Mahant Swami Maharaj, with immense jubilation and excitement, commenced the first in a series of inauguration ceremonies on September 30 (Saturday) for the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, New Jersey. The event celebrated the consecration of the abhishek murti of Shri Nilkanth Varni, the teenage name of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, commemorating his 7-year journey.
This journey has inspired individuals worldwide to embrace universal concepts like unconditional love, empathy, simplicity, and service in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. Upon the arrival of Mahant Swami Maharaj, and senior swamis performed the Vedic rituals and prayers called the Prasad Pravesh ceremony.
The Prasad Pravesh ceremony is usually performed upon entering a new premise or building for the first time. On this occasion, sacred soil and water were collected from 555 pilgrim places throughout India and other countries across the globe. Their inclusion in Akshardham ensures that visitors will feel the sanctity of India's holy sites.
On the ground level of Akshardham will house the sacred image of Nilkanth Varni. Mahant Swami Maharaj performed the consecration ceremony of the Nilkanth Varni Abhishek murti. The murti pratishtha ceremony was not just an event; it was an experience, a spiritual journey that brought together a community, strengthened their faith, and sowed the seeds of spiritual growth.
Moments like these serve as a testament to the enduring power of faith and the timeless tradition of Sanatan Dharma. In the evening, an inspiring event, "Celebrating Sanatan Dharma," was hosted, which is part ofa nine-day celebration leading up to the grand dedication ceremony of the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham on October 8, 2023. Leaders, organizers, trustees, and members of hundreds of Hindu mandirs in North America came together to exchange ideas and celebrate the rich heritage of Sanatan Dharma.
Hinduism, traditionally known as Sanatan Dharma, is composed of diverse traditions, each with its own distinct theology, philosophy, rituals, and practices. Distinguished speakers, scholars, and thought leaders from throughout the Hindu community who attended include Swami Govinddev Giri Ji, Swami Mukundanand Ji, Dr Tony Nadar, Shri Jeffrey Armstrong (Kavindra Rishi), and Ved Nanda. Speakers addressed attendees on various aspects of Sanatan Dharma, highlighting the unity and diversity within Hinduism and the unifying principles that bind all philosophies.
The esteemed chief guest, Pujya Swami Govinddev Giri, treasurer of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, spoke to the assembly. He remarked, "I've spent the day at the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham, and I believe that one can gain a comprehensive understanding of Hindu culture just by visiting this place. By observing each sacred image in the mandir, your perspective on Bharat and Hindu dharma will transform."
Pujya Swami Mukundananda Ji, founder of Jagadguru KripaluJi Yog said, “We are so happy to have 400 organizations of our Sanatana Dharma gather here to celebrate the accomplishment of one of our organizations, the BAPS Swaminarayan Sampraday. We honor the devotion in their hearts. We take inspiration from their guru bhakti. This message of unity within diversity and diversity within unity is the special gift of our Hindu faith to the world.”
Ved Nanda, a scholar of international law and global peace, and the recipient of the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in the Republic of India, remarked, “Hinduism is not about tolerating, Hindu dharma when it talks about Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam- means not only am I tolerating you, I am accepting you. Not only am I accepting you, I am respecting you. Not only am I respecting you, I celebrate you. That is Hindu dharma.”
With this unifying message, he voiced the heritage and unity that is at the core of Hinduism. One of the event's highlights was the launching of Hindu Heritage Month in October. Organisers sought the blessings of Mahant Swami Maharaj for this auspicious occasion, emphasizing the significance of preserving and promoting Hindu culture, traditions, and values to future generations throughout the US Dr Jai Bansal, Vice President of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, kicked off the Hindu Heritage Month celebrations, explaining the event's history.
“Hindu Heritage Month started in 2021, as October is the month when many important festivals come. These usually happen individually, so why not do them together.”
As part of the program, the Hindu Mandir Executive Council expressed gratitude to all those who had contributed to the completion of the Akshardham project, recognizing their efforts in advancing the cause of peace, positivity, and cultural enrichment. The Sanatan Dharma celebration at Akshardham embodied the essence of this ancient faith. It showcased the commitment to preserve and propagate the profound wisdom, spirituality, and cultural heritage inherent in Hinduism.
As Akshardham continues to serve as a beacon of spirituality, unity, and selfless service, events like these emphasized Akshardham’s dedication to promoting the core values of universal compassion, selfless service, and the eternal connection between the atma (soul) and the Divine.