Volunteers Felicitation Assembly at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar

18 Jan. 2023, Wednesday, Ahmedabad, India

Appreciation Assembly at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar

17 Jan. 2023, Tuesday, Ahmedabad, India

Grand Finale: ‘We Will Not Forget You’ Pramukh Swami Maharaj Centenary Celebrations

15 Jan. 2023, Sunday, Ahmedabad, India

His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj was given a grand devotional tribute in the closing ceremony of the Pramukh Swami Maharaj Centenary Celebrations in the divine presence of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj.

In the month-long festival, over 12.1 million people visited the exhibitions and attractions at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar and were inspired to live better lives. The Nagar hosted a variety of exhibitions, attractions, seminars, films and shows, each imparting a unique lesson from the inspiring life of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Millions watched the evening assemblies held every day for the past month live, whether at the Nagar or over webcast, and learned about Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and work from speeches given by senior swamis and dignitaries from around the world. Thousands gained inspiration from Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life through professional and academic conferences held at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar.

A blood donation drive was also organized over the month-long festival, during which over 5.6 million cc of blood was donated. Hundreds of thousands of people were impressed and humbled by the ornate main gate, Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s 30-foot sculpted image, the replica of Delhi Akshardham Mandir, the enchanting glow garden, the light and sound show, the Women’s Empowerment Pavilion and other exhibitions. After visiting the exhibitions, many were inspired to give up addictions and strive for family harmony. After watching the shows at the Bal Nagari, 250,000 children resolved to respect their parents, study sincerely, and become ideal citizens of the world. All who visited were in awe of the 45 departments and 80,000 volunteers inspired by Mahant Swami Maharaj who made Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar possible.

Grand Finale Programme

The Grand Finale Ceremony of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Centenary Celebrations, titled, ‘We Will Not Forget You’ commenced at 5.00pm. As hundred of thousands of devotees from around the world assembled, BAPS bands played to welcome them. The assembly began with the singing of devotional hymns followed by the grand entrance of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj on a decorated chariot. Youths danced on stage to welcome Mahant Swami Maharaj.

The first part of the assembly explained how people will not be able to forget Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Selected devotees shared their personal experiences with Pramukh Swami Maharaj and how they will never be able to forget him for what he has done for them and their family. Each reiterated the point that Pramukh Swami Maharaj is always with them.

Senior BAPS swami Viveksagardas Swami then spoke about Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and the physical and mental sacrifices he made for everyone in society. Pramukh Swami Maharaj gave everyone knowledge, peace and stability. His travels were for the joy and betterment of others.

Thereafter, testimonials of visitors to Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar were shown who spoke about their unforgettable memories of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

The next part of the assembly focused on how society will not be able to forget Pramukh Swami Maharaj and his work. Abu Dhabi Mandir project head Brahmaviharidas Swami spoke about Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s construction of temples and their global footprint. After a video about the significance of BAPS temples, senior BAPS swami and mahant of Gandhinagar Akshardham Anandswarupdas Swami explained how Pramukh Swami Maharaj changed society’s landscape through festivals. He motivated thousands of selfless volunteers, encouraged skill development, and inspired positive change, transforming society through celebrations. A video introduced the festivals Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired and especially the impact of Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar on society.

The final part of the grand finale programme focused on how even the future will not be able to forget Pramukh Swami Maharaj.  His spirituality was beyond the boundaries of time. Each senior swami of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha then spoke about a quality of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Ghanshyamcharandas Swami began with a prayer after which Tyagvallabhdas Swami spoke about Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and his gurus. Bhaktipriyadas Swami described Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s saintliness, while Swayamprakashdas Swami (Doctor Swami) illustrated how Pramukh Swami Maharaj saw everyone equally. Ishwarcharandas Swami then spoke about Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s endearing humility.

Children then gathered on stage to discuss how, despite never meeting Pramukh Swami Maharaj, they found Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Mahant Swami Maharaj. After a powerful video introducing Mahant Swami Maharaj through testimonials, Mahant Swami Maharaj blessed the gathered assembly. He said, ”We saw in today’s assembly that Pramukh Swami Maharaj had cared for everyone. Thus, everyone felt that he is mine. That is why none can ever forget him, not today and not thousands of years hence.

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj had no sense of ego. Just as Pramukh Swami Maharaj never forgot his gurus, similarly we should always remember Pramukh Swami Maharaj. We were in Bamangam. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was traversing rugged terrain and I felt why is he taking so much strain on his body. People will understand if he doesn’t. Immediately, Pramukh Swami Maharaj turned to me and said, ‘Our Gurus have done this, so we should, too.’

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj had God in every pore. He was Aksharbrahma. He has not and will not ever leave from this Earth. He is with us today and will forever remain with us.

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s centenary was celebrated in a grand and divine way. By Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s grace, the festival has been completed without a hitch. By celebrating this festival, we offered our devotion to our guru. We should never forget this. This festival was not celebrated to show anyone or increase our glory. The true benefit of this festival is for our life to become more like Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s. He had virtues of service, resoluteness in spiritual observances, unity and affection. May we imbibe the same.

“Whoever visited this festival, supported it or even appreciated it from afar, may God bless them. And the service and sacrifice of the volunteers and swamis cannot be forgotten. They have endured so many hardships. Without the volunteers, this would not have been possible. In such difficult circumstances, they keep courage, and without looking at day or night, served humbly. Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Gunatitanand Swami, Pramukh Swami Maharaj and I have been very, very pleased with their service.”

Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s centennial celebrations were officially concluded with a mass maha-arti, a colourful dance by youths and fireworks.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar: International Festival of Inspirations

Many were inspired to transform their lives after visiting Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar over the last month.

De-addiction:

Anandbhai Patni

Anandbhai Patni works as a reporter for a news channel. On 21 December, he visited the Bal Nagari at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar with his family. In the Bal Nagari, his son resolved to bow to his parents every day. He received the children’s book “Let’s Become Ideal”. From the very next day, his son started following his resolutions to be an ideal child.

As he was reading the book, he came across a page about addictions. He showed it to his father and inspired his father to give up his addiction. Not only that, but the next day, Anandbhai’s child took the book to school and showed it to his fellow students and teachers and talked about his new resolutions and the shows at the Bal Nagari. On 22 December, Anandbhai returned to the Bal Nagari in the evening and took live video coverage of the festival.

