, 12.5 tons of vegetable oil, 8 tons of milk
powder, turmeric powder, salt, chilly powder, jaggery and essential
spices were transported to Samudral and Konjigadh. Swamishri commanded
40 more sadhus to stop their studies and join the relief work.
They were accompanied by 250 more volunteers.
The Government further requested the Sanstha to extend its relief
operation to two more villages, Kadodara and Limbavada. Here again
the ration card system was employed. The success of the system
was seen by Government agencies and quickly adopted.
Members of 'Medicines Sans Frontiers', Dr. Peter and Dr. Berand
Liv and his party came to India to offer relief to the earthquake
afflicted victims. While touring they visited the Sanstha's relief
camp and were very impressed. They observed that the volunteers
worked without any shelter and thus enquired, "Where do you
stay during the night?"
"Right here in the open," replied the sadhus.
"But there are bugs on this farm land, how do you manage
to stay here?"
The sadhus replied, "We believe this service is given by
God, so God will look after us." The Dutch party became friends.
They offered tents, carpets, plastic and blankets for the volunteers.
"We will also provide you with medicines, and an inflatable
15,000 litre water tank so that you can serve better." This
unexpected God-given assistance proved invaluable.
Ramesh Trivedi: On 2-10-93 we went to provide food in Samudral
and some neighbouring villages. In the village of Tavisgadh a
miracle had occurred. The villagers told us that on 2-10-93 the
Swaminarayan sadhus and devotees saved us. We were trapped and
they freed us. However, the surprising thing was that on 2-10-93
no Swaminarayan sadhus or devotees had reached the village. Still
the surviving residents of the village including an old woman,
mentioning your name (Pramukh Swami's) said, 'This Maharaj and
his devotees saved me and brought me out of the rubble!' It was
a divine experience.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj asked that a special cremation rite be held
for those who had perished. With tears in their eyes, the villagers
of Samudral participated in the ceremony, in which holy water
from the Ganges and Akshar Deri (Gondal) had been specially brought.
This water was also sprinkled on the remains of the houses and
on all the cremation sites of those deceased. The whole town was
given lunch of sweet boondi, chappatis, rice, vegetables and daal;
and thus relieved of their ancestral debt - the pitru tarpan.
This incident will forever remain in their hearts.
Their family members were called to participate in this sacrament
and thereafter on the 12th and 13th day they were also given a
feast. A few days after this rite, families of the dead from seven
villages were assembled and for the redemption of their loved
ones a yagna was held and chapters from Garud Puran were read
out. The participants were pleased and appreciated Swamishri's
concern and understanding.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj appealed to the people of Gujarat to help
the relief operations in any way they could. He said:
"One shudders when one hears accounts of devastation from
relief workers. From the experience and observations of this organisation
and its volunteers it can be said that the consequences of the
earthquake in Maharashtra is so severe that whatever is done to
remedy the situation would not suffice. This relief work is not
merely the duty of the Government alone. Relief and rehabilitation
work should be contributed to by social, educational, industrial,
religious and other organisations. All should come forward and
offer assistance. Even individuals, small or great, should donate
for this cause. Those who cannot volunteer for the relief operations
should help those who are working there. If we fail to help such
a humanitarian cause then the spirit of humanism will die and
"In such catastrophic situations there should not be partisanship,
nor distinctions of caste or tribe, discriminations of rich and
poor or whatever barriers that divide or give cause to reluctance.
This disaster has hit our country, therefore as citizens of this
country it is our solemn duty to help and serve the unfortunate.
To help the ailing and poor is the fabric of our culture and country.
Even during emergency situations, to help an enemy who has surrendered
is the character and culture of our country. From ancient times
to our present modern age, this tradition of charity has been
an inheritance from our sages, sadhus and incarnations.
"The Government has suggested that we adopt two villages
and help the victims, but the Sanstha's relief work includes twelve
villages. In fact, the task is so herculean that merely supplying
the basic necessities of food and medicine is not enough. One
has to revive the livelihoods and homes of so many families who
have lost everything. It shatters our hearts to hear, from sadhus
and volunteers, reports of the damage wreaked by the earthquake.
