Spread of Swaminarayan Sampraday across Globe

Swaminarayan Sampraday: Wikimedia Commons
Swamainarayan Sampraday
Swamainarayan Sampraday: Wikimedia Commons

By Pragya Jha

Swami Narayan’s faith is followed in India and some other parts of world. Swami Narayan Sampraday which began as Uddhav Sampraday initially is a Hindu sect which was led by Ramanand Swami. The Sampraday is based on the Vedic Hinduism.

Guru Ramanand Swami handed over Uddhav Sampraday to Swami Narayan in 1802 to propagate the teachings and philosophy of Vishishtadvaida. After the death of Guru Ramanand Swami, it was renamed as Swaminarayan Sampraday. The movement gained popularity under the leadership of Swaminarayan. At the time of his death, it had 1.8 million followers worldwide. Apart from Hindu scriptures the sect has more than 3,000 works written by its member. The most important are

Shikshapatri: Written on February 11, 1826 in Vadtal, this dharma text strictly prohibits the devastation of animal life; consumption of animal food, liquors or drugs; suicide, theft, and robbery or other activities which may antagonize the effect of founder’s teachings. It has been translated into various languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Oriya, Urdu, Vraj, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian,Portuguese, Russian .One of its copy is put up at Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

Vachnamrut: It is a compilation of 273 spiritual preaching, divided into 10 sections. The book consists of the dialogues between the master and his adherent. The preaching was delivered by Swaminarayan which answers philosophical and religious questions and explains doctrines.

Followers of this religion are called Satsangis. They are expected to follow certain rules and regulations laid down by Swaminarayan. According to Swaminarayan Sampraday, there are certain vows (niyams) which have to be followed by the Sadhus, satsangis and the followers of this religion.

Five vows (niyams) for sadhus of Swaminarayan Sampraday:

  • Lustless
  • Tasteless
  • Greedless
  • Prideless
  • Affectionless

Niyams for the householders-

  • Not to consume wine, liquor or any drug even in a form of medicine.
  • Not to consume meat in any form.
  • To refrain from adultery.
  • Not to steal anything, even a flower without owner’s consent.
  • Not to accept any food and drinks from improper persons or source.

The above niyams are for the householders  are also called as Panch Vartman.

Niyams for Satsangis

  • One should be non-violent.
  • He should not have any relationship with other women except his wife.
  • He should not consume meat like seafood,egg, and poultry.
  • Should not consume alcohol or any drug which consist of alcohol
  • Not to commit suicide in any circumstance.
  • Never steal anything which belongs to others.
  • Not to blame others.
  • Never utter wrong about any God, Goddess or any religion.
  • Never listen holy story from a person who is an atheist.

A glimpse into the life of Swaminarayan

India is a country which follows different culture, religions, and traditions. Swaminarayan was born on 2nd April 1781 in Chapaiya, a village 20kms away from the north of Ajodhya (Ayodhya) in Uttar Pradesh. He was born in a family of Brahmins and was named Ghanshyam. At the age of 5 years he started taking oral lessons from his father Hariprasad Pande and at the age of 10 he was mastered in all four Vedas including their branches. From his childhood he was fond towards a life of tyag (self sacrifice),tap(austerities) and Atmasanyam (self-control). When he was 10 years and 7 months old his mother Bhaktdevi left the world and 7 months later his father Hariprasad too.

Ghanshyam left his home in the year 1792 at the age of 11. He adopted the name Nilkanth Varni on his journey. He travelled across India and Nepal in search of Ashram. Nilkanth visited several temples like Jagannath Temple in Puri, Badrinath,  Dwarka, Rameshwaram, Nashik and Pandharpur. Nilkanth travelled as a yogi, resided in Loj and met Muktanand Swami , a senior disciple of  Ramanand Swami. While on his journey Nilkanth wanted the answers of five questions which he got from Muktanand Swami. He was satisfied with answers and thus decided to stay there. After a few months, he met Ramanand Swami, who gave him the name Sahajanand Swami. At the age of 21 he was appointed as the leader of Uddhav Sampraday by Ramanand Swami. On June 1,

On June 1,  1930, Swami Narayan took his last breath and was cremated in Gadhada , Gujarat according to Hindu rituals. Before his death he split his Sampraday’s administration into two parts for his two adopted sons: Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi in Vadtal and Nar Narayan Dev Gadi in Ahmedabad.

There were six temples built in lifetime of Lord Swaminarayan namely Nar Narayan Dev mandir at Sheerpur Dham (Ahmedabad),Shree Nar Narayan Dev Mandir ath Bhuj Dham,Shree Laxmi Narayan Dev Mandir at Vadtal Dham,Shree Madan Mohanji Maharaj Mandir at Dholera Dham,Shri Radha Raman Dev Mandir at Junagadh Dham and Shree Gopinathji Maharaj Mandir at Gadhpur Dham. Swaminarayan had good relations with British Raj and had followers from Islam and Zooastrians religion too.

Organisations emerged from Swaminarayan Sampraday

Bochanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Sanstha (BAPS): Bochanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Sanstha was formed by the formers of Swaminarayan Sampraday who left the Sampraday because of differences in philosophy.

Narnarayan Dev Yuvak Mandal (NNDYM): It is a youth organization founded by Acharya Shree Koshalendraprasadji Maharaj to help young people to face challenges of life. It was founded in 1994 and is headquartered at Swaminarayan Temple in Ahmedabad.

Shree Swaminarayan Aygna Upasana Satsang Mandal (SSAUSM) :Formed on the command of Acharya Maharajshree Ajendraprasadji Pande to perform Satsang in the area of New Jersey, Chicago, Scranton and Virginia.

International Swaminarayan Satsang Mandal (ISSM): The organization is based in the United States under Laxminarayan Dev Gadi.

International Swaminarayanan Satsang Organisation (ISSO0: It is a charitable oraganisation that looks after the satsang held abroad. Its objective is to follow the teachings and priciples of Swami Narayan Sampraday founded by Sahajanand Swami. Its motto to the youth is “One God, One Leader, One Vision” to boost its objective.

Activities led by ISSO:

Gurukul: Every Friday, evening classes are held in London where the principles of Swaminarayan are taught.

Religious Camps: These are religious camps that take place annually in UK and U.S.A in the presence of hundreds of youth.

Religious Publications: Audio and video cassettes are available in temples.

List of Swaminarayan Temples across the Globe

Neasden Temple: Built in Neasden, North America and is considered as masterpiece in craftsmanship and stonework

Swaminarayan Mandir Complex in Bartlett, Chicago: The masterpiece was put up within 16 months of workmanship.

Swaminarayan Mandir in Houston: It is the first Hindu traditional temple of its kind built in North America. Its architecture includes 136 marble pillars, 12 domes and, 5 towering white pinnacles.

Swaminarayan Temple in Atlanta, U.S: It was inaugurated in August 2007 and took 17 months in construction. The temple consists of 3 types of stones namely Indian pink sandstone .Turkish Limestone and Italian marble.

Swaminarayan Complex, Toronto: Constructed in 18 months it is marpeice of Indian art, philosophy and, tradition.

Swaminarayan Mandir, Nairobi: First Hindu temple to be constructed in Africa. The material used in the construction of the temple was transported from Rajasthan.

These above temples and many more were built to teach and worship the proceedings of Lord Swaminarayan. According to a report, there were 20 million followers of this sect worldwide in 2007. In general, Swaminarayan’s followers believe that he was the avatar (incarnation) of Lord Krishna.

Pragya Jha is a student of Journalism in New Delhi. Twittter: @pragya1527