Maheshbhai Gaveriya (25 years old)

Maheshbhai lives in Dhandhuka and has a wood-cutting business. He was addicted to chewing tobacco (gutka). He was inspired by a devotee, Saumilbhai Chauhan, to serve at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar, even though it was difficult for him to take leave from his business. At the Nagar, he volunteered for a week in the decoration department. Overwhelmed by the Nagar, and after serving alongside devotees and swamis, Maheshbhai gave up his addiction and vowed to live an addiction-free life.

Ghar Sabha:

Rajdan Gadhvi

“Despite being the guru of such a large organization, Pramukh Swami Maharaj looked after the needs and paid attention to the concerns, worries and anxieties of every person. After watching the “Broken Hearts, Broken Homes” show, I believe that as the head of the house, if I learn to understand my family members, then our family life will be transformed. We must regularly do ghar sabhas [home assemblies] and meet together as a family. I have taken this resolution today.”

Letting Go of Anger

Laxmanbhai Parmar, Sarkhej

“Every performance and exhibition here at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar is outstanding. I don’t have an addition, but the children spoke to me about letting go of my anger. Usually, elders teach the young. But here, the children teach everyone. After coming to the Nagar, I have resolved never to lose my temper with anyone again.”

Eating Together

Sandhyaben Sunilbhai Sahadi, Surat

“Seeing so many people I know going to Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar, I also decided to visit. I enjoyed the shows and exhibitions and learned about the importance of family unity. I have resolved to make sure my family eats together every day.”

Sant Kirtan Aradhana

13 Jan. 2023, Friday, Ahmedabad, India

BAPS swamis from around the world together with musical luminaries such as Manhar Uhdas performed a series of devotional hymns celebrating Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s divine life and work before a mesmerised audience of tens of thousands at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar on 13 January 2023. The beautiful performance began at 4.30pm in the open-air theatre, ‘Narayan Sabha Gruh’.

His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj was also joined by various dignitaries who paid homage to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life of pristine devotion to God and work of selfless service to humanity.

Honourable Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan said, “I bow at the holy feet of Mahant Swami Maharaj, who guides devotees to their spiritual liberation. I am awestruck by the extraordinary beauty, magnificence and serenity of this 600-acre Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar. A large number of Police officers would have to be deployed to maintain law and order if a political function was organised at this scale. However, when I see the discipline in this complex, I feel the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

“I feel that Pramukh Swami Maharaj incarnated on Earth to establish Dharma, as it has been espoused in the Bhagavad Gita. I was fortunate to have been blessed by Pramukh Swami Maharaj once. He had a spiritual aura.

“Hindu scriptures reveal three paths to God-realization – the path of knowledge, the path of devotion, and the path of action. Shankaracharya, Maharshi Arvind and Swami Vivekanand were followers of the path of knowledge. Those who follow the path of devotion have a personal relationship with God. Like Meera and Hanuman, those who follow the path of devotion see value only in God and nothing else. The path of action is to religiously uphold one’s duty through which one can attain God. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a perfect amalgamation of the paths of knowledge, devotion and action. 24 hours a day, he served the people. I bow to his feet and seek inspiration from him.”

Vivek Bhatt, Channel Head and Editor in Chief of Gujarat First, said, “Our staff is dedicated to broadcasting this festival and Mahant Swami Maharaj’s puja every morning. In fact, we have more staff present for the morning Puja Darshan than needed because they want to be there for Darshan.

“When I was first blessed by Pramukh Swami Maharaj 12 years ago, I felt that God was present in him. He awakened and strengthened my faith in God and our spiritual and cultural heritage, and inspired us to spread this positive knowledge through our media house.

“Even our staff deputed to the festival ground changed for the better. Our reporters have given up their addictions, and they are now inspired to think about how to use the media to promote positive values.

“Because of its scope, this festival was a huge challenge for us. However, for the first time in my career, I did not experience the slightest of stress. I believe that this is only because we were blessed by Mahant Swami Maharaj. Only BAPS can organize and run an event of this scale and we are grateful for the opportunity to cover this.”

Kamlesh Gandhi, Chairman and Managing Director of MAS Financial Services, said, “The magnitude of the Pramukh Swami Maharaj Centenary Celebrations cannot be expressed in words. The volunteerism, sense of fraternity and discipline of the volunteers is extraordinary. So many people have been inspired to make their lives better after seeing the exhibitions here depicting the life of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

“This festival can be a case study for many management students. Apart from management lessons, one can feel that this festival is being carried out with divine intervention. I learned that anything can be achieved with hard work and prayer. I again express my gratitude for giving me an opportunity to witness this festival as it has inspired me to make my life better.”

Amish Devgan, Managing Editor of News18 India, said, “Over the past 30 days, I have developed immense respect for the BAPS volunteers who have managed the flow of millions of visitors so efficiently without any chaos. My generation believes in the importance of staying connected to our culture. Years ago, Swami Vivekanand represented Hinduism, and today, this is being done by BAPS.

“If one wants to see ideal management, skills and growth, one should see this festival of inspiration on YouTube. The creation of this 600-acre festival ground is incredible, wonderful and unimaginable for any ordinary person.

“Of the millions of people who have visited this Nagar, tens of thousands have given up addictions, which is very important in today’s world. Ten years from now, all of us will see the impact of this. You all are essentially the role models in your respective fields. Irrespective of your professions, you have come here to serve. This inspiration comes from your Guru who has inspired so many.

“I went to the BAPS mandir under construction in Abu Dhabi and was amazed to learn that in the desert sands underneath the mandir was a massive bedrock that will anchor the mandir foundations. This is an example of divine providence that one sees in the work of BAPS.

“BAPS mandirs are found all over the world, which is an aspect of our culture that spreads its positive vibrations to inspire people around the world.”

Devendra Bhatnagar, State Editor of Divya Bhaskar Gujarat, shared, “Today, with this festival, we have been graced with a ‘cultural Maha Kumbh’ in Ahmedabad. To sum it up in one word, it is ‘impossible’. It seems impossible to have so much discipline while so many thousands of people are walking around the festival grounds. The life-transformations that have occurred here need to be publicised. I pledge that Divya Bhaskar will do this. It is no small feat that people are able to give up their addictions by coming here, but it is because faith and spirituality are manifest here. This is a matter of experience, so I request others to share their stories of life-transformations for us to publicise so that they may serve as examples of this festival’s positive impact.”