"It behoves upon this organisation to see that even your
smallest contribution reaches an orphan or a victim in Latur and
"Charity is a meritorious deed and to help is our moral duty
and it would please God. He will bless you for this service. We
pray to God to inspire us, to give us strength and intelligence
to collectively help the victims overcome this disaster."
* * *
With the volunteers sent by Pramukh Swami Maharaj he also commanded
a number of sadhus of the movement to go and minister to the deceased
and living. The sadhus provided a warm shoulder and a sympathetic
heart which absorbed emotional anguish and hurt. The sadhus walking
over the rubble, comforting the grief-stricken, became symbols
of love, hope and strength. They sat with individuals and groups,
rejuvenating mauled lives and shattered dreams. The villagers
slowly rose out of their shock, took stock of the situation and
began to pick up the shattered remains of their lives.
* * *
Even as the villagers were wondering about the future, the Sanstha's
architects and engineers, coupled with social scientists were
designing an entire village, complete with houses, school, bazaar,
garden shops, hospital, Sanskardham, etc. With the happy agreement
of all concerned it was decided to rename Samudral, Swaminarayan
On 7-11-93, Siddheshwar Swami and other sadhus of the Sanstha
laid the foundation bricks of the new village. The bricks had
been specially sent from Gondal, Gujarat, by Pramukh Swami Maharaj
after first performing Vedic rites and sanctifying them.
And then on 9-11-93, with full Vedic ceremonies and chanting,
the rebuilding project was begun.
On Sunday, 2 July 1995. Swamishri visited the quake hit area.
The Sanstha had entirely rebuilt Samudraal village. Swamishri,
in the presence of major donors and helpers performed the opening
ceremony. He was driven to the first of two temples. There, he
installed the images of Akshar Purushottam Maharaj, Narsinh Bhagwan,
Rakmai Vithoba and the Swaminarayan guru parampara. In smaller
shrines were installed Shri Ganesh and Hanumanji. Over 9,000 villagers
had gathered for the ceremony. Swamishri was taken for a tour
of the village. Everything that an ideal village should possess
was provided; wide roads, hospital, village government, cremation
area, waterworks, temples, gardens, shops, etc. Swamishri was
pleased to see that the villagers were happy. He urged them to
follow a religious life and make Swaminarayan Nagar, as Samudraal
had been renamed, into a village that would be the envy of all
* * *
For three continuous years the monsoons had failed. Drinking water
had dried up along with the crops. Fields lay barren and cattle
were dying for lack of food. People were evacuating villages in
droves, abandoning land, house and livestock. A drought had hit
Gujarat in all its fury.
For several weeks now, talk of the devastating drought had hung
depressingingly in the air. Swamishri listened carefully to all
the talk, at times asking questions or making comments.
During Swamiji's travels in the villages and towns of Saurashtra
he saw the stark horrors of the drought. The scene at Ratanpura
Camp, where 500 calves were being looked after, was pathetic.
As Swamiji was being shown around the camp, the herd of calves
followed him. Swamishri enquired why. One of the organisers explained,
"The calves have not had anything to eat for the last three
days. They are following you because they think you've brought
Swamishri was moved to tears. He could not reply.
That evening Swamishri returned to Gondal. He called Jnanprasad
Swami and told him what had happened at Ratanpura Camp. "...I
couldn't bear to see the plight of those calves. Ring up Yogiswarup
Swami and tell him to send six truck loads of fodder to the camp
A man from the Gondal vicinity came to Swamiji, fell at his feet
and narrated his woeful story about the drought.
"...I'm ruined!" he said, "I have bullocks but
not a penny's worth of fodder to feed them with. I've been to
many places crying for help but I have been refused. Now I've
come to you. Please help me!"
Swamiji told him not to worry. "We have decided to save the
dying cattle. In a short while we will be opening cattle camps.
We'll look after your bullocks."
