Swami Narayan Sect

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Bhagawan Shree Swaminarayan

Rajkot Gurukul Lord Shri Swaminarayan was born to a samvedi Brahmin family on 9th day of bright half of the month Chaitra of Vikram Samvat 1837 i.e. on 3rd April, 1781, in a small village called Chhapaiya near Ayodhya, U.P., India. His father’s name was Dharmadev and his mother’s name was Bhaktimata. In the tender age of 7 years only, he learned all the religious scriptures including Vedas from his father and became victorious in a conference of scholars held in Kashi. After serving his parents, at the age of 11 only, he left village Chhapaiya and proceed alone towards the forests in the north.

Lord Shri Swaminarayan came to Gujarat at the age of 18 and extended his work of spreading true religion. He propagated Uddhav (Swaminarayan) doctrine popularly known as Vishishtadvait.

At age 21, he established Swaminarayan Sampraday, with the blessings of his Guru Sadguru Ramanand Swami. He initiated more than 1500 saints to spread the pious Sampraday. To achieve ultimate redemption he taught the Swaminarayan mahamantra.

To preserve the purity in the religion, he devised five basic Codes of Conducts for Haribhakt (Devotee) like not to steal, not to eat meat, not to drink, not to commit adultery, not to follow impurity and for Tyagi (Saints) like, Nishkam (Lust-less), Nirlobh (Greed-less), Nissenh (Attachment-less), Nisswad (Taste-less) and Nirman (Ego-less).

He established beautiful temples at Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Vadtal, Dholera, Junagadh, Gadhpur for Upasana -worshipping God in all His greatness & glory and Bhakti -Devotion. With all these, he gave a small but huge Code of Conducts with only 212 verses, The Shikshapatri. And the nectar of spiritual discourses performed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, The Vachnamrutam.

Thus, in a short span of 49 years He revived Hinduism, glorified spiritual values and founded the Swaminarayan Faith and left for His Divine Abode, Akshardham.

Mahatma Gandhiji has opined In India, there are so many religious sects, but the Swaminarayan sect is praise worthy, pious, pure and attaractive. I have a very high regard for this sect.

The great follower of Mahatma Gandhi and a well known thinker Shri Kishorlal Mashruvala has said about Lord Shri Swaminarayan With his divine light, he enlighted the hearts of several people, took away the bad habits and vices of backward people, included non-hindus in Hindu religion, encouraged the literature, music and arts, promoted non-violent Yagnas, directed the way of pure devotion and divine knowledge. He was the tutor of Bhagawat-Dharma and the preacher of the principles of Vyasji.

Early history

Vadtal Dham wrote:

The Swaminarayan Sampraday began as the Uddhav Sampraday and was led by Ramanand Swami. In 1799, Swaminarayan, then known as Neelkanth Varni, was initiated into the Uddhav Sampraday as an ascetic (Sadhu) by his guru, Ramanand Swami, and given the name "Sahajanand Swami". At the age of 21, Neelkanth Varni was given the leadership of the sect known as Uddhav Sampraday with the blessings of Ramanand Swami, who handed him control of the religious diocese shortly before his death. Fourteen days after Ramanand Swami died, Neelkanth Varni, now known as Sahajanand Swami, held a large gathering of followers at the town of Faneni. It was during this meeting that Swaminarayan introduced what he termed "the father of all Mantras", and then he was known as Swaminarayan. It should be noted that there was no swami who he had appointed his successor or as an ideal devotee at that time. The name refers wholly and solely to one entity, Swaminarayan. Thereafter the name "Swaminarayan Sampraday" came into existence.

Swaminarayan (3 April 1781 – 1 June 1830), also known as Sahajanand Swami, is the central figure in a modern sect of Hinduism known as the Swaminarayan Faith.

Swaminarayan Hinduism, also known as the Swaminarayan faith or the Swaminarayan sect, is a modern tradition in the Vaishnava denomination of Hinduism, in which followers offer devotion to and worship Swaminarayan as the Supreme manifestation of God. Since its origin, Swaminarayan Hinduism has been noted by its preservation of Gujarati cultural and linguistic traditions, devotion to the personality of Swaminarayan as supreme god, dedication to social service and a strict ethical code including uncompromising segregation of the genders.

The Swaminarayan Sampraday has its roots in the Vedas. It follows the Vaishnava tradition and to its followers represents a form of Hinduism. The faith focuses on salvation through total devotion (or bhakti) to the God developed through virtues (dharma), spiritual wisdom (gnana) and detachment (vairagya). The Swaminarayan Sampraday is devotion-focused and advocates God within the disciplines of virtues. Swaminarayan propagated a philosophy called Vishistadvaita, which says that God is supreme, has a divine form, is the all-doer and is completely independent. He simply stated that souls (jiva) never merge or dissolve into God and neither are they part of God, but are always subservient to God. Redemption consists in the realisation of ekantik dharma, comprising righteousness, right knowledge, detachment and devotion to that God.

The Swaminarayan Sampraday aims to consolidate characters in society, families and individuals by mass motivation and individual attention, through elevating projects for all, irrespective of class, creed, color and country. The organization believes that the hallmark of the Swaminarayan devotee is that he or she devoutly begins the day with pooja and meditation, works or studies honestly, and donates regular hours in serving others. Swaminarayan's lifetime objective for the organisation was to establish a permanent system of achieving the ultimate redemption from the cycle of life and death (aatyantik kalyaan).

Swami-Narayan Sect [From British writings of 1916]

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From The Tribes And Castes Of The Central Provinces Of India

By R. V. Russell

Of The Indian Civil Service

Superintendent Of Ethnography, Central Provinces

Assisted By Rai Bahadur Hira Lal, Extra Assistant Commissioner

Macmillan And Co., Limited, London, 1916.

NOTE 1: The 'Central Provinces' have since been renamed Madhya Pradesh.

NOTE 2: While reading please keep in mind that all articles in this series have been scanned from the original book. Therefore, footnotes have got inserted into the main text of the article, interrupting the flow. Readers who spot these footnotes gone astray might like to shift them to their correct place.