In his concluding blessings to the assembly, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “This is the 30th day of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Centenary Celebrations. Everyone had so much enthusiasm and joy to celebrate this festival that the 30 days flew by. Over the last month, swamis and dignitaries from around the world visited and unceasingly shared with us the divine virtues of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Hearing all of this, everyone realized that Pramukh Swami Maharaj had reached all corners of the world and found a place in the hearts of everyone, great and small. Everyone who visited the celebrations realized this.

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj has made everyone happy. No one can say that Pramukh Swami Maharaj did not please me. He mixed with us so much that we were unable to understand his true greatness. In the time of Yogiji Maharaj and afterwards, we have seen that his life was absolutely pure, accommodating, natural and simple, without an iota of conceit or pretence. To uphold all of these virtues and do such work so naturally is very difficult.

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Centenary Celebrations have truly been celebrated in a grand way. Everyone is convinced of this. Everyone who visits leaves delighted. May Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Gunatitanand Swami grant happiness and liberation to all who have visited this festival. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s maxim was ‘In the joy of others lies our own.’ His life was such that we could not fully understand its greatness, and yet great things happened. When we look back, we would realize what great work has been accomplished. This was Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life. We all experienced it, relished it, and through it, we traversed our miseries to become blissful.”

BAPS Australia and New Zealand Women’s Wing Program ‘Importance of Good Company’

13 Jan. 2023, Friday, Ahmedabad, India

Shashvat Sukh Ka Marg: Path to Eternal Happiness

10 Jan. 2023, Tuesday, Ahmedabad, India

Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s efforts for women’s empowerment

12 Jan. 2023, Thursday, Ahmedabad, India

On 12 January 2023, women dignitaries in the Women’s Empowerment Hall lauded Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s efforts in supporting women’s empowerment through his water conservation efforts, his encouragement of women leadership and his modeling of spiritual virtues.

Ms. Truptiben Jain, Director, Naireeta Services, Ahmedabad, addressed the issue of rising water scarcity, saying, “Many cities in India and around the world are running out of drinking water. Some cities are flooded in the monsoon but suffer from drought in the summer because of inefficient water management. Years ago, Pramukh Swami Maharaj took steps to address the water crisis by installing more than 5,000 handpumps in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, planting lakhs of trees, constructing check dams, etc. He worked tirelessly to conserve water, making it available for people and taking care of the environment. He was foresighted. I have learned a lot about Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s work and I still feel that it is the tip of the iceberg.

“Importantly, Pramukh Swami Maharaj saw the connection between water management and women’s empowerment, working tirelessly for both causes. We see the outcome of this in BAPS’s environmentally friendly management of Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar along with the primacy of women in the Nagar’s smooth functioning.

“My organization works to recharge groundwater in 12 Indian states, helping over 150,000 farmers. BAPS’s work inspires me to go beyond what I am doing. I have learned the true meaning of scaling up from Pramukh Swami Maharaj, as he felt the entire world was his family. I offer my sincerest reverence to him for the extensive work he has done. The 80,000 volunteers belonging to different professions and socio-economic classes coming together to selflessly serve here overwhelms me. I would like to become a part of BAPS to be able to serve on a larger scale.”

Dr Sandhya Purecha, Bharatanatyam Guru, Sanskrit Scholar and Chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, said, “Women are the cultivators of not only the home and society, but also the nation and the entire world. The Pramukh Swami Maharaj centenary celebrations delighted me because I see the prominence women have in BAPS. I am overwhelmed by seeing what Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Pramukh Swami Maharaj have done for the empowerment of women.”

Speaking about India’s G20 summit presidency, she said “As we know, India currently holds the G20 summit presidency. I am honoured to be the chairperson of the W20, an official G20 engagement group that ensures the G20 mainstreams gender considerations and translates them into policy commitments from leaders. Themes such as women’s self-sufficiency and women’s empowerment shown in Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar’s Women Empowerment Exhibition Hall are similar to the themes that will be discussed in the W20 meetings. As a tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj for his tireless efforts in empowering women, I would like to offer a self-written verse, ‘Women create the world, sustain it as well as protect it, women are the roots of the world.’

Dr. Jagdish Kaur, Regional Adviser for Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for South East Asia, New Delhi, said, “This has been an amazing experience. It is unfathomable how this celebration has been organized and managed by thousands of volunteers over the period of one month. I can see the deep commitment, compassion and hard work that has gone into this festival, which is possible only with the blessing of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”

Ms. Seema Mohile, Former MLA (Akota) and Former Deputy Mayor of Vadodara said, “The blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj mean a lot to people. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Centenary Celebrations are amazing. May these values spread all over India and may his blessings always be with the people of our country.”

Ms. Bhakti Dave, BAPS Women’s Wing, spoke about ‘Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s elevated spiritual state (Brahmic State)’. She expressed, “Life is a constant struggle and is full of uncertainty. Everyone experiences waves of success and failure as well as honour and dishonour. In the midst of all of this, only a person with a steady mind can proceed peacefully. Such a person is described as possessing Sthitapragna (a sage of steady wisdom) and has achieved the Brahmic spiritual state.”

She continued, “5,000 years ago, Krishna Bhagwan in the Bhagwat Gita, emphasized the 9 prerequisites for achieving the Brahmic State. These characteristics are not encapsulated only in the pages of this Hindu scripture; we had a living and breathing example amongst us. He was Brahmaswarup Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

She highlighted each individual characteristic for obtaining the Brahmic State and how Pramukh Swami Maharaj embodied all of them. She concluded her speech and said, “Today, Pramukh Swami Maharaj is residing in Mahant Swami Maharaj. He too embodies all these 9 characteristics. Let us all pledge to imbibe all these 9 qualities in our lives as well.”

Akshardham Day: Celebrating Divinity

12 Jan. 2023, Thursday, Ahmedabad, India

Pramukh Swami Maharaj and two of his greatest creations, Swaminarayan Akshardham in Gandhinagar, Gujarat and New Delhi, represent the very best of Hindu culture and values. Akshardham, in Swaminarayan theology, is the heavenly abode of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. By building grand Akshardham mandirs as representations of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s eternal abode, Pramukh Swami Maharaj fulfilled the wish of his guru, Yogiji Maharaj, and offered tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He hoped that those visiting Akshardham would experience peace, gain inspiration from the life and teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and learn more about Hindu heritage and culture. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s vision did not remain bound to India. The first Swaminarayan Akshardham outside India is currently under construction in New Jersey, USA.

Akshardham, as the home of God, has and will continue to inspire generations. Pramukh Swami Maharaj selflessly dedicated his life to serve others. The Akshardham mandirs serves as a symbol of his selfless efforts and devotion to his guru.

Evening Assembly

The evening programme on 12 January 2023 commenced at 5.00 pm with a musical symphony. More than 150 youths from across 19 countries of the world sang devotional songs accompanied with traditional and western instruments. This was followed by various videos, dramas, speeches and cultural dances that presented the creation and consequent influence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s master creations, the Swaminarayan Akshardham mandirs in Gandhinagar, New Delhi and North America.

Adarshjivandas Swami continued his ‘Pramukh Charitam’ series in which he narrated several inspiring incidents from Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life. He said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a ‘Purna Purush’, which means he could encompass several seemingly contradictory virtues within his life. He could be detached from the world yet deeply connected with anyone he met, remembering their names and families years later. He could be immensely active through his travels, meetings and works for society, yet remain extremely calm and composed, enough to spend part of each day in personal prayer, meditation and reading of scriptures. He could plan his time to ensure he made use of every single moment in the service of society yet have the patience to wait for others. He was especially thrifty for himself, ensuring nothing would go to waste, and yet generous in giving freely to society. He was the epitome of humility himself yet could freely praise others. In this way, Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a ‘complete’ being and a constant source of inspiration to all through his exemplary life.”

Anandswarupdas Swami, head of Swaminarayan Akshardham in Gandhinagar, explained, “All mandirs and the Swaminarayan Akshardham complexes are based on the philosophical teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He himself revealed in these teachings that he built mandirs to preserve and foster pure devotion to God. It is in this sacred tradition that Pramukh Swami Maharaj built Swaminarayan Akshardham mandirs in India and continues to build mandirs around the world to inspire others to better their lives and serve society.”

Senior BAPS swami Ishwarcharandas Swami said, “To honour Yogiji Maharaj’s intense wish, Pramukh Swami Maharaj constructed Akshardham in five years in New Delhi, taking personal interest in its design, stonework and construction. Millions have come and been inspired by Akshardham.

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s own wish was to build an Akshardham in North America. In 2014, at the age of 93, Pramukh Swami Maharaj travelled to New Jersey, inaugurated the temple there and performed a ceremony for the construction of Akshardham. He blessed everyone there that Akshardham would transform countless lives. Through the tireless efforts of the volunteers and swamis there, it is nearly complete. Akshardham in New Jersey will be even larger than the Akshardham in New Delhi. Inspiring everyone, especially youths, it will foster faith and increase people’s appreciation for our spiritual and cultural heritage. These three grand Akshardham mandirs in India and America symbolise Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s divine work, sincere devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and deep respect for Sanatan Hindu Dharma.”

David Fried, Mayor of Robbinsville, New Jersey, USA, shared in a video message, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj lived his entire life in the service of the community and the world. He made his final trip to America in 2014 at the age of 93 to inaugurate the temple here. His life and work have inspired millions across the world to dedicate themselves to humanitarian causes. Today, we still experience that spirit of service through the thousands of volunteers serving here every day.”

Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Education and Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship of the Government of India, said, “After observing each corner of Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar, I feel that much here could offer inspiration to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about how to craft our national education policy in order to make ideal citizens of the world in the 21st century. The entire 600 acres of the campus is like an Open University, a research centre. There is enough to learn from this Nagar that a PhD thesis could be written on each aspect of it, which shows 21st-century science, technology, processing, marketing, branding, and so much more. I had the darshan of God here, and I also learned how this Nagar can bring transformation in people’s lives. Inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life, through education, a person can be taken to the heights of the Himalayas, and this is a site for such inspiration. It is an invaluable store of wealth for the country.”

Dr. L Murugan, Minister of State in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, added, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj has done exceptional work for our cultural and spiritual heritage through the creation of Akshardham. He worked his entire life as a servant of the people, going to the tribal areas for the uplift of the poor and forgotten. In the 2004 tsunami, BAPS rebuilt three villages in Tamil Nadu, which we will never forget. My visit to Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar is a memory of my lifetime.”

H.E. Dr. Hugo Javier Gobbi, Ambassador of Argentina to India, said, “The Argentinian government and people congratulate BAPS. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s spiritual contributions to the community and the world are examples of his eternal legacy. Values of social and family relationships are important to our nation. Pramukh Swami Maharaj fostered these values in abundance, encouraging peace, dialogue and harmony. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was an exceptional leader and humanitarian. Argentina takes pride in our capacity to develop and foster interreligious dialogue and in our respect for all creeds and beliefs. This has allowed our society to open its doors to Hinduism, which has many followers in Argentina. This has facilitated the development of multiple Hindu religious organizations, bringing diversity and enriching Argentina’s spirituality. I am confident that this celebration will impart the ideals of Pramukh Swami Maharaj to thousands of people across the world.”

Eminent Hindu speaker and leader of Sandipani Ashram, Acharya Bhaishri Rameshbhai Oza, was also present in the evening assembly. He normally observes a vow of silence every Thursday, but especially addressed the audience on this day to offer his personal tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj. He said, “Whoever met Pramukh Swami ‘Bapa’ even once, came to love him. People of all religions and nations from around the world experienced his love deeply. He had the capacity to love everyone, from simple villagers to President Kalam. It was this love that inspired improvement in people’s lives. In his presence, people gave up their addictions and bad habits, and transformed their lives to serve others. I experience an avalanche of love whenever I remember him as ‘Bapa’. He had graced Sandipani Ashram and we would often speak on the phone. He also graciously invited me to several BAPS events here and in other parts of the world.

“In the Ramayana, Tulsidas describes Shankarji as if calmness and peace had taken a human form. I often think that this is an apt description of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. When we are celebrating Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life today, his grace, humility and simplicity continue to inspire everyone. People’s own resolve to improve their lives will find a renewed energy here in the divine presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, even though his physical presence is no longer with us. This Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar is like the Kumbh Mela, a ‘Kumbh of Inspiration’.

“I am proud that in the mandirs and Swaminarayan Akshardhams that Pramukh Swami Maharaj has built, you can see Sanatan Dharma flourishing around the world.”

Dr. Chinmay Pranav Pandya, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya and Senior Leader of the All World Gayatri Pariwar, shared, “Today, on this auspicious day of Swami Vivekanand’s birthday, I am here to strengthen the relationship between Akshardham and Gayatri Parivar.

