Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in USA -161

Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in USA  


BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Flushing, New York, NY

Hari Mandir
New York

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
43-38 Bowne Street,
Flushing, NY 11355. USA
Tel: (1-718) 539 5373
Fax: (1-718) 353 3411

Shree Swaminarayan Mandir New York was the first Swaminarayan Mandir in North America. Inaugurated in 1974 by Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj, this mandir had been center of the Sanstha's activities for many years.
Murtis of this mandir have a great history. First installed in 1974 by Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the murtis were painted on canvas. When the mandir was first renovated, the murtis were re-installed by Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj on August 28 1977. In July 1984, new murtis of marble were installed and the fourth murti pratishtha was performed in May 2004 as new marble murtis were consecrated by Swamishri in a majestic sinhasan.
Daily Schedule

Daily Aarti:
Morning: 7:00 a.m.
Evening: 6:00 p.m. Winter, 6:30 p.m. Summer
Darshan Timings:
Monday - Friday:
7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Saturday- Sunday:
7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Weekly Schedule
Bal / Balika Sabha :
Sunday 5:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
Kishore Sabha :
Saturday 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Kishori Sabha :
Sunday 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Yuvak Sabha:
Sunday 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Yuvati Sabha:
Sunday 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Mahila Sabha:
Sunday 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Satsang Sabha:
Sunday 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (Summer)
Sunday 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Winter)
Bal Gujarati Classes :
Sunday 2:15 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Balika Gujarati Classes
Sunday 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Many ask, "How can you mix spirituality and social service?"

We ask, "
How can you separate the two?"

Those who wish to sincerely serve society must be spiritually pure and only those who are spiritually pure can sincerely serve society!

Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a socio-spiritual Hindu organization with its roots in the Vedas. It was revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830) in the late 18th century and established in 1907 by Shastriji Maharaj (1865-1951). Founded on the pillars of practical spirituality, the BAPS reaches out far and wide to address the spiritual, moral and social challenges and issues we face in our world. Its strength lies in the purity of its nature and purpose. BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals. This is done by mass motivation and individual attention, through elevating projects for all, irrespective of class, creed, colour or country. Its universal work through a worldwide network of over 3,300 centers has received many national and international awards and affiliation with the United Nations. Today, a million or more Swaminarayan followers begin their day with puja and meditation, lead upright, honest lives and donate regular hours in serving others. No Alcohol, No Addictions, No Adultery, No Meat, No Impurity of body and mind are their five lifetime vows. Such pure morality and spirituality forms the foundation of the humanitarian services performed by BAPS.

How Festivals Enrich Society :
India is a land of a thousand holy festivals and rituals. Its colorful panorama reflect the religion, culture and custom of one of the most ancient and richest of civilizations. Hinduism worships and celebrates the birth and victories of its deities and holy men through festivals and rituals.
Through colors, sounds and profound sentiments it elevates and motivates the inner core of individuals. Its festive ambience invigorates and enthuses the individual from the monotony of daily life.
This special section provides a window to the history, significance and experience of a selected number of annual festivals, rituals and customs in Indian culture. Like the golden sun, festivals refresh and recharge humanity in more than one way.
Aesthetically : Festivals are a poetry of arts and crafts, and encourage the latent talents of people.
Emotionally : Festivals lend joy and zest to the monotony of life, providing entertainment and enrichment through discourses and seminars, music and melodies, dances and rhythms of a meaningful life.
Socially : festivals bring man closer to man in peaceful understanding. Social harmony is nourished as people of different nationalities, races, religions and backgrounds come together to share their joys and delights.
Morally : Festivals promote higher and better life. Guiding masses away from drugs and addictions, hatred and violence, they nourish the values of service, sacrifice, discipline, unity and cooperation - restoring man's moral dignity.
Culturally : Festivals retrace old traditions and strengthen our cultural roots by providing deeper insights.
Spiritually : Festivals inspire and consolidate faith in God. An atmosphere of purity and prayers elevate the soul and helps generate a feeling of universal brotherhood, inter-religious harmony and personal piety.

Chandan Adornment of Murtis

In the Bhagvad Gita Lord Krishna has elaborated on three paths to Godhead; Karma-Yoga - path of action, Bhakti-Yoga - path of loving devotion and Jnan-Yoga - path of knowledge. Of these the scriptures opine that Bhakti excels in pleasing the Lord and is easier for the aspirant, relative to other endeavors.
The Bhakti scriptures also mention nine forms of Bhakti, known as Navdhã Bhakti, of which Archanam is one. This involves the ritual of applying materials such as sandalwood paste, better known as chandan, kumkum - vermilion powder on the Lord's murti or offering rice grains, flowers and leaves of sacred plants such as Tulsi (to Vishnu) Bili (to Shiva) and Ankado (to Hanumanji).
Since Archanam is a direct involvement with the Lord, the devotee experiences a more intimate fervor and spiritual contentment. Therefore people wedded to the path of Bhakti revel in Archanam in their daily worship rituals.
Of the items listed above chandan is by far the most extensively used, probably due to its inherently exquisite fragrance, cooling and other unique qualities. Hence chandan in the Hindu Sanatana Dharma is a cherished puja dravya - material for worship ritual.
Traditionally in the Vaishnava Sampradaya (Pushti Marg) chandan is often smeared in a thick paste on the metallic murtis of the child form of Lord Krishna in some Havelis during the hot summer months.
In many mandirs in South India, chandan is traditionally applied on the murtis throughout the year.
In the Swaminarayan Sampradaya chandan is used in a manner unique only to the Swaminarayan Sampradaya. It is smeared as a thick layer on the metallic murtis (Panch dhatu) during the hottest summer months, of Vaishakh and Jeth. (See photographs and accompanying description for details.)

Method of Chandan Adornment
To obtain a paste, sandalwood is traditionally ground by sadhus on a fine-grained slab of stone using water. Motorized machines are also used. The paste, known as chandan is collected and strained using a thin cloth, draining excess water to achieve a dough-like consistency.
After the Mangala arti at 5.30 a.m. the adorned night garments are removed before the chandan is applied on the metallic (Panch dhatu) murtis.
Natural saffron known as kesar or color may be added to the chandan before applying small lumps (lepan) on the murti. The lumps are spread out into a layer by hand as much as possible.
To achieve a smooth texture, the kinks and creases are removed using a fine muslin cloth over which a palette knife is stroked. The cloth is then removed. A stitched garment may also be fastened over the chandan to give an added shape or design to the adornment as shown. A brush dabbed in liquid chandan is stroked over this garment.

For a smoother finish and for inaccessible spots strokes with a brush are made.

Once smoothed, the decoration (shangar) begins. Various materials are used, such as: lace, flowers, leaves, dried fruits, spices such as cloves and cardamom and pre-cut paper designs.

The average time taken to decorate chandan shangar is one and a quarter hours, depending on the intricacy of the design. At 7.30 a.m. the shangar arti is performed with Lord Harikrishna Maharaj gracing darshan

Devotees revel the Lord's chandan shangar. Periodically during the day, the pujari sadhu squirts fragrant water on the chandan to prevent drying and cracking.

Prior to the sandhya (sunset) arti, the chandan is removed. From this sanctified chandan tablets about 1.5 to 2" are made, either by hand or machine. Then they are left to dry. The consecrated chandan tablets are then used by devotees to imprint the U-shaped tilak on their forehead.


This designation is given to a period of one month from when the sun enters the Dhanur rashi (Sagitarius) till the 14th of January.
The importance of this month is cited by the Bharadwaj Samhita and the Panchratra shastra - in the Brahmhansa dialogue. Great glory is attached to serving food to Brahmins and devotees during this month. One story illustrating this is of a king named Satyasangh who ruled a kingdom on the banks of the sacred Narmada. Once while observing the vow of Dhanurmaas by serving food to the Brahmins and devotees, he inadvertently committed a sin. This karma resulted in him being bitten by a snake. However, the fruit of his Dhanurmaas vow saved him. The parshads of Lord Vishnu took him to Vaikunth.
Another story of serving food to a Brahmin is of Yudhisthir. Once by Lord Krishna's command, Yudhisthir served food to a pure Brahmin, who usually cooked his own food. After the meal, Yudhisthir lifted the leaf dish. Underneath he discovered a second. Lifting this, there was a third. In this manner he lifted 1000 leaf dishes! To the astonished Yudhisthir, Lord Krishna revealed, "Yudhisthir, by serving a true Brahmin, you have obtained the fruit of serving a thousand Brahmins."

The glory of this month has also been extolled in the Purushottam Samhita of the Panchratra shastra. In the period the sun shifts from the Dhanur rashi till Makar Sankranti, the Samhita advocates bhakti by celebrating Adhyayan, Mokshada and Vun Mahotsavs.
Adhyayan Festival
The Lord's murti is offered pujan. Then the four Vedas, and Vedangas are recited. Every morning during Dhanurmaas, at around sunrise shiro of mung and sweets made from milk are offered to the Lord. Since Adhyayan refers to study of scriptures, they are arranged in the following directions: Rg-Veda in the east, Atharva in the north, Yajur Veda in the south, Saam Veda in the west, Ramayan-Mahabharat in the south-east, Stotras in the south-west, Dharma Shastra in the north-west, poetic literature written in Prakrut in the north-east.

The month of Magshar is considered the morning period of the Devas and therefore sattvic. Therefore this festival boosts the sattvic attributes of aspirants.
Mokshada Festival Origin
Once as a baby, Lord Vishnu lay sleeping on a banyan leaf. At that time Lord Brahma manifested from Vishnu's navel and sang stotras and Vedic hymns. In this manner, overwhelmed with pride, he forgot the Lord. At that moment two demons appeared from Lord Vishnu's ears and attacked Brahma. Frightened, he fervently prayed to Vishnu. The Lord stopped the demons and offered them to request a boon. However, the demons tongue-in-cheek, requested the Lord to ask for a boon instead! Vishnu laughed and said, "I had vanquished you long ago, yet you confront me again."

This infuriated the demons and so they attacked the Lord. The ensuing battle lasted one and a half months. Finally, the Lord defeated the two, who then begged," Prabhu! Deliver us to your dham (abode)."
On the sud Ekadashi of Dhanurmaas, the Lord opened the northern door and delivered them to Vaikunth, transcending Satyalok. This pleased the two, who requested for a boon, "Take those who offer bhakti to you and observe Ekadashi in this month, to your abode through the northern door." The Lord agreed. Henceforth, a festival for Moksha is also celebrated on the Ekadashis in this month hence the name Mokshadotsav.
Festival Ritual
Every morning during Dhanurmaas the Lord is bathed with nine water-pots. He is then offered pujan, garments, mung shiro and milk sweets. The Vedas and other scriptures listed above are recited in all 8 directions.

A divo of sarsav and sesame seed oil is lighted. A small murti of the Lord is then placed in a palanquin and devotionally taken on a procession circumambulating the mandir. He is then brought into the mandap (hall) through the northern door and placed on a seat. Pujan is offered using the 16 pujadravyas while chanting stotras. He is then placed in the palanquin. And after two circumambulations reinstalled in the mandir.
Vun (Forest) Festival
There is also great glory of a Vun Mahotsav - forest festival in this month. The Lord is taken in a palanquin to a forest area. Here He is offered pujan with the 16 pujadravyas and devotional kirtans are sung.

Through these 3 festivals, Dhanurmaas provides an opportunity to offer extra devotion to the Lord. Today, the 'Mokshadotsav' festival is celebrated by offering 'naivedya' (food).
The Vedas and other scriptures in the Adhyayan festival are today replaced by other books, texts, writing material and other objects such as toys and musical instruments.
This period is considered inauspicious (kamurta) for social activities. The rishis were aware that throughout the year, man is engrossed in mundane activities and therefore overcome by his 'swabhavas' - base instincts. Therefore they enjoined one month in which he would withdraw from his mundane activities to attain inner peace by engaging in devotional activities like: listening to spiritual discourses, singing kirtans and service, for bliss.
The 'Satsangijivanam' (4.59.1,2) elaborates how this festival should be celebrated.
It is also said that Lord Krishna studied during this month. Vaishnav Sampradaya's scripture, 'Pushti Prakash Seva Pranaalika' elaborates the bhakti rituals during this period. The Vaishnav pandits believe that, since the days are short during this period, Lord Krishna had to take the cows to pasture early. Therefore with this underlying sentiment, he is awakened earlier and offered 'Rajbhog' so that he is not delayed in taking the cows. Additionally, he is given a small bundle containing a variety of snacks. In Nathdwara the Rajbhog arti is performed prior to sunrise. Excepting this, all Vaishnav mandirs perform the Rajbhog before 7.30 a.m. In the Swaminarayan Sampradaya every early morning it is a bhakti tradition for devotees to flock to mandirs during Dhanurmaas to sing dhun between Mangala and Shrungar artis. Many also bring freshly made sweets to offer to the Lord which is then distributed to the devotees as prasad.

Vamana Jayanthi

This festival celebrates the birth of Vamanji, the   incarnation of Lord Vishnu, on Bhadarva sud 12, the day after Parivartini Ekadashi.
Origin :

The shastras cite that Prahlad's grandson, King Bali performed a grand Ashwamegh Yagna at Bhrugukutch (Bharuch) on the banks of the river Narmada. Of the 100 yagnas to be completed, he was performing the final. And one who performed 100 yagnas became Lord Indra. The threat of being toppled frightened the reigning Indra, who divulged his predicament to Aditi, his mother. He also informed her of the three insuperable weapons, already procured by Bali from a previous yagna: a divine chariot, a wishing plate and an indestructible armour. With these he could reign terror and attain victory. In turn, Aditi informed her consort, Kashyap, of their son's imminent doom.
Kashyap advised her, "Accept the Lord's refuge and offer sincere devotion. Devotion offered by the meek bears fruit more easily than by anybody else."
Aditi therefore performed a twelve-day vrat known as Payovrat. This pleased the Lord, who granted her a boon to resolve her problem.
As a result Lord Vishnu was born to her as Vamanji - a dwarf - on Bhadarva sud 12. In the garb of a brahmachari, he approached King Bali at Bhrugukutch.
The Shatapatha Brahmana cites a slightly different version. When the devas battled with the demons, the latter won. They then began to divide the Earth among themselves. Lord Vishnu arrived as Vaman and demanded some land for the devas. The demons agreed to grant only three strides of land. At that instant Vaman turned into a gigantic form and swiped all the three worlds.
King Bali welcomed the brahmachari. He requested him to ask for whatever alms he wished.
Vamanji replied, "O King of demons! I only wish for a three strides of land."
Astonished, Bali said, "O Batuk, you are just a little boy and do not understand things. What can you do with three strides of land? At least ask for enough land to will sustain you."
The Lord chuckled. "O king! He is happy who accepts that which is granted by the Lord. Such contentment is the root of moksha. Conversely, one who has not subdued his senses will not be content with even the three worlds."
This pleased Bali, who pledged to grant some land. When Shukracharya, the guru of the demons heard of his pledge, he arrived hotfoot. He warned the king, "O Bali! He is none other than Lord Vishnu. He'll take everything." But King Bali remained undaunted, keeping his word. Shukracharya cursed him. Bali accepted the curse.
At that instant, the little Lord transformed into a colossus. In one stride he covered the whole of earth. With his second he covered the sky and heavens, including Maharlok, Janlok, Taplok and Satyