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Mul Akshar Murti Gunatitanand Swami concluded his mortal existence at 12.40 a.m. in 1867 (Vikram Samvat 1923 Aso sud 12) in Gondal. Next morning, Swami's mortal body was placed in a palanquin and taken to the outskirts for the crematory rites. His asthi (bone relics) were placed in a copper urn and buried in the ground. To commemorate the place of cremation, Abhaysinh Darbar of Ganod, a disciple of Gunatitanand Swami, built a beautiful shrine called Akshar Deri. Balmukund Swami and other disciples of Gunatitanand Swami consecrated the carved black stone charanarvind of Bhagwan Swaminarayan in the shrine. Thousands of devotees come for darshan and pray for the fulfillment of their wishes (manta). Several years later when the charanarvind wore out, Balmukund Swami of Junagadh had another pair prepared from the sacred stone in Panchala on which Bhagwan Swaminarayan had bathed a number of times. Today, one finds the same charanarvind in Akshar Deri.

History of Akshar Mandir, Gondal
In 1927 (Samvat 1983) the mahant of Junagadh, Narayandas Swami, who was a disciple of Balmukunddas Swami, desired to build a one-shikhar mandir but was refused permission to do so from the Acharya and Kothari of Vartal. At that time Narayandas Swami said, "In future a sadhu will build a supreme three-shikhar mandir. Let them say no now but the three-shikhar mandir will be built and the murtis of Swami and Shriji will be installed."

Once, Gunatitanand Swami appeared in his divine form to Narayanji Maharaj of Virsad and said, "I would like a three-shikhar mandir to be built in Gondal. Tell your disciples to take a pledge to help build the mandir." Then Narayanji Maharaj went to Gondal with his disciples, Shankarbhai Amin (Virsad), Haribhai Amin (Virsad), Bhikhabhai Shukla (Jhadeshvar), etc. Here they met Maharaja Bhagvatsinhji of Gondal and requested him for the farm in which Akshar Deri was located to build a mandir. The Maharaja agreed to give the land for a nominal Rs. 25,000 under the conditions that Akshar Deri, the memorial shrine, be kept intact, a three-shikhar mandir be built at a cost of one million rupees and within three years. Then Narayanji Maharaj and Haribhai Amin thought that only Shastriji Maharaj could do this so they went to meet him in Sarangpur. Haribhai Amin asked Shastriji Maharaj to help them build a mandir on Akshar Deri. Shastriji Maharaj said that if they gave the land free of cost to him then he would build a three-shikhar mandir. Narayanji Maharaj and Haribhai Amin agreed and in 1932 (Samvat 1988 Posh sud 10) Shastriji Maharaj performed the foundation-stone laying ceremony and started the excavation work for the pillars of the mandir. Shastriji Maharaj had the mandir plans drawn by Vajeshankar Mistry of Vadhwan. During the excavation a silver elephant with a chariot was found. Shastriji Maharaj said, "In future there will be decorative elephants in front of the mandir and devotees will flock for darshan in large numbers. The mahapuja that people will pledge here will fulfill their desires. This is an auspicious occurrence and in future there will be no shortage of resources in Akshar Deri."

Several sadhus and devotees were engaged in the construction work and other services. Once the sadhus had gone to Sarangpur to celebrate a festival and Mohan Bhagat and Mulji Bhagat had stayed behind to look after the cows and the land. One night when Mohan Bhagat was about to retire to sleep by the Akshar Deri, he saw four intruders enter a papaiya grove nearby. They started cutting the papaiya trees and said, "Let's cut him to pieces so that no one will come here again." On hearing this Mohan Bhagat felt that the intruders were definitely going to do something to him. So he got up and, placing his head on the charanarvind in Akshar Deri, prayed, "O Maharaj, O Swami, this time I will stay alive only if you save me. So please protect me!" At this, Gunatitanand Swami appeared to Mohan Bhagat and reassured him by placing his hand on his head, "Bhagat! why are you afraid? Do you believe that you are alone? In this place I am always present with Maharaj." Then Gunatitanand Swami told Mohan Bhagat to look at the tamarind tree nearby. To his surprise he saw the illustrious form of Shriji Maharaj and Gunatitanand Swami on every leaf of the tree. With this divine darshan Mohan Bhagat realised that Maharaj and Swami was present with all their powers in every part of the lonely and deserted land. He then got up bravely from his bed and roared at the intruders, "Hey, why you have entered the grove. Get out!" Mohan Bhagat's thunderous cry scared the intruders, who then fled on their heels. In this way Gunatitanand Swami appeared to Mohan Bhagat in Akshar Deri and protected him.

Despite financial hardships Shastriji Maharaj completed the mandir in two years and performed a three-day yagna for the murti-pratishtha ceremony. On 23-5-1934 (Samvat 1990 on Vaishakh sud 10) Shastriji Maharaj consecrated the murtis of Akshar Purushottam Maharaj in the central shrine. When Shastriji Maharaj held the mirror before the murtis it cracked. Everyone was convinced of the divine power of Shastriji Maharaj and that Maharaj and Swami had been invoked in the murtis. Yogiji Maharaj was appointed as the Mahant of Akshar Mandir. For years Yogiji Maharaj served the deities and the devotees who visited Gondal. He always chanted the dhun in Akshar Deri, sometimes for an hour praying for the development of Satsang and well-being of devotees.

Shastriji Maharaj used to say that like the mandir in Shrinathji, where thal worth Rs. 700 is offered, here too, the deities will be offered thal worth more than Rs. 700. Yogiji Maharaj used to say, "This place has been sanctified by Gunatitanand Swami. By sitting and having darshan here one experiences peace. One becomes free of bad thoughts, becomes happy and one's wishes are fulfilled."

Ghanshyam Maharaj
The murti of Ghanshyam Maharaj was sculpted under the guidance of Shastriji Maharaj who stayed for one month in Jaipur. The murti has been made according to the size of Shriji Maharaj (64.25 tasu) and was installed by Shastriji Maharaj two years later in 1936 (Samvat 1992 Vaishakh sud 10).

Dham, Dhami and Mukta
The murtis of Dham (Gunatitanand Swami), Dhami (Shriji Maharaj) and Mukta (Gopalanand Swami) were also prepared by Shastriji Maharaj in Jaipur while the murti of Ghanshyam Maharaj was being made. The three murtis were installed by Shastriji Maharaj in the first shrine in Gondal.

Later, an assembly hall, kitchen hall and Akshar Ghat were built by the bank of the holy river Gondali.

In 1975 Pramukh Swami Maharaj inaugurated the Yogi Smruti Mandir, built over the site where Yogiji Maharaj was cremated. In 1979 Swamishri inaugurated the impressive red-stone gateway of Akshar Mandir.

Today the glory of Akshar Deri has increased immensely. Devotees and pilgrims come in multitudes for darshan and to perform pradakshina in Akshar Deri. Many come to perform pradakshinas and offer mahapujas to seek the fulfillment of their desires, freedom from disease and peace of mind. And by virtue of the glory of Gunatitanand Swami their desires are fulfilled.


© 2003, Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, Swaminarayan Aksharpith