Swamishri's profound compassion reached out to the helpless cattle,
and their owners. Even during his daily routine one would sometimes
find him sitting quietly, thinking. When asked what he was thinking
about, he'd reply, "About alleviating the the cattle and
their owners of suffering."
First hand news of the drought was given to Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
The regions of Kutch and Saurashtra were hardest hit, suffering
the severest drought in the last 100 years. In response to the
plight of the farmers, Swamishri initially set up a cattle camp
in Dangara, near Rajkot, in September 1987.
Swamishri soon began personal visits to the drought affected areas
in Saurashtra. He visited many cattle camps organised by various
institutions in the wake of the calamity. Having seen the bizarre
picture of the drought, Swamishri's heart throbbed with compassion.
He decided that the Sanstha, too, must set up cattle camps that
were well-planned and properly managed. He called a meeting of
sadhus in Gondal. The places where the camps should be set up
was decided; they were Bochasan, Bhavanpura, Atladra and Sankari.
Swamishri commanded that the camps should be ready and opened
within ten days. Though it seemed an impossible deadline to meet,
Swamiji was insistent that the camps be ready. Cattle were dying
he said, there was no time to be lost.
He blessed the sadhus saying:
"...Presently, we find many cattle camps run by other institutions.
But they have many problems - water and fodder are not served
regularly to the cattle and they have no shelter from the cold
and heat. Without any shade the cold winter will cause an inflammation
of their bone joints and the summer heat, inspite of feeding fodder
will render them weak and fatigued. We want to set up cattle camps
where we can fulfil and provide these three accomodations as much
we can... We want to serve and help the farmers. We will not be
doing it for the sake of name and fame. God will help us if we
put in some efforts.
"The sadhus will have to sacrifice their time and energy.
Believe this to be our devotion and meditation to Shriji Maharaj.
Though the Government will give us only a subsidy of Rs. 3 per
head of cattle, we will spend Rs. 15 per every head of cattle
and make them strong and ready till the next year's farming season
For one and a half months 350 bullocks were looked after at the
Dangara camp. The sadhus there were aware of the problems and
difficulties in running a cattle camp. They suggested that 350
were more than enough to look after. But Swamiji did not agree.
He said, "I want to look after 100,000 head of cattle! It
isn't impossible. I'll tell 300 sadhus to join in this service.
We just can't sit and watch thousands of cattle die. Just look
at their suffering!"
Swamiji's spirit to serve and save the dying cattle was colossal.
When he heard that the state Government had decided not to subsidise
the cattle camps in the districts of Surat and Kheda he said to
Ishwaracharan Swami, "Don't worry about not getting the subsidy.
We shall still accept and look after the cattle in our camps.
It doesn't matter if we have to bear the extra cost."
A beehive of activity began.Three hundred sadhus and hundreds
of youths and devotees started a round the clock effort to construct
the camps. Many of the sadhus were funneled into various other
services like gathering good fodder, surveying drought-hit villages
to decide which farmers were most affected and needed help, making
arrangements for transporting cattle to the camps, organising
drives for donations in towns and cities... A new chapter had
unfolded. Swamishri's words had mobilised the entire Sanstha to
render a yeoman service to society.
Volunteers were enrolled for running the four camps. The student
sadhus in Amdavad and Sarangpur dropped their studies temporarily
and started a drive for donations in the towns and cities of Gujarat.
Thousands of devotees, youths and members of the Bal-Mandal too,
joined in this seva to save thousands of dying cattle. The cattle
camps were inaugurated according to Swamishri's deadline on 17-10-88.
After hearing reports of the severity of the drought from sadhus
travelling in villages, Swamishri resolved to start a sanctuary
for the afflicted cattle. Swamiji's prudence in opening the camps
in Charotar and Valsad District turned out to be highly economical
and advantageous. There was an abundance of water and fodder in
these areas, bringing costs down drastically.
Prior to opening the cattle camps Swamiji had instructed the sadhus
to find out the average daily food requirements for a single head
of cattle, the types of fodder and nourishment for the different
breeds, where good quality fodder could be obtained, its cost...