This, one of the most modern Vaishnava sects, was founded by Sahajanand Swami, a Sarwaria Brahman, born near Ajodhia in the United Pro- vinces in A.D. 1780. At an early age he became a religious mendicant, and wandered all over India, visiting the principal shrines. When twenty years old he was made a Sadhu of the Ramanandi order, and soon nominated as his successor by the head of the order. He preached with great success in Gujarat, and though his tenets do not seem to have differed much from the Ramanandi creed, his personal influence was such that his followers founded a new sect and called it after him. He proclaimed the worship of one sole deity, Krishna or Narayana, whom he identified with the sun, and apparently his followers held, and he inclined to believe himself, that he was a fresh incarnation of Vishnu.


It is said that he displayed miraculous powers before his disciples, entrancing whomsoever he cast his eyes upon, and causing them in this mesmeric state (Samadhi) to imagine they saw Sahajanand as Krishna with- yellow robes, weapons of war, and other characteristics of the God, and to behold him seated as chief in an assembly of divine beings. His creed prohibited the destruction of animal life ; the use of animal food and intoxicating liquors or drugs on any occasion ; promiscuous intercourse with the other sex ;

  • Based on the account of the sect Swat/ii-N'fn-aj'an SectY>a.m\A\\c\.,\)Y\r\{cd in the volume, Hindus of Gujarat, at the Education Society's Press, Bom- of the Bombay Gazetteer, and The bay, 1887.


suicide, theft and robbery, and false accusations, I\Iuch good was done, the Collector testified, by his preaching among the wild Kolis of Gujarat ; ' his morality was said to be far better than any which could be learned from the Shastras ; he condemned theft and bloodshed ; and those villages and Districts which had received him, from being among the worst, were now among the best and most orderly in the Province of Bombay, His success was great among the lower castes, as the Kolis, Bhils and Kathis. He was regarded by his disciples as the surety of sinners, his position in this respect resembling that of the Founder of Christianity, To Bishop Heber he said that while he per- mitted members of different castes to eat separately here below, in the future life there would be no distinction of castes.""^ His rules for the conduct of the sexes towards each other were especially severe. No Sadhu of the Swami- Narayan sect might ever touch a woman, even the accidental touching of any woman other than a mother having to be expiated by a whole-day fast. Similarly, should a widow- disciple touch even a boy who was not her son, she had to undergo the same penalty. There were separate passages for women in their large temples, and separate reading and preaching halls for women, attended by wives of the Acharyas or heads of the sect. These could apparently be married, but other members of the priestly order must remain single; while the lay followers lived among their fellows, pursuing their ordinary lives and avocations.

The strictness of the Swami on sexual matters was directed against the licentious practices of the Maharaj or Vallabhacharya order. He boldly denounced the irregularities they had introduced into their forms of worship, and exposed the vices which charac- terised the lives of their clergy. This attitude, as well as the prohibition of the worship of idols, earned for him the hostility of the Peshwa and the Maratha Brahmans, and he was subjected to a considerable degree of persecution ; his followers were taught the Christian doctrine of suffering 1 Bishop Heber's Narrative of a because in the Bombay Gazetteer the Journey through the Upper Proinnces, Swami is said to have prohibited the pp. 143, 153. taking of food with low-caste people, 2 The Stvami-Narayan Sect, pp. 4, and caste pollution ; and this appears 22. The above details are given, incorrect.

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injury without retaliation, and the devotees of hostile sects took advantage of this to beat them unmercifully, some being even put to death. 3. Meeting In Order to protect the Swami, his followers constituted Bishop f^rom themselves an armed guard, as shown by Bishop Ileber's Heber. account of their meeting : " About eleven o'clock I had the expected visit from Swami-Narayan. He came in a some- what different guise from all which I expected, having with him near 200 horsemen, mostly well-armed with matchlocks and swords, and several of them with coats of mail and spears. Besides them he had a large rabble on foot with bows and arrows, and when I considered that I had my- self an escort of more than fifty horses and fifty muskets and bayonets, I could not help smiling, though my sensa- tions were in some degree painful and humiliating, at the idea of two religious teachers meeting at the head of little armies, and filling the city which was the scene of their interview with the rattling of gunners, the clash of shields and the tramp of the war-horse. Had our troops been opposed to each other, mine, though less numerous, would have been doubtless far more effective from the superiority of arms and discipline.

But in moral grandeur what a difference was there between his troop and mine. Mine neither knew me nor cared for me ; they escorted me faithfully and would have defended me bravely, because they were ordered by their superiors to do so. The guards of Swami-Narayan were his own disciples and enthusiastic admirers, men who had voluntarily repaired to hear his lessons, who now took a pride in doing him honour, and would cheerfully fight to the last drop of blood rather than suffer a fringe of his garment to be handled roughly. . . . The holy man himself was a middle-aged, thin and plain- looking person, about my own age, with a mild expression of countenance, but nothing about him indicative of any extraordinary talent. I seated him on a chair at my right hand and offered two more to the Thakur and his son, of which, however, they did not avail themselves without first placing their hands under the feet of their spiritual guide and then pressing them reverently to their foreheads." Owing, apparently, to the high moral character of his

preaching and his success in reducing to order and tran- 4- Meeting quillity the turbulent Kolis and Bhlls who accepted his (jovernor doctrines, Swami-Narayan enjoyed a large measure of esteem of Bombay, and regard from the officers of Government.

This will be evidenced from the following account of his meeting with the Governor of Bombay : ^ " On the receipt of the above two letters, Swami-Narayan Maharaj proceeded to Rajkote to visit the Right Honourable the Governor, and on the 26th February 1830 was escorted as a mark of honourable reception by a party of troops and military foot-soldiers to the Political Agent's bungalow, when His Excellency the Governor, the Secretary, Mr. Thomas Williamson, six other European gentlemen, and the Political Agent, Mr. Blane, having come out of the bungalow to meet the Swami - Narayan, His Excellency conducted the Swami, hand in hand, to a hall in the bungalow and made him sit on a chair. His Excellency afterwards with pleasure enquired about the principles of his religion, which were communicated accordingly.

His Excellency also made a present to Swami-Narayan of a pair of shawls and other piece-goods. Swami-Narayan was asked by the Governor whether he and his disciples have had any harm under British rule ; and His Excellency was informed in reply that there was nothing of the sort, but that on the contrary every protection was given them by all the officers in authority.


His Excellency then asked for a code of the religion of Swami-Narayan, and the book called the Shiksapatri was presented to him accordingly. Thus after a visit extending to an hour Swami-Narayan asked permission to depart, when he was sent back with the same honours with which he had been received, all the European officers accompany- ing him out of the door from the bungalow." The author of the above account is not given, and it 5. Conciu- apparently emanates from a follower of the saint, but there seems little reason to doubt its substantial accuracy, and it certainly demonstrates the high estimation in which he was held. After his death his disciples erected Chauras or rest- houses and monuments to his memory in all the villages and beneath all the trees where he had at any time made ' The Swami-Narayan Sect, p. 25.

any stay in Gujarat ; and here he is worshipped by the sect. In 1 90 1 the sect had about 300,000 adherents in Gujarat. In the Central Provinces a number of persons belong to it in Nimar, principally of the Teli caste. The Telis of Nimar are anxious to improve their social position, which is very low, and have probably joined the sect on account of its liberal principles on the question of caste. I.

History

Swaminarayan Sect and Transition in Gujarati Society During the 19th Century

Dr. DIlip Kataria

Assistant Professor, Department of History, The M.S. University of Baroda, Baroda- 380002

INDIAN JOURNAL OF APPLIED RESEARCH

Volume : 3 | Issue : 5 | May 2013 | ISSN - 2249-555X

ReseaRch PaPeR

ABSTRACT

During the nineteenth century Social reform movement in the Gujarat was divided in to mainly two phase.

During the first phase (1844-1880) the reformer emerging from the various upper casts and social groups inspired by the certain ides of west and reform the society on the basis of this ideas, but during second phase (from 1880 onwards) they challenged those ideas and norms which they thought were uprooting the indigenous cultural tradition. In this process they tried to synthesis the sects of clashing value system. During the first phase this reforming movement on western thought and the Swaminarayan sect on traditional way play important role in the reforming the Hindu society.

The Swaminarayan movement was founded by the Sahajanand Swami in 1802. Sahjanand Swami championed the cause of women, convincing people to abandon the cruel practices of sati, female infanticide and dowry and even encouraged women's education. He inspired people to give up their addictions to tobacco, alcohol, gambling and other vices. Sah janand Swami's influence spread through all stratas of society, from the elite classes to the lower classes, inspiring them to forsake their wayward lifestyles and adopt a morally pure, God-centered life. This paper sketches the role of Swaminarayan sect in reforming the Gujarati society in 19th century and also highlight relevance his idea which still playing major role in the economic and moral development of Gujarat Society.

A period of transition always stimulated by the crucial phe nomena of social and cultural transformation provides a chal lenge as well as it proves rewarding to a student of history.

The Nineteenth Century Gujarat which interfaced with west, mainly through its reformers passed through a period of cul tural transition in its social history. Social reform movement in the Gujarat during the nineteenth century was divided in to mainly two phase. During the first phase (1844-1880) the reformer emerging from the various upper casts and social groups inspired by the certain ides of west and wanted to reform the society on the basis of this ideas, but during sec ond phase (from 1880 onwards) they challenged those ideas and norms which they thought were uprooting the indige nous cultural tradition. In this process they tried to synthe sis the sects of clashing value system1. During the first half of nineteen century Guajarati society have made encounter with Swaminarayan sect, a Vaishnavite Hindu reform move ment with a renewed commitment to bhakti (devotion) and dharma (purity of conduct) , founded by the Shri Shajanand swami. This sect play important role in stabilizing the politics of Saurashtra and later on Gujarat. The role of this sect in emancipation of women and crusade against evils practice in Vaishnavite tradition has far reaching effect on the Gujarati society. His work among backwards classes accelerated the process of sanskritization2. He affected the new moral cli mate but his method and approach to the social change were based on traditional value system. Based on the weberian thesis “Protestantism and British Capitalistic Development“ this movement play crucial role in capitalist development in Gujarat. This paper put light on the role play by this move ment in reforming the Guajarati society and also study the professional ethic of the Shiksha-ptri (religious scared book) which makes the follower of this sect economical prospers.

GUJARATI SOCIETY AT EVE OF BRITISH EXPAINSION

“No culture however can live on through the centuries un less it can also develop a stable self sufficient politic system strong enough for defense against attacks from without an elastic enough to allow ample latitude for the play of indi vidual freedom within when the Hindu society could not de velop first it instinctively turned to the other alternative per haps the only other, viz , the strengthen of social framework.

This frame work over period of time so rigid that the other indispensable requisites viz, individual freedom and imita tive were progressively sacrificed through imperceptible but complicate stage After the death of Auargenzeb in 1707 led towards process fragmentation of mighty Mughal Empire in to the various regional states and created power vacuum within the Indian political structure. This development also affected the Gujarat, Maratha replaced the Muslim sultanate in Gujarat. The Peshwas had established their sovereignty over Gujarat including Saurashtra , and collected taxes and tributes through their representatives. However, before the Maratha inroads into Gujarat, the Europeans had made their presence felt, with the Portuguese leading them, followed by the Dutch and the English. Later on the internal dissensions among the Marathas were fully exploited by the British and ultimately , as a result of treaty with Gaikwad in 1817-18 and the final settlement of the dominions of the Peshwa in 1819 the administration of nearly the whole of the province passed in to the hands of the British. This political instability, which in turn created social and economical insecurity the resulting in to moral terpitued in the society the mental horizon of the people was gradually shrinking, as a result fake form of reli gious belief dominated the social and religious relationship.