“On the inauguration of the Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, Dr. Pranav Pandya [Head of All World Gayatri Pariwar] had remarked, ‘There are two kinds of people in the world – those who have visited Akshardham, and who have not.’ Today, on being present at the centennial celebrations of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, I feel blessed to be one of the persons to witness the presence of Akshardham. The mere presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj was enough to let us follow in his footsteps

“Universal Indian values such as compassion, renunciation, humanity, spirituality can enlighten the world. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was like the crown of the Himalayas; even if they saw him from afar, millions could still find contentment and inspiration. I offer my hundreds of prostrations to Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”

D.R. Kaarthikeyan, Former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), said, “I feel we are in the midst of a Kumbh Mela. What beautiful arrangements! I don’t think any other organization could create this perfect Nagar, because it is Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s perfect life that has inspired 80,000 volunteers to serve with so much dedication and affection out of gratitude for their guru.

“The features and exhibitions in this Nagar are each perfected with themes that were dear to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, whether it is family harmony, education, care for the environment, or humanitarian relief work.

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj built 1100 temples. Every fortnight there is a temple, hospital or educational institute inspired by him. But for me, the greatest feat is his power to transform lives and inspire them onto the path of spiritual redemption. And even more impressive is that despite all his achievements and works to relieve the sorrows of millions he retained his deep sense of humility and devotion to God.”

Sunil Hali, media, marketing and entertainment promoter from the USA, said, “I had heard from my mother when I was a child that every person wants to go to heaven after death. But I have experienced that heaven here at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar. Wherever you look, you will experience heaven.

“I have been fortunate that I spent a lot of time with Pramukh Swami Maharaj. I always feared that one day will come when I will no longer be able to hold his soft hands. These hands had given me support whenever I felt down or incapable. When I became a publisher from an engineer, Pramukh Swami Maharaj had told me that I should fill my newspapers with goodness. ‘You can never run out of space for goodness.’ I strive to follow his teachings.

“I remember that I would also ask my mother what would happen when she is not with me. She told me, ‘Close your eyes, remember me, and I will be there.’ Here at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar, whether you close your eyes or keep them open, you will see Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”

Swami Shantatmananda Ji, Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission, added, “Today is Swami Vivekanand’s birthday. After travelling around India, Swami Vivekanand observed, ‘The ideals of India are renunciation and service.’ Today, after attending the centenary celebrations of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, I feel that Pramukh Swami Maharaj was an embodiment of renunciation and service. Pramukh Swami Maharaj saw the presence of God in others. Swami Vivekanand also espoused that saints should transform society while staying within it and established Ramakrishna Mission with this very vision. I feel that there is a synergy between the ideals of Ramakrishna Mission and the Swaminarayan sect.

“Only those who have come and seen this festival will realize its magnanimity. It is unbelievable! Only those who have visited will get some idea of the perfection with which Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar has been created by the extraordinary efforts of the volunteers and swamis.”

In his blessings to the assembly, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “The Akshardham mandirs are Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s epoch-making creations. As long as this world exists, the Akshardham mandirs will propagate our spiritual heritage and faith. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s sentiment in the creation of Akshardham was absolutely pure. He had written, ‘May Akshardham inspire all to transform their lives.’ During Akshardham New Delhi’s inauguration, he had said, ‘This Akshardham has been created not out of competition or to increase our glory, but because it was Yogiji Maharaj’s wish.’ Even the sentiments driving all of Yogiji Maharaj’s actions, including devotion to God, were absolutely pure.

“I was a witness to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s devotion to his gurus. In all that he has created, he never inscribed his name on any part of the campus. When we tried to name the hospital he built in Ahmedabad, ‘Pramukh Swami Maharaj Hospital’, he forced us to remove his name, declaring, ‘I am a servant, and this does not befit a servant.’

“I have often been together with Pramukh Swami Maharaj during the various meetings for Akshardham. Not once did he ever express the sentiment that ‘I have done this.’ In this way, Pramukh Swami Maharaj created the Akshardham mandirs solely out of devotion to God, but not with an iota of intent to increase his glory.

“He was himself a living and breathing embodiment of Akshardham. From head to toe, he was suffused with devotion to God, devotion to the guru, and replete with the highest spiritual virtues. Therefore, his life continues to grant millions of people inspiration and spiritual strength.”

Pacific Rangvu Chhe: BAPS Asia-Pacific Day

11 Jan. 2023, Wednesday, Ahmedabad, India

Australian Prime Minister, Sri Lankan President, Israeli President, eight ambassadors and other dignitaries from around the world paid tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s work of fostering Hindu spirituality and culture in the Asia-Pacific region

On 11 January 2023, BAPS devotees from various countries in the Asia-Pacific region presented a creative programme titled ‘Pacific Rangvu Chhe: BAPS Asia-Pacific Day’ to tens of thousands assembled in Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar. Following the special programme, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj and dignitaries from around the world paid tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj and his work of inspiring spirituality, temples and humanitarian service in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired an array of humanitarian activities and fostered the spiritual and cultural heritage of thousands through 18 BAPS mandirs in the Asia-Pacific region. Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited the region for the first time in 1984 and again in 1996 when he installed the sacred images (murtis) of God and gurus in a small home declaring that, from this small beginning, BAPS activities would foster cultural and spiritual values throughout the region. Mahant Swami Maharaj visited the region in 1997, 2003, 2015 and 2018, nurturing spirituality and moral living in thousands of people through his insightful discourses and by meeting devotees and well-wishers individually. With the blessings of Mahant Swami Maharaj, the construction of a traditional stone BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu mandir is underway in Sydney, Australia.

Evening Assembly

The inspiring programme commenced at 4.45 pm with devotees from the Asia-Pacific region singing devotional hymns. Following this, various dramas, videos, dances and speeches depicted Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s tireless efforts in travelling, constructing mandirs, and serving and transforming the lives of thousands of devotees and volunteers around the Asia-Pacific region.

Various swamis travelling in the Asia-Pacific region shared their experiences of how Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj have inspired spiritual values amongst devotees in the region. Gunchintandas Swami spoke about the spiritual understanding they instilled in devotees, describing how a devotee suffering from terminal cancer had overcome the fear of death. Priyachintandas Swami described their efforts to inculcate moral and spiritual values like honesty, self-discipline, perseverance, spiritual wisdom, and faith among children and youths in Asia-Pacific region. Aarshpurushdas Swami provided examples of how they inspired values like compassion, love, brotherhood, and service within the devotees of the region. Paramchintandas Swami, the lead swami of the Asia-Pacific region, described how devotees practised spiritual values and inspired them in others.

Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “We congratulate all the centres that came together to present a beautiful program on the occasion of Asia-Pacific Day. Pramukh Swami Maharaj had travelled to this region three times and blessed the devotees. I also have many warm memories of my visits to the region.

“When we speak of painting the region with spirituality, it means to make efforts, endure hardships, and persevere through difficulties, which is what the devotees and swamis have done. This will be accomplished most rapidly if we maintain unity, fraternity and affection. While this may appear to be child’s play, when you go to its roots, there is immense depth there. Moreover, our faith, staunchness in religious observances, and humility will nurture spirituality. Our faith will inspire faith, our religious observances will be respected by all, and our humility will strengthen the bonds of friendship with all. In this way, the countries of the Asia-Pacific region will be painted with spirituality. May all the devotees of this region progress in all aspects of their life.”

Several esteemed dignitaries were also present to pay tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life of selfless service.

Jain Leader His Holiness Vijay Abhaysurishwar Ji Maharaj said, “Bhagwan Swaminarayan wrote the Shikshapatri which taught nonviolence and many other qualities on how to live life. Bhagwan Mahavir taught the same. If everyone follows the Shikshapatri it will ensure the complete following of the law. The real offering to Pramukh Swami Maharaj is to follow his teachings.”

Jain Leader His Holiness Acharya Chandrajit Suriji Maharaj said, “The intolerant and spirituality-averse live animalistic lives despite being human, but Swamis are the guiding light of humanity. We wish to confer the title ‘Saint of the Century’ to Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Pramukh Swami Maharaj had a divine aura. He was not just confined to a single denomination, but he was the spiritual leader of the whole of spirituality.”

H.E. Mr.  Ardak Kakimzhanov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to India said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the creator of the beautiful Akshardham temple in New Delhi, was deeply committed to interfaith harmony and this is reflected in BAPS’s work today. Kazakhstan is committed to this as well and BAPS volunteers help take this forward. These wonderful celebrations allow people around the world to experience Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s messages of peace and unity.”

H.E. Mr. Ganbold Dambajav, Ambassador of Mongolia to India said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj the teachings and values that he experienced during his visit to Akshardham in New Delhi in 2019.

“Mongolia and India’s long-standing ties date back 6000 years. Our history tells us that Mongolian monks and scholars used to come to India to study at Nalanda. Upon their return, they would take water from the holy Ganga River and pour it into a valley in the eastern part of Mongolia, which Mongolians revere as a sacred place.

“Mongolia and India share many similarities.  Mongolians refer to each other as spiritual neighbours, and we have great respect for service to others as did Pramukh Swami Maharaj. We also share the values of respect for parents, respect for teachers, and respect for knowledge. I have the deepest admiration upon seeing the selflessness and devotion of the volunteers here.”

H.E. Naor Gilon, Ambassador of Israel to India said, “My visit to Akshardham in New Delhi was a very spiritual moment for me. You feel togetherness regardless of nationality and religion. We invariably take Israeli high officials to visit Akshardham, so they can take some of the spirituality and togetherness with them back to Israel.”

Then, H.E. Naor Gilon shared a message from the Honourable President of Israel Isaac Herzog to the assembly, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired millions from around the world from all walks of life, including in Israel. We fondly remember his visit to our country in 1999, where he met with many religious dignitaries and political leaders including the Chief Rabbi of Israel and Prime Minister Shimon Peres. During his visit, Pramukh Swami Maharaj demonstrated his profound respect for other faiths and belief systems, offering prayers both at the Church of Nativity and at the Western Wall. His historic visit highlighted the commonality between our respective Hindu and Jewish traditions creating a legacy of tolerance and brotherhood. As you commemorate these centennial celebrations it is my sincere hope that this demonstration of peace and righteousness resonates throughout India and the global community. During this time of tension and uncertainty, Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s profound example of interfaith harmony and understanding remains a source of inspiration for us all.”

High Commissioner David Pine of New Zealand said, “His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj made his first visit to New Zealand in 1996 and took great interest in our country for the rest of his life. That interest is certainly reciprocated. His centenary has been celebrated all over New Zealand, including in our Parliament. We have a wonderful, vibrant delegation of over 500 devotees who have made the long trip here from New Zealand.

“The period that Pramukh Swami Maharaj took an interest in New Zealand was to see a rapid migration and expansion from India. Hindus from all over the world including India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Africa and Fiji have made their homes in our country. Hindus are thriving in New Zealand, as it is now the second-most widely practised religion, with temples in all our major cities. We are looking forward to the next BAPS temple in Wellington.

“As I went around the Nagar, I appreciated the universal lessons about the importance of hard work and prayer, which are believed by people of all faiths in all parts of the world. New Zealand is blessed with a kind and generous Indian community which includes the active support of the BAPS community following in the footsteps that Pramukh Swami Maharaj laid down more than a quarter of a century ago. Today’s event is itself a testament to the energy and commitment of the BAPS community, involving the efforts of some 80,000 volunteers.”

Hon. Jason Wood MP, Shadow Minister of Multicultural Affairs, Community Safety & Migrant Services of Australia, said, “I thank Mahant Swami Maharaj for his invaluable leadership and guidance for the millions of devotees in India, Australia and across the world. What you have done is truly inspirational.

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj is loved by his devotees and by everyone for his striking humility, noble service, saintliness and selfless desire to help everyone. He created more than 1,100 BAPS mandirs across the world, which have become hallmarks of preserving culture and performing amazing social service.

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj lived and preached the message of ‘In the joy of others lies our own.’ True to his teachings, BAPS Australia has always been at the forefront of serving the community during difficult times. During the Covid-19 pandemic, you served many hundreds of thousands all across Australia with food packs, groceries and essential services. I cannot thank you enough on behalf of the Australian community. International students and parents in India would be very happy to know that their children were looked after in Australia like their own by BAPS.

“India is the world’s largest democracy and one of Australia’s best friends. Our two nations are natural partners built on the same ideals of democracy and freedom. Today, with our trade agreement, our opportunities are boundless. An important pillar within our relationship is our Indian community in Australia, which has helped Australia become one of the most successful multicultural nations in the world and deepened its ties between our two nations. Australia is home to almost 800,000 people of Indian ancestry. The Indian Australian community has grown five-fold in the last 20 years, and we couldn’t be prouder. It is now our second-largest cultural community. Indian Australians have contributed significantly to building our prosperity and harmonious society as you have succeeded in every field.”

Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs and Education of India, said, “There is no continent in the world where Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s work and message have not been appreciated. The words that he spoke at the United Nations during the Millennium Peace Summit of Religious Leaders more than two decades ago still resonate today. But Pramukh Swami Maharaj chose to speak more through his actions and his services to humanity around the world.

“BAPS has been at the forefront of public service in various fields through its global network of more than 1,100 mandirs and 5,000 centres. Your work to foster education around the world through the setting up of schools and colleges, research centres and hostels is especially commendable. Your humanitarian relief work meets the timely needs of people in distress. You also address healthcare, environmental issues, and universal community-building. But what stands out the most are the initiatives for women’s empowerment not only in India, but across the world. I wish BAPS the best so that you can continue to deliver your noble charitable efforts to make this world a better place for everyone.”

H.E. Chang Jae-Bok, Ambassador of Korea to India, said “Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a great spiritual leader who dedicated his entire life to serving the cause of spirituality and humanity. His life, works and teachings have universal appeal transcending geographical boundaries. I hope that Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s teachings are spread far and wide, and through this, the world emerges as one family, in the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutmbakam, leading to peace and prosperity for all.

“2023 will be momentous for India and Korea as we celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties between our two countries. Our two countries have made tremendous progress for the last 50 years. We have made a lot of progress in bilateral relations, as our relationship elevated to special strategic partners in 2015. We are working very hard to strengthen our bilateral relations in the years to come. As special strategic partners, Korea and India hold immense potential for further bilateral cooperation. Under the aegis of India’s, ‘Make in India’ policy, Korea can serve as the best possible core partner country which can in turn lead to consolidation of relations between Korea and Gujarat.”

H.E. Dr. Shankar Prasad Sharma, Ambassador of Nepal to India said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj was truly a great leader. The unparalleled humanitarian relief work that he organised, including in Nepal during the devastating earthquake in 2015, and most recently with the donation of oxygen concentrators to support the country during the COVID pandemic is truly inspirational. His legacy of universal compassion, charity and interfaith cohesion has left a lasting impact on the world.

“Bhagwan Swaminarayan as Nilkanth had travelled to Nepal and performed austerities for several months in Muktinath, which is a sacred place for Hindus and Buddhists. So, Nepal and India are connected by religion, spiritualism, and people-to-people relations, but also through the life of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.”

“I would conclude by commending the entire programme here, which provides life skills, education and spiritual teachings. The vision, planning and management are simply superb. This is an experience of a lifetime.”

Craig Ondarchie, Former Shadow Minister of the Victoria State Government in Australia, shared, “The BAPS mandir in Melbourne is near my house in Mill Park. It had a vaccination centre during the Covid-19 pandemic, not just for BAPS devotees, but for the whole community.

“I have a deep love and affection for BAPS. My family and I have a special connection to you all, and especially to Mahant Swami Maharaj. On 10 February 2018, in Melbourne, I was blessed by Mahant Swami Maharaj when he said he wanted to come to my office. The next morning, Mahant Swami Maharaj came to my office and blessed it, praying for and blessing me and my family. He also blessed me for my work as a community servant. I will never ever forget this special connection with you, Mahant Swami Maharaj. Please come back to Australia. We need you. The Pacific needs you. The world needs you. We all need you. I need you.

“To my many friends at BAPS, both in Australia and across the world, and to the 80,000 volunteers in this Nagar – thank you for such a wonderful job you have done here. Thank you to everyone in BAPS for your kindness, your service to our communities, your love and friendship to all peoples.”

Honourable Barry O’Farrell AO, Australian High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to Bhutan said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s legacy of service, community, humanity and was globally appreciated as evidenced by the presence of so many here globally. His legacy is admired across Australia. We thank Pramukh Swami Maharaj for the magnificent work that BAPS has been doing for the community across Australia. We look forward to the opening of the large temple and cultural complex in Western Sydney in the near future.

“Australia and India have been connected for thousands of years, geographically and demographically. We are Indian Ocean neighbours, close strategically and economically. We are both home to ancient living cultures. Modern Australia is a successful, multicultural, multifaith country. Our citizens come from more than 300 different ancestries, which is why our Foreign Minister says that when Australians look out to the world, we can see ourselves in it, and the world can see itself reflected in Australia. Australia is immensely proud of its growing Indian community.

Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese said in a video message to the assembly, “On behalf of all Australians, I send my warmest wishes to His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj and the BAPS organisation for the 100th anniversary of the birth of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. I pay tribute to his legacy. His message of serving those around us is something we can all strive for. As he said, ‘In the joy of others lies our own.’ This legacy lives on here in Australia. Today we are proud of the vibrant BAPS community here in Australia which through beautiful temples across our country enriches Australian society. I look forward to the completion of the large new BAPS temple in Sydney.

“Australia and India share a close bond of friendship and an important contributor to this burgeoning partnership is our thriving Indian Australian community which forms a living bridge between our two communities as a signal of the interconnectedness of our communities.  I was proud to hear that thousands of Australians are attending the centenary celebrations this year, and I wish BAPS every success for these celebrations.”

H.E. Asoka Milinda Moragoda, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India read out a special message to the assembly from the President of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe, “I extend my warmest congratulations and sincere best wishes to everyone at BAPS on this auspicious occasion of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s centenary celebration. His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj was one of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time who touched countless lives across India and the world. The words of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, ‘In the joy of others lies our own’ was applied in the life he lived and the legacy that he left behind.

“His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj was able to mobilise thousands of volunteers to support the affected during times of crisis – from earthquakes to floods. We in Sri Lanka also benefited from his support during the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, for which our country will forever be grateful.

“I am certain that the life and legacy of Pramukh Swami Maharaj will continue to inspire generations to come.”

Swami Mukundananda, Founder of Jagadguru Kripaluji Yog said, “The devotion and spirit to serve which Pramukh Swami Maharaj has instilled within all of you is his very form. Surrendering to a guru like Pramukh Swami Maharaj means you have embraced all the teachings of the Vedas. The role of the guru is to purify and elevate devotees to a spiritual state in which they are eligible for devotion of God. At a time when worldly influences are so predominant and spiritual encouragement is limited, Pramukh Swami Maharaj taught everyone to worship God and encourage others to do so.”

Environmental Conservation Seminar

11 Jan. 2023, Wednesday, Ahmedabad, India

On 11 January 2023, the BAPS Women’s Wing organised a seminar at the Women’s Empowerment Hall on the topic of ‘Save Electricity and Water and Maintain Cleanliness’ attended by thousands.