Swamishri wished that every animal that arrived in the camp be
nourished not only to good health but be made strong and robust,
ready for tilling the land when sent back home.
The cattle were generously nourished on fresh corn, juvar, fresh
bajri and lajko - a type of grass. Several times a day in large
portions, a total of 18 kgs. of food was given to every head of
cattle. Later, with instructions from Swamishri, it was increased
to 21 kgs. All the four camps had a minimum 15 days stock of fodder.
The owners of the cattle were also taken to the camps. The farmers
were provided with food and shelter. Visits by a doctor, barber,
shoemaker and a tailor were arranged specially for them - all
free of cost. Toiletries were provided free of charge and postal
services were arranged for them. These facilities were provided
so that no need for them to leave the camp would arise, thus enabling
them to offer maximum attention and service to the cattle.
The then Governor of Gujarat R.K. Trivedi praised the work by
saying, "It has been my good fortune that I have worked for
almost two years in Chhapaiya, the birthplace of Lord Swaminarayan.
Thirty-five years have passed since then and I did not realise
that His message was still ringing throughout India, or that great
men like Pramukh Swami Maharaj were spreading that message across
"After coming into Gujarat to work, I've tried to get acquainted
with the benevolent work of the Sanstha. I thoroughly inspected
the Bochasan Cattle Camp, and I can say with pride that the efficiency
and integration I saw there has not been matched by any of the
other charity organizations. The main reason behind this can only
be the love and care of the sadhus. They not only involved themselves
in menial tasks, but they made it their duty to come closer to
the cattle owners and even the animals themselves. Not a single
fault can be found. Even after three years of famine, Gujarat's
livestock has been saved, and all credit must go to organizations
like this. So I'd like to express, on behalf of the State, my
dearest gratitude and congratulations."
Seventy year old Megha Bapa from Thana Pipali, Junagadh district,
a peppy old man, inspite of his age served twelve hours daily.
When asked about how he was being looked after, Meghabhai's eyes
glistened with tears. After a while he said, "Even my sons
have not looked after me with such love and care. If I hadn't
come here my bullocks would have died. I had no money left to
look after my cattle."
"Do you ever get tried or bored after serving such long hours?"
Meghabhai was asked.
His eyes moistened again, "Tired? Never! How can you get
tired or bored while serving! If Swami is never bored of his mammoth
work then why should I in my small services!"
The drought brought Bhurabhai to the Bochasan cattle camp. He
brought with him a companion worth Rs. 200 - opium! During the
next few days the sadhus found out about the seriousness of his
addiction. They asked him to give it up. Bhurabhai refused. He
was adamant. His affinity for opium was so strong that he saw
it as impossible. To him it was his life-breath. The tables turned
on the arrival of Pramukh Swami Maharaj to the camp. An assembly
was held. Swamishri talked emphatically on the dangers and futility
of addictions. When he finished blessing the assembly, several
farmers came forward with outstretched hands to take a pledge
Bhurabhai was one of them! Swamishri's words had hit him hard.
Swami placed his loving hand on his head and sympathised with
him. Bhurabhai gave up his addiction and resolved never to take
opium again. He took the remaining opium and buried it deep in
At the age of 75 a change in direction had been ushered into his
life. For the next three days Bhurabhai went through painful withdrawal
symptoms. His entire body screamed with aches and pain. He was
restless all day and all night. The doctors advised him to give
it up gradually. But Bhurabhai was firm. He fought it off with
a soldier's spirit. He boldly said, "I shall not defile my
mouth with opium!" And so on the fourth day Bhurabhai emerged
* * *
Four devotees from Sangavadar went to Gondal for darshan. When
they saw that Swamiji was in Gondal they were overjoyed. Swamishri
asked, "How is everything?"
"Swami, things are miserable because of this monstrous drought.
But on the other hand we feel reluctant to send the cattle to
our cattle camps!"
"Why is that?" Swami asked.
"Swami, how can we burden the temple by sending the bullocks
to our cattle camps!"