People lived under all sorts of superstitions, inhuman custom like sati, and female infanticide prevailed in some parts of Gujarat

EMERGENCE OF SWAMINARAYAN SECT IN GUJARAT

The Swaminarayan movement was founded by the Shree Sa hajanand Swami in 1802. He was born on 3rd April 1781, in village Chhapaiya, which comes in district Gorakhpur of Uttar Pradesh in the Brahmin or priest caste of Sarvariya. After the death of his parents, he left his home on 29 June 1792, at the age of 11. He travelled across India and parts of Nepal in search of an ashram, or hermitage, that practiced what he considered a correct understanding of Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga, the four primary schools of Hindu philosophy. After visiting over 177 shrines, scared place and monasteries, he reached in Saurashtra peninsula in 18006. In Loj , village near Junagadh he met Muktanand Swami, a senior disciple of Ra manand Swami later with Ramanand Swami. Influenced by the magnetic personality of Ramanand Swami he received sannyasa on 20 October 18007, and with he was granted the names Sahajanand Swami and Narayan Muni to signify his new status. At the age of 21, Sahajanand Swami was ap pointed successor to Ramanand Swami as the leader of the Uddhav Sampraday by Ramanand Swami, prior to his death.

The Uddhav Sampraday henceforth came to be known as the Swaminarayan Sampraday8. He proclaimed the worship of one sole deity, Krishna or Narayana. Krishna was considered by him his own ista devata. Shree Sahajanand Swami was later known as Swaminarayan after the mantra he taught at a gathering, in Faneni, a fortnight after the death of Ramanand Swami. Under the visionary leadership of Shree Swaminaray an Maharaj, this sect spread all over the Gujarat mainly Saur shatra peninsula and central Gujarat. Basically influenced by his Vaishnavite tradition, so many cast and community of this land accepted this sect. This sect play important role in main taining peace and prosperity in this region. This sect also cru cial role in reforming the society and accelerated the process of Sanskritization. The scriptures of this sect like Shikshapa tri , Vachnamurt awaken the mind of the people and lead them to simple life. The Shikshapatri, originally written by Lord Swaminarayan on 11 February 1826 is read daily by the Swaminarayan devotees. Apart from practical spiritual guid ance, it provides guidelines on every aspect of life - familial, financial, managerial, social, ecological, and even health and hygiene.

EMANICIPATION OF WOMEN AND POOR

One of important contributions of Swaminarayan sect was to started movement to reform the condition of women in soci ety. In the 19 th century Sahajanad Swami was the first person who starts actual work to enhance the condition of women.

Some practices he removed while others he refined. First, He advised people to abolish the practice of Sati. This involved the forced or voluntary immolation of a widow on the cre mation pyre of her dead husband. Swami explained women about the invaluable opportunity of a human birth graced by God and only a human birth facilitated moksha in transcend ing the cycle of births and deaths. Sati defies this grace and was in essence Atmahatya (suicide) and therefore a sin. His practical and patient approach successfully eliminates Sati system from most areas of Gujarat. He had raised the issue of female infanticide quite prevalent in the Rajputs and Kathis.

He also offered parents financial aid to settle dowry costs, on the condition they give up this practice. He reveal that by doing this practice you involved three great sins killing an innocent relative, Stri hatya - killing a helpless female and bal-hatya - killing a child. He warned them that if they did not abandon this practice voluntarily now, they would have to lat er, when a powerful political ruler arrived. This referred to the British, who began to establish themselves in south Gujarat around 1803. Later, on behalf of the East India Company, to support Gaekwad of Baroda Col. Walker entered Kathiawad in 1807, to make a financial settlement with the chiefs of the sub states . The British later prohibited female infanticide.

In addition to see his effects, Sir John Malcolm on his visit to Kathiawad in 1830, also wished to check female infanticide among the Jadeja Rajputs. He also starts efforts on the reli gious education of women. Female education in general had practically disappeared from society as a result of foreign rule over the centuries.. His first step provided special worship ping areas for women. He appointed women well-versed in the Satsang lore to preach to other women. In some towns, even separate mandirs were built for them and males were prohibited entry. Women could now offer devotion to God on a par with men. This encouraged women to think inde pendently and attain leadership skills to teach each other.

An advantage of this surfaced about twenty-five years after his demise. Under British rule, schools for female education sprung up in the cities of Gujarat. Among them first women teachers arrived from the Swaminarayan Sampradaya. His segregation of the sexes during religious gatherings not only provided women the freedom to manage their own activi ties , but also shielded them from the promiscuous behavior of males, which he had frequently observed in His teenage sojourns He also forbade selling the daughter; His view was expressed in the Shikshrapatri (They shall never stay alone in a lonely place even with their young mother, sister or daughter, except in emergencies and shall never give away in alms their wives to anybody)12, ==FIGHT AGAINST SUPERISITION AND BAD PRACTICE== Swaminarayan movement introduced changes in the man ners and the morals of the people .Evil customs such as sing ing vulgar songs - known as fatana - during marriage ceremo nies and using abusive language during the festival Holi were prevalent in the society. He requested his follower to forbid this system . He told his poet Paramhansas, namely Muk tanand and Premanand, to compose kirtans glorifying the marriage episodes described in the scriptures, such as Tulsi vivaha and Rukhmani vivaha, to be sung instead . This re vived sacredness in marriages. He also asked people to give up bad practices of gambling and taking wine and Bhang.

His view was expressed in the Shikshrapatri (All my followers, males and females, shall never practice adultery and/or gambling and such other bad habits, nor shall eat or drink intoxicants like hemp, opium etc)15 (None shall ever eat meat, even if it be an offering in a sacri fice or shall ever drink liquor or wine even if it be offered to a deity)16 Whenever political, social and religious darkness prevails, su perstition reigns. Individuals weaken mentally and are prone to develop faith in mantra, tantra, black threads, evil beings and village exorcists or sorcerers known as bhuwa . When a family experienced problems such as: poverty, illness, in ternal quarrelling or possession by a ghost or spirit, it first resorted to jantra mantra for succour. Evil spirits in turn had to be appeased by sacrificing animals, and prasad feasted upon. And so the vicious cycle of blind faith perpetuated.

To free people from this choking grip, he wrote an inspiring letter to devotees everywhere, in whom He instructed them: ‘Each individual experiences happiness and misery according to his karmas. Beings such as Bhairav and Bhavani cannot overrule these karmas to give pain or grant happiness, or determine life or death. Only Parameshwar Narayan (the Su preme God) is powerful enough to do this. He also forbade his devote to not believe in this Superstition.

ABOLITION OF ANIMAL SACRIFICES

One of the important aspects of this movement was to stop animal sacrifices which were common during that time. , He was against animal sacrifices as carried out by Brahmin priests during Vedic rituals, such as yajnas (fire sacrifices), influenced by the Kaula and Vama Marg cult. The priests consumed “sanctified” prasad in the form of meat of these animals. His view was expressed in the Shikshrapatri.

(None shall ever eat meat, even if it be an offering in a sacri fice or shall ever drink liquor or wine even if it be offered to a deity)18 To solve this problem, he conducted several large scale yaj nas involving priests from Varanasi. He was successful in rein stating ahimsa through several such large scale yajnas.

=CASTE SYSTEM= This sect play important role in ending the caste system in Gujarat, allowing everyone into the Swaminarayan Sampra day. However par taking in the consumption food of lower castes and caste pollution was not supported by him. A polit ical officer in Gujarat, Mr. Williamson reported to Bishop Her ber that Swaminarayan had “Destroyed the yoke of caste19. He selected his paramhansas from lower cast also and ap pointed people from the lower strata of society as his per sonal attendants. He ate along with lower castes. He asked this people to change his food habit, personal and domestic cleaness in all his sect. he forbade to eat garlic’s and onion. Thus, this sect attracts very large number of followers from lower cast20. It is said that Swaminarayan dispelled the myth that moksha (liberation) was not attainable by everyone. He taught that the soul is neither male nor female and that eve ryone was equal in the eyes of God. He made no distinctions concerning personal religion and moksha. When He took the bold step of taking meals with the lower castes, He invited the calumny of society. It was taboo for a person to have food with those lower in caste than himself. Therefore society branded Him as uncouth. This slur on His personality pained the sadhus and devotees. But as always He Himself remained undaunted21

MAINTAIN PEACE AND STABILITY WITHIN SAURASHTRA REGION

This sect play important role in maintaining the peace and stability in Saurshtra region. His followers cut across reli gious boundaries, including people of Muslim and Parsi backgrounds. His work among The Kathis and Rajputs main tain peace in this region. The peninsula of Kathiawad derives its name from the Kathis, a tribe renowned for its pugnac ity, chivalry, fighting prowess and fine horse breeding. Apart from the overall political chaos that reigned in the region, Kathiawad also owed its destitution to the Kathis . Famed for their ruthlessness, the Kathis held life cheaply; frequently feuding with each other, plundering, pillaging crops and stealing cattle from villages inimical to them.

( None shall ever commit theft, even for the sake of performing an act of Dharma. Even articles such as firewood, flowers, etc. owned by others shall never be taken without their permission 23 ) To reform then Sahajanad swami always keep kathis with them. He allowed them to accompany Him, serving as guards during His preaching tours, for travelling alone in the countryside invariably posed dangers from thugs, looters and wild animals. With love and laughter He change their hearts. The Satsang soon envied their spirited devotion. A typical transformation can be observed of a Kathis. The same young chief later absorb Satsang ideals and moulded a virtu ous character. When Bhagwan Swaminarayan first arrived in Gadhada, in 1805, Dada Khachar was only four years old. On the death of his father, King Abhel Khachar, he assumed a role as Dada’s father. He lovingly taught the young prince horsemanship, weaponry, diplomacy and the technicalities of managing his state . The singular reason for the his loving grace on him centred on his unalloyed devotion at such a young age. His inseparable association with excelled to such height that whenever He left Gadhada to visit other parts of Gujarat, Dada and his sisters, unable to bear the separation, would either resort to self-abnegation in the form of fasts until His return or would have to accompany Him to escape grief. His words contained formidable spiritual prowess; able to eradicate the militant nature of people.

CAPITALISTIC DEVLOPMENT OF FOLLOWER

One of the most important contributions of this sect was play crucial role in the capitalistic development, the Shikshapatri, sacred religious text, infuse so many business ethics among the follower. It asked follower that their expenses are never in excess of their income for it should be borne in the mind that great misery awaits him who spends more then what he earn.

(Expenses shall always be in proportion to the income but shall never exceed it. All shall clearly understand that those who spend more than what they earn shall verily land them selves in great miseries25) Thus they asked follower to live simple life and asked do not accompany those kind of people have bad character. It also asked follower to store gain and save money in view of time and circumstances. It compelled follower to keep cows and other animal only they can afford to take care them with grass, water etc. Even he ask follower to keep account of his income and expenditure with own self. Shiksharpatri advised follower to have written account of his dealing of money and land even with his son or a friend.

(Recollecting their income and expenses incurred during rou tine and/or special transactions, they shall daily write clearly in their own hands, an account thereof 26 .) (They shall never enter into any transaction regarding land and/or money even with their own sons and friends, without putting it in writing with proper attestation .) It asked none should abide by a mere verbal agreement in re spect of amount of money due upon his or another betrothal, but all must make a written contact and dully attested. In business dealing Shikshapatri asked follower to remain moral right. They shall not have pay remuneration as promised to workmen engaged by them they never conceal the clearness their debt, their lineage or the matrimonial engagements of their daughter nor shall they maintain social connection with those who are moral degraded. Majority of follower of this were kunbis , kathi and other occupational based lower cast. This teaching of Shikshapatri play important role in develop ment and commerce of Gujarat. He asked his follower if it is necessary to migrate other places for development of trade commerce’s do not hesitate. Many followers of this sect liv ing in the different part of the world, following tradition of the sect.

(When loss of prestige or estate or life is threatened in a place where they reside either due to very bad times like famines or by enemies or by a king My followers, who are wise and discreet shall immediately leave that place 28 ).

CONCLUSION

Thus with all his limitation this sect play crucial role in the transforming Gujarati society. Being a religious sect it cannot cross religious tradition of that time but, still under divine leadership of Shri Sahajananad swami this sect stabiles the society of the Gujarat. By process of sanskritization he reform the society and upgrade the moral of people in Gujarat and bring this people in national mainstream

Philosophy, teachings

Inclusive Hinduism

Ashok Vohra, Bhagwan Swaminarayan On Inclusive Hinduism, September 25, 2018: The Times of India


Hinduism regards all other religions as ‘nana panthas’ – innumerable paths for spiritual realisation. It regards the choice of a pantha as a matter of personal preference. It does not prescribe or proscribe any particular pantha. Everyone has the liberty to choose, as per his inherent nature, any of the paths that appeals to him.

God, and the manner and place in which He is to be worshipped, are not central to Hinduism. The essence of a religion lies in the principle of ‘sarva dharma sama bhava’ – in the attitude that all religions are equally worthy of respect because faith is a ‘matter of hearts and minds and not of bricks and stone’, or directions and locations, or pre-determined set of imperatives and proscriptions.

The ‘Vachnamrut’ of Swami Sahajanand, also known as Shriji Maharaj and Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781 – 1830), continues the eternal Hindu tradition of living in harmony with other religions. The ‘Vachnamrut’ is a record of the dialogue between Bhagwan and his followers and disciples.

Swaminarayan admits that people have different inherent natures. He asserts, “Of many devotees of God, some have firmness in the observance of dhar ma, others have fir mness in realising oneself as Atman, and still others have firmness in vairagya, detachment, and there are those who have firmness in bhakti, devotion.” Though one particular nature may predominate in an individual, he “also possesses all of the other types, but to a lesser extent.”

Swaminarayan argues that there are conflicts between different religions because of the mistaken feeling that ‘my religion’ is the exclusive repository of truth, the sole way to achieve salvation and, hence, the belief in the superiority of one’s faith. According to him, we can get rid of our feeling of jealousy and superiority complex by cultivating positive thinking.

He shows with examples that the different avataras, forms of God that we come across in different religions, are really manifestations of one God. To establish this doctrine of oneness in different incarnations, Swaminarayan argues, “When God manifests and adopts the behaviour of Rishabhdev, he is known as Rishabhdev; when he accepts the divine ways of Rama he is known as Ramachandra; and when he performs the divine actions of Shri Krishna, he is known as Krishna.” He says, “In this way, whichever behaviour of the avataras can be seen in God, it should be understood that all of the previous avataras of God have manifested from Him, and that He is the ultimate cause of them all.”

If one understands the non-duality principle, one’s conviction, that the same God dwells in all, never falters. This doctrine of Swaminarayan “is the ultimate secret, the essence of essence.” It is not only derived from the Vedas and Puranas but from scriptures across the world. According to Swaminarayan, the non-duality principle is not derived from theoretical understanding of texts, but is an experiential fact. He says, “I have experienced all that I have spoken about. In fact, I speak in accordance with what I practise.”

Swaminarayan recommends that despite this, if a pantha, out of vanity, claims superiority and intolerance for the teachings of other panthas it should be ignored. He categorically says, “If out of vanity … (a religion) considers (itself) to be superior” and tries to prove that “other religions are inferior, then one should distance oneself from such religions.” This is the best way to show one’s acceptance and tolerance for them.

Temples

Swaminarayan sect opens $100-million quake-proof temple near Hollywood 3 January 2013 PTI

Delaware

Bharat Yagnik, After $1.45m facelift, 50-year-old US church converted into temple, December 26, 2017: The Times of India

Church in Delaware in the US has been converted into a Swaminarayan Hindu temple
From: Bharat Yagnik, After $1.45m facelift, 50-year-old US church converted into temple, December 26, 2017: The Times of India

A 50-year-old church in Delaware in the US has been converted into a Swaminarayan Hindu temple. The ‘pran pratishtha’ (consecration) ceremony for the idols was held last month.

It is the third church in the US and fifth across the world to be turned into a Swaminarayan temple by Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan based in Maninagar, Ahmedabad.

Apart from Delaware, churches in California and Kentucky in the US have been transformed into temple by the sect. Similarly, two churches have been converted into temples in London and Bolton near Manchester in the UK. The sect has also acquired a few other properties in the US, the UK and Canada.

Vasu Patel, a Delaware-based hotelier and administrator for the temple, said the Highland Mennonite Church in Bear, Delaware was acquired in 2014-15 by the Sansthan and was refurbished — complete with two shikhars and a dome which were designed and built in India – over three years. “The total cost of acquiring the 3,000 square feet property and re-designing it came to about $ 1.45 million,” he said.

Patel said the disciples of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan, residing in the states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, as well as the southern region of New Jersey, earlier had to go to New Jersey temple on auspicious occasions which took about two to four hours of travel-time. Sans a temple with community facilities, the devotees used to celebrate events at private residences, he said.

Bhagwatpriyadas Swami, mahant of the sansthan, said the sanctum sanctorum has idols of Lord Swaminarayan, Abji Bapashree along with Hanuman and Ganpati.

Delhi/ Akshardham

Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi was built in five years by 11,000 artisans. Built without steel, it consists of 234 ornately-carved pillars, 9 ornate domes, 20 quadrangled shikhars, a Gajendra Pith (plinth of stone elephants) and 20,000 murtis and statues of Indian sadhus and devotees. The mandir is a fusion of pink stone and pure white marble, where pink stone symbolises bhakti in eternal bloom and white marble that of absolute purity and eternal peace.

London

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London with its marble pillars attracts over half a million visitors annually. Made from 5,000 tonnes of Italian Carrara marble and Bulgarian limestone, it was hand-carved into 26,300 pieces by 1,526 skilled craftsmen. Deities and motifs spring from the walls, ceilings and windows, representing the sacred faith and beliefs of a people that date back over 8,500 years.

Los Angeles/ Dec 2012

The 68th Swaminarayan temple of Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha was built using 35,000 pieces of meticulously hand-carved Italian Carrara marble and Indian Pink sandstone, temple officials said.

One of the biggest Hindu temples in the US, built at a whopping cost of $100 million near the Hollywood city in Los Angeles has become a major draw for its grandeur and environment-friendly design, since its inauguration.

BAPS said that it is first earthquake-proof mandir in the world and is expected to last for 1,000 years. "The Mandir is a beautiful testament to the hard work of your congregation who has spent several years to build this place of worship," Chino Hill mayor Peter Rogers said. "The mandir and cultural center will indeed be a place that Chino Hills can be proud of for so many, many generations," he said

Using cutting edge technology to protect it from earthquakes, the temple encompasses five pinnacles, two large domes, four balconies, 122 pillars and 129 archways. The 6,600 hand-carved motifs depict a mosaic of tales of inspiration, devotion and dedication, along with historical figures from Hinduism, temple officials said. "Artisans created the carvings in India with great love, skill and patience before the pieces were shipped to Chino Hills," a BAPS statement said.

The mandir is situated on a 20-acre site, complete with 91 foot lotus-shaped reflection pond, a cultural centre, gymnasium and classrooms. It is designed to "calm the mind and open it," said Ronak Patel, a volunteer of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, adding that, "The upper structure of the complex is protected from earthquake damage by separating it from the base with a series of 40 base-isolator units."

"The Mandir also uses a solar power system to generate electricity and reduce adverse effects on the environment. The Mandir combines the best of traditional stone art and architecture and the best of modern technology," said Divyesh Patel, a member of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.

Purchasing unused churches

Swaminarayan sect buys 2 US, Canada churches

Bharat Yagnik, TNN | Aug 15, 2013 The Times of India

Shree Swaminarayan Gaadi Sansthan Maninagar is on a spree of buying unused churches across the globe. The Sansthan has 12 temples abroad. Most of the churches acquired are situated in prime areas and in a run-down condition.

The trend started in the UK in 1982 when St Ninian's Church was bought for 200,000 pounds and a temple built on the 2.5 acre compound.

In 1998, when a 70-year-old church in Bolton was bought and turned into a temple, the glass paintings which had images of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary were retained. "People from different faiths visit this temple," says Mahesh Varsani, trustee of Swaminarayan Temple Trust in the UK....

After acquiring churches in Los Angeles and California in 2012, the religious organization has acquired two more churches — one in Canada and the other in the US. These churches would be thrown open for the devotees in 2014 after the idol of Swaminarayan bhagwan is installed in these churches.

The sect has paid 1.9 million Canadian dollars for buying an over 100-year-old church located in Ontario, Canada. The church, declared a heritage structure by the Canadian government, is located in Scarborough, the town known for its heritage structures. Sansthan officials said the heritage structure would be preserved and restored as well. The church, built over 9,000 sq foot, comes with a community hall and a house.

Similarly, the Sansthan has bought a defunct church at Louisville in Kentucky, the US. The institute paid 9.50 lakh US dollars. This church is spread over four acre of land. Last year, the Sansthan bought churches in Los Angeles , California and turned it into Lord Swaminarayan abode.

Bhagwat Priyadasji of the Sansthan said churches have been acquired for the purpose of spreading global peace and brotherhood and integrity. "People from all religions visit the temple. With the blessings of our head Acharya Purshottam Priyadasji Maharaj, we would install the idol of Lord Swaminarayan in 2014."

Gujaratis constitute one of the largest immigrant communities and the growing number of Swaminarayan temples all over the world only underline the financial clout of the community.

Class base

D Hardiman’s ‘study of the class base of the Swaminarayan sect shows the sect to be an ideological voice of an emerging class of commercial farmers and capitalist entrepreneurs. It manages to attract the support of large numbers of more humble people who aspire to climb into this class and who swallow the sect's view of the world uncritically. The class which the sect represents is moreover one in which power is in the hands of patriarchs and in which female family members are both exploited and kept in a condition of daily humiliation. ( Economic and Political Weekly Vol. 23, No. 37, Sep. 10, 1988.)

The sect in the 21st century

Swaminarayan: An 'attractive' sect IBN Live

They are identified as the fastest growing stream of Hinduism in the united states, the face of Hinduism in the west. flush with cash, clout, resources and followers all over the world where they have tremendous influence.

A person sporting a long tika is an unmistakable sign of a Swaminarayan devotee.

The Swaminarayan sect, despite its traditionalist approach, continues to attract young devotees into the fold.

At the mention of the Swaminarayan sect, images of controversy are conjured up as were priests with untold wealth were caught in a sex scandal and kidnappings. [Indpaedia writes: A sect should be judged by its mainstream, not by a few black sheep]

The once unemployed Saumil Dave is now a manager with a multinational company with a good salary.“All this is because of my belief in Swaminarayan. I believe in God Swaminarayan and I’m not concerned with anything else,” Dave says.

The sect has two crore [20 million] followers. Donations worth lakhs [hundreds of thousands] pour in from devotees across the globe. Worshippers of Swaminarayan believe him to be one of the many incarnations of Lord Krishna.

From the grand Akshardham Swaminarayan temple in Gujarat to its prospering Chicago-based temple, the core disciples of Swaminarayan are the cash-rich NRI Patel community and they're affluent enough to do social work as well.

Power struggles over the temple trust in the recent past have led to a seedy trail of murders.

Wealth and power have created corruption causing cutthroat competition between the five different factions for the sect's growing clout and vast resources.

Faith how much ever polluted, still offers sustenance. An Ahmedabad-based doctor, Dr Shivang Swaminarayan, unfailingly makes an hour-long trip to the temple every weekend, fasts every three months and donates one-half of his salary annually to the sect according to the sect's rules.

He is a Swaminarayan because of family tradition. His grandfather changed their family name from Lakane to Swaminarayan.

But the third generation devotee believes that his faith is also about personal choice.

The Swaminarayan sect offers shelter, emotional support and a fixed value system to its believers.

With the Gujarati diaspora spreading across the globe, the sect is also a substitute for a ready-made extended family.

Schisms

Six sects

For those who are still uninitiated into the world of the Swaminarayan sect, the 'sampraday' is broadly divided into six major 'panths' _

Ahmedabad (also Kalupur),

BAPS,

Vadtal,

Maninagar,

Vasna, and

Sokhada.

The Bochasanvasi Akshar Purshottam Sanstha (BAPS) was founded by Shastriji Maharaj in 1907 after he parted ways with the Vadtal temple. in 1947, Dharamjivandas Swami left the Vadtal temple to form institutions which provide hostels and education at the high school level, called 'gurukuls'.

Another sect was formed in 1940 after Muktajivandas Swami left the Amdavad temple and established his own sect in Maninagar, known as the Swaminarayan gadi.

In 1966, Dadubhai Patel and his brother Bababhai, (both devotees) left the BAPS to form the Yogi Divine Society, which also initiates women as 'sadhvis'.

The conflict...

...is between

the Swaminarayan 'sampraday' of Vadtal temple _ the main seat of Swaminarayan religion _

and

the fast growing and the most influential Bochasanvasi Akshar Purshottam Sanstha (BAPS) _ headed by Pramukh Swami.

The Power of 'sadhus'

In view of the increasing influence of the 'sadhus', Acharya Ajendra Prasad ji has boycotted the Vadtal temple functioning and has conveyed to his supporters that he would not perform his duties as 'Acharya' till some aggressive 'sadhus' were not removed from the temple precincts.

The power of BAPS

Though the Swaminarayan sects are based in Gujarat, many Gujaratis came to understand the clout that BAPS wields when former us president Bill Clinton decided to make an unscheduled visit at the Akshardham temple in gandhinagar in April 2001. on March 5, 2001 prince Charles launched the 'sponsor-a-home' scheme for the earthquake-hit in Gujarat, at the Swaminarayan temple, London. BAPS did tremendous relief work in the aftermath of 2001's earthquake.

1998: Murderous power struggle

Vadtal Swaminarayan Sect Monks Sentenced to Death Hinduism Today 2004/6/14

In 1998 Swami Gadadharanand, who was chairman of the Vadtal temple committee, was murdered and his body burnt to destroy the evidence

Narayan swami, Shreejisharan swami, Ghanshyam swami, Madhavprasad swami and Vijaybhagat swami -- kidnapped Swami Gadadharanand from Navli Gurukul in Anand on May 3, 1998. They mixed sedatives in his soft drink and strangulated him after he fell unconscious. They then took the body to Dungarpur village in Rajasthan where it was burnt to destroy evidence.

The gruesome act shook the foundations of the 126-year-old sect and shocked thousands of devotees throughout the country and abroad. Gadadharanand's murder was seen as part of the power struggle between the Acharyas (descendants of the sect founder) and Devs (sadhus) to gain control over the temple's massive funds and abundant wealth that pour in in the form of donations and offerings. Chairman of the temple funds committee, Gadadharanand was a powerful swami holding sway over the postings of smaller sants to various temples across the State. According to sources in the sect, huge money was involved in the transfer of kotharis (administrators) to different temples, and Gadadharanand had got embroiled in these struggles, angering a particular group.

A fortnight before he was murdered, Swami Gadadharanand had switched loyalties from the Acharyas to the Dev faction. By pulling in Gadadharanand, the Dev group had been trying to overthrow the Acharyas and gain majority in the trust. The temple trust controls 36 temples across the country. Its accumulated earnings is over US$3 million. This is besides the lavish gifts and thousands of dollars that each sadhu at Vadtal gets. The swamis remain split in two major factions. The Acharya group, representing the descendants of Lord Swaminarayan (an avtaar of Lord Krishna) and their disciples. The other is the Dev group comprising sadhus and their followers. The Acharya group believes since the "blood of the Lord" runs in their veins, they should control the temple trust while the Dev group argues the temple is nobody's ancestral property, it belongs to the devotees and the sadhus.

The local police retained two gold teeth and belongings that were intact. It also carried out DNA tests of Gadadharanand's teeth and hair. His identity was confirmed and the case was solved.

On June 11, 2004 four ‘sadhus’ (monks) and a disciple of the Vadtal Swaminarayan sect were sentenced to death by Judge Sitaben Dave of the Nadiad sessions court

HPI adds: The BAPS organization of Sri Pramukh Swami Maharaj is a reform group of Lord Swaminarayan's followers and is not associated with either of these factions.

2002

Woman blocks Pramukh Swamy's entry to temple

TNN | Jan 8, 2002 The Times of India

As the splintered and yet powerful Swaminarayan sects were poised to break out into one of the biggest celebrations ever in Jan 2002, the deep schism that divides the followers of Lord Swaminarayan, has once again come to the fore. the ongoing conflict between

The Swaminarayan 'sampraday' of Vadtal temple _ the main seat of Swaminarayan religion _

and

the fast growing and the most influential Bochasanvasi Akshar Purshottam Sanstha (BAPS) _ headed by Pramukh Swami _

reached a flash-point in their relations in Jan 2002 when the latter was refused entry at Gopinathdev temple at Gadhada, which is under control of the Vadtal stream. The incident has sparked off a major controversy among followers.

Three days later, Swaminarayan followers were expected to gather in around 1,000 temples of Lord Swaminarayan the world over to observe the bicentenary of the Swaminarayan Mahamantra which was revealed 200 years before.

The Pramukh Swami was prevented from entering the Gadhada temple, the oldest of all Swaminarayan temples, by Muktaben Sankhay yogi , one of the followers of the Vadtal seat.

Incidentally, the Pramukh Swami and his 'sadhus' never come face-to-face with women and this was the reason why they had to quietly withdraw without a confrontation when they realised that Muktaben yogi was standing at the gate.

Conciliatory note: "We have absolutely no objection over swamji visiting a temple governed by us. there might be some confusion that led to denial of entry to him," said Natubhai Patel, chief administrator of Kalupur Swaminarayan. the Kalupur stream is controlled by Acharya Tejendra Prasadji, while his brother Ajendra Prasadji heads the Vadtal stream.

This was one of the rare occasions when the undercurrent of rivalry had come to the fore. The clashes over taking control of temples run by the various sects has at times led to bloody intra-sect clashes between groups.

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