Ms. Meena Kaviya, President of the Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs (Gujarat chapter) and Director of Ayma Creations Pvt. Ltd., was invited as the guest speaker to address the audience. She said, “To offer devotion to God means to serve him, which goes beyond just singing devotional songs. This is exemplified by BAPS volunteers. The positivity, welcoming smiles and happiness radiating on all the volunteers’ faces clearly demonstrates that Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Centenary Celebration is a celebration of humanity.”

Explaining the importance of water and electricity conservation and maintaining cleanliness, she said, “Our concept of Dharma is different from the western concept of religion. Dharma means being bound to perform a set of duties for a greater good. Environmental conservation is a big part of our Dharma. We have been taught that taking care of nature is a way of serving God.”

Highlighting the numerous BAPS initiatives to nurture and preserve the environment, she shared, “In the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, the volunteers’ service for and strong emotional attachment to the environment are wonderful. I am particularly touched by BAPS’s efforts to cultivate such values in their children because they will grow into adults who will care for nature.”

She emphasised how Vedic traditions have always taught us the ways to preserve environmental resources, “Since Vedic times, we have been taught to value water, trees, plants, etc. To offer reverence and perform puja means to take care of natural resources and not abuse them. Methods like rainwater harvesting and desilting water bodies are effective steps that our ancestors took to preserve the environment. Even scriptures such as the Ramayan give in-depth insights on how to keep the Saryu River clean, which we should emulate. We must value the wisdom our own culture.”

She further continued that “We need to save water for the upcoming generations. Mother Earth is making a huge sacrifice by providing coal for electricity generation that makes our lives comfortable, so we must conserve electricity. Simple steps like wearing clothes appropriate to the weather and thereby reducing the need for heaters, turning off devices when not in use, using the eco-friendly mode on electronic appliances, etc., can help us in saving energy. If natural resources are exhausted, our upcoming generations will not be able to survive. We believe in the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, and so we should keep ourselves, our surroundings, our country and the Earth clean. The Arthshastra very clearly defined punishment for people who flouted the rules of cleanliness. The revival of such rich old traditions would make the preservation of the environment easy. Hence, we should use our traditional values and lead a more eco-friendly life.”

On this occasion, dignitaries such as Ms. Dhyani Dave, Women International Chess Master and Founder of Dhyan Chess Academy, Ahmedabad; Dr. Hina Shah, Founder and Director, ICECD; Ms. Tejal Amin, Chairperson, Navrachana Education Society; Ms. Rupal Patel, President of Anand Nagarpalika; Ms. Pooja Patel, Professional Yoga Trainer, Kadi;  Ms. Vibhavari Dave, Former MLA-Bhavnagar; Ms. Deevyata Pandya, National Level Medalist in Skating, Vadodara were felicitated by the BAPS Women’s wing volunteers.

Ms. Dhyani Dave, Women International Chess Master and Founder of Dhyan Chess Academy, Ahmedabad, narrated her life’s journey and said, “When I was just 6 years old, my mother had an intuition that I had the potential to become a brilliant chess player. She believed in my abilities even before I was aware of them. Since then, I have played chess on state, national and international levels.”

Recounting how she became the Gujarat State Champion, she said, “In contrast to the 200 contestants in the boys’ tournament, there were only 5 or 6 girls competing in the girls’ tournament. I remember thinking I was lucky to have fewer competitors, but as I began playing in national and international tournaments, it dawned on me that chess is a male-dominated sport. To encourage girls to join chess, I started the Dhyan Chess Academy, which offers free chess classes to girls. Many girls graduating from this Academy have gone on to win national and international medals and have made India proud.”

Stressing on the importance of women’s empowerment and appreciating the role played by BAPS, she said, “Women need two things to be truly empowered, the right education and faith in their own abilities. From a young age, I believe parents should guide their children by teaching them virtues and giving them access to good education as well as opportunities that will help them grow in different fields like chess, tabla, and art, to name a few. I saw this very culture in action when I was invited to speak at the BAPS Swaminarayan Vidyamandir, Randesan (Secondary Girls Residential School). Schools like these, which are not only imparting knowledge but also focusing on the all-round development of their students, are the need of the hour. If we empower girls in this manner from a young age, one day a time will come when we won’t need to talk about women’s empowerment as we will already be empowered and it will be a way of life.”

Dr. Hina Shah, Founder and Director of the International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Career Development (ICECD), emphasised “Pramukh Swami Maharaj devoted his whole life to the service of society. He guided countless people onto the path of spirituality. He has empowered innumerable women of all ages through various initiatives like girls’ schools, Yuvati Talim Kendras (Young Women’s Development Centres) and Women’s Wings. It is important to recognize that a society is self-sufficient only when a woman is empowered. When women are empowered, families will be empowered, and these families will go on to empower societies. Pramukh Swami Maharaj has given us a platform to empower ourselves and every woman around us.”

Ms. Tejal Amin, Chairperson of Navrachana Education Society, began by saying, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj lived a life of service and discipline. We need to instil these values in our children.”

She further highlighted, “Women need to drive the movement of women’s empowerment by empowering themselves, their neighbours and their daughters. Let all of us women pledge to uplift all the women we come in contact with.”

Mrs. Amin concluded by saying, “I would like to extend my congratulations to the entire BAPS team for organising and bringing to life this grand Pramukh Swami Maharaj Centenary Celebrations. The ethos of BAPS and Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s message of humility, love and serving humanity is clearly evident in the ‘seva’ being done by all the volunteers present here in this Nagar. I am taking inspiration from this visit to dedicate my life to social causes that extend beyond just my family. May BAPS continue to spread love and service to all for a better future of our world.”

Ms. Rupal Patel, President of Anand Nagarpalika said, “I am blessed and honoured to be invited to this magnificent Nagar. This service will generously bless the lives of all the volunteers with abundant joy, health, and peace.”

Ms. Pooja Patel, Professional Yoga Trainer, Kadi, said, “I am experiencing immense happiness and can feel the positive vibrations being spread by this Nagar. I feel honoured to be invited to this event which is spreading and promoting the vital message of women’s empowerment.”

Ms. Vibhavari Dave, Former MLA-Bhavnagar, shared, “Through the very beautiful and powerful management in Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar’s Women’s Empowerment Hall, women’s skills and abilities are sharpened and given the right platform. This helps in transforming their lives. It especially inculcates values, culture, unity and fraternity in people. I thank you for organising such an event in Gujarat.”