The devotees had always served and given their yearly tithes to
the temple. And now they couldn't allow themselves to be served
by the temple. They felt it was unfair to receive free help from
Swamishri explained, "Tell me, who has provided the things
we have in this temple? It is you, the devotees. You have all
sacrificed and donated a lot of things for the sake of Thakorji
and now that you are in need, we are helping you. We are giving
you what you have given us! There's no reason for you to hesitate.
Send your bullocks to our camp in Bochasan."
* * *
Whenever he was invited to open camps he never made any delays.
To inaugurate a cattle camp run by Chhotubhai Ajmera in Gondal,
Swamishri left Bochasan one day earlier than scheduled. He said
if he delayed it by a day, it would mean one more day of suffering
for the cattle. Chhotubhai was informed of his coming. After a
tiring six-hour journey Swamishri arrived at Gondal temple. He
opened the camp that afternoon.
During the Sunday meeting in Gondal, Swamiji said, "...One
just can't bear to see the ravages of this drought... Just listening
to the suffering gives one the shivers... The sadhus have taken
snaps of the devastating drought - you just can't bear to see
His only objective was to save the famished bullocks and make
them ready for farming before the monsoon arrived the following
year. This was only possible through personal care.
Festivals were scaled down tremendously and the money that would
have been spent was funneled into the drought relief. The occasion
of Sharad Purnima celebration in Gondal was cancelled and instead
an assembly was held in Bochasan. Swamiji blessed the devotees
saying "In the wake of this terrible drought I request those
of you who can, to grow juvar and fodder on your farms for the
dying cattle. It is a time when we should share our bread, give
half of if for the sake of our animals. God will be pleased. We
humans can migrate or leave the drought stricken area and find
food elsewhere but the dumb animals cannot. They are at our mercy
and we must help them as much as we can. Sow whatever is needful
for your livelihood and plant fodder in the remaining part of
* * *
While in Sarangpur a devotee from Vedavadar told Swamiji, "Our
volunteers have accepted to look after the famished cattle of
people who had opposed our sadhus while preaching in our village!"
Swamishri replied, "If they couldn't leave their evil ways,
then why should we forfeit our goodness! God will show them the
path of goodness."
A Sai Satsang Mandal in Bombay had collected Rs. 100,000 by singing
bhajans in trains. They came to offer the donation to Swamishri.
He however told the leader to give their donations to the Gadhada
Panjrapol. The money was needed there.
He cared also for the local sanctuaries in Gadhada, Botad, Amreli,
Raapar, Mandvi, Jamnagar... Despite the heavy cost of running
the Sanstha's camps Swamishri even donated100,000 sheafs of fodder
to the sanctuaries in Gadhada and Amreli.
The students staying at APC in Vidyanagar decided to donate money.
To save up many of them stopped having breakfast, some saved by
not spending money on ironing their clothes, many walked to college
and donated their transport fares and some gave up their extravagant
habits and donated the money. They collected a sum of Rs. 46,000.
Many students donated money by sacrificing their school trips.
Children too, joined in by sacrificing firecrackers for Diwali
and not flying kites on January 14, the kite festival. Devotees
reduced their daily requirements and saved up for the dying cattle.
Sadhus visited different schools and colleges and appealed to
the teachers and students to collect donations for the cattle
camps. As more and more institutions and people in general became
aware of Swamishri's work, they started donating for the good
Swamishri took personal interest in the running of the camps.
He visited the camps at least three times during the first six
months. This charged the spirits of the volunteers and farmers
In a meeting in Bochasan a decision was made to purchase and distribute
800,000 kgs. of grains. Swamishri said, "If we need to buy
another 20,000 - 30,000 kgs of grains, then do so. I shall travel
through towns and villages and appeal for donations."
* * *
Relief was also sent to the cattle owners who had no harvest during
the last three years. An almshouse in Dangara and a centre for
buttermilk in Bhadra were initially opened.
Buttermilk was to be distributed to a proposed 70,000 people daily,
but it had shot up to 100,000. Swamishri wrote a letter to the
sadhus saying, "Don't worry. If more and more people find
relief from drinking buttermilk then don't hesitate to open more
To Devcharan Swami, he said, "I'd like you and some teachers
to go to the homes of students studying in our Gurukul school
in Gondal, and Bhadra High School. Find out which parents are
unable to make ends meet and then give back their childrens' school
fees. And don't take any fees for the next year either. Provide
them with the necessary text books and exercise books at our cost.
If their parents are short of grains, make arrangements for that
too! Don't worry about the cost! We must help them in their hour
To Jnanprasad Swami, Swamiji said: "Sowing time has arrived
for the farmers. Those who don't have the means to buy seeds and
fertiliser should be provided with them."
A few days before Swamiji left on a preaching tour abroad he insisted,
"...Now with the monsoons approaching, the farmers will be
getting impatient to take their bullocks home. Make sure that
we provide two months of fodder to those who don't have the means
to look after their cattle. And if a farmer's bullock has died
in our camp then give him another instead..."
People who were given buttermilk said, "Pramukh Swami has
done a wonderful service to us. When we have only a little water
to drink, Pramukh Swami bought water and provided us with buttermilk...
If Swamiji hadn't provided us with the buttermilk then we would
have been blinded by the heat and our daily diet of chhapatti
and hot red chillies...Pramukh Swami treats everyone equally.
He provides protein biscuits in equal amounts to all, whether
they be brahmin, harijan or muslim.
Everyday, a total of 195 centres served buttermilk to 150,000
people. The hardest districts, where the maximum distribution
was made were Jamnagar, Junagadh and Rajkot.
Grains were distributed by volunteer devotees in 232 villages.
Before the project commenced, the volunteers made a register of
families severely affected by the drought in every village. Once
this was ready, Uttamcharan Swami and Vimaldarshan Swami, with
a team of sadhus and volunteers, distributed grains covering 14-15
villages everyday. At night the team would return exhausted from
the day's heat and travelling. The following day they would start
again covering more villages. They worked for days, distributing
grains to the hundreds of poor families in the villages they visited.
The distribution was personally done by the sadhus and volunteers
in every village.
* * *
The sadhus went to the village of Giri, Jamnagar district. They
gathered the predominantly Rajput - the warrior class - population
at the local school. The sadhus urged them to come forward and
take the grains. But no one moved. The village had been under
the clutches of the drought for the last few years. They all needed
grains. A Rajput then said, "Swami, we will not take the
grains! We Rajputs have never begged or taken another's grain
in our whole life. And you being sadhus - God's people - we can't
take it from you!" So saying the Rajput broke down in tears.
"But this is God's prasad!" the sadhus explained. Inspite
of a lot of pressing, the people didn't take the grains. Eventually
their young children were given the grains. The Rajputs felt embarassed.
They allowed their children to take the grains under the condition
of returning them to the sadhus in the future.
The sadhus, travelling one hot afternoon, arrived at a village
called Toda. They met a boy who was student at the Gurukul in
"What are you doing here?" the sadhus asked.
The twelve year old boy told his tale with tears in his eyes.
"This morning I was injured at a Government labour camp.
I had no money for dressing my wounds so I applied turmeric powder...
Tomorrow, this young boy will go to work in my place." The
sadhus looked at the boy next to him. He was only seven years
old. "While my mother digs the ground this boy will carry
and dump the earth away. Then we'll get paid at the end of the
day, from which we'll buy grains for food." He said he was
leaving school, because he had no money for his fees. The sadhus
assured him that he would be exempted from all fees and be provided
with free meals, living accommodation and text books. The sadhus
left, giving him a share of grain.
Before the four cattle camps were opened, Swamishri had already
donated hundreds of tons of fodder to many Panjrapols, Gaushalas
and cattle camps. Amreli and Gadhada each received 100,000 sheafs
of fodder, 500,000 sheafs were given to a Gaushala in Raapar in
Kutch. Fodder was also donated to many farmers in 60 villages
in the districts of Jamnagar, Amreli and Bhavnagar.