Celebrating a Life of Inspirations: Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Centennial Celebrations
17-25 September 2022, Nairobi, Kenya
To commemorate Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s birth centenary, a grand nine-day festival was celebrated in Nairobi, Kenya, from 17 to 25 September 2022. The festival took place on the 10-acre grounds of Jamhuri High School and the adjacent City Primary School also permitted the use of another 10 acres for parking facilities. The grounds were transformed into the festival site called Swaminarayan Nagar.
Around 1,575 volunteers (783 men and 792 women) from Nairobi and various centers across Kenya served in 38 departments performing various duties before, during and after the festival.
On Saturday, 17 September, the Swaminarayan Nagar festival site was inaugurated with a mahapuja ceremony in the presence of revered swamis, senior devotees, and Shri Rohit Wadhwana, Deputy High Commissioner of India to Kenya.
More than 80,000 people from all over Kenya attended and were inspired by this festival, which was open to all from 10.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. every day. Of these, 10,371 students from 67 schools in Kenya visited the festival and gained inspiration on how to progress in studies and life.
An Overview of the Swaminarayan Nagar: An Oasis of Inspiration
A magnificent gate, Mayur Dwar, artistically carved from styrofoam welcomed everyone to the Swaminarayan Nagar. Murtis of twelve great sages and devotees of India, conveying the message of unity in diversity, greeted everyone at the entrance of the festival site. The heartbeat of Swaminarayan Nagar, the grand murti of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, was enshrined at the center of the festival grounds.
Three inspiring video exhibitions were also shown at regular intervals during the day throughout the nine days of the festival. The ‘Transcend’ video show was based on living an addiction-free life. The ‘Family Unity’ video show inspired a harmonious family life and the video themed ‘Bliss’ imparted life lessons on how to attain ultimate happiness.
‘In the joy of others lies our own’ was Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life motto and he had continuously worked for the betterment of society. Highlighting this, a special exhibition showcased the social services undertaken by BAPS Charities in Kenya. Inspired by the exhibition, visitors resolved to plant 1,000 trees and donated 565 pints of blood in the blood donation camp.
Another elegant exhibition depicting the life and work of Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired both young and old visitors.
Daily, after a festive band procession, the evening maha-arti was performed at 7.00 p.m. in front of the grand murti of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Lighted lamps were distributed to visitors for the arti. This divine moment felt like stars had descended from the sky to illuminate the festival grounds. After the arti, devotees placed the lamps in the river surrounding the Smruti Mandir of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Every evening, entertaining and enlightening stage programs were organized in which kirtan-bhakti, traditional dances, thematic dramas and other cultural programs were presented by social and religious organizations from Kenya. The glory of Pramukh Swami Maharaj was sung through creative presentations by devotees and well-wishers.
Special kutirs exemplifying India’s devotional rituals and culture were set up, such as Nilkanth abhishek kutir, bhajan kutir, yoga kutir, women’s satsang activity kutir and vyasan mukti kutir, in which 109 visitors pledged to quit their addictions.
‘Shantilal’s Wonderland’ was a special area for children to have fun based and gain practical life skills based on the stories of role models like Shravan, Dhruv and Nachiketa. They learnt about the great heroes of India who brought life to virtues such as courage, patriotism, integrity, duty and others. Values such as respecting elders, sustaining the environment, offering daily prayers, remaining addiction-free and others were also conveyed to the children through participative activities and vivid poster presentations to help them become more responsible and caring citizens.
On 19 September, Guruhari Mahant Swami Maharaj’s 89th birthday was celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm. On 25 September, a procession to honor and welcome Mahamahopadhyay Pujya Bhadreshdas Swami and the Swaminarayan Bhashya was carried out. Devotees also took the opportunity to perform tulsi tula of the commentaries on the Prasthanatrayi. Pujya Gnaneshwardas Swami, Kothari of Sarangpur Mandir, was also present and blessed the assembly.
The grand finale program of the nine-day centenary celebrations of Pramukh Swami Maharaj featured a dance by kishores from Nairobi and a fireworks with light show.
As part of these centenary celebrations, a wonderful souvenir book depicting the life and work of Pramukh Swami Maharaj was also published.
This festival was widely covered by various media houses across Kenya, such as Nation, The Standard, KBC, KTN, K24, The Asian Weekly and People Daily. Many dignitaries and well-wishers also visited and found inspiration from the festival. Thus, the centenary celebrations of Pramukh Swami Maharaj had great resonance throughout Kenya.
Pastor Dorcas Rigathi, Second Lady of Kenya: Here to attend the inspirational experience that gives me the joy to see a humble president giving time, himself, and love to make children, families, women, villages, and cities happy.
Rev. Father Joseph Muite, Chairman of Inter-religious Council of Kenya: Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a contemporary figure and pillar for us as religious leaders and servants of God in our respective faiths.
Mr. Nelson Havi, President of the Law Society of Kenya: I am inspired and encouraged by how the dedication of one individual has achieved such great impact in the entire world. It is a motivation to many on how selflessness and unity is vital to bringing joy and happiness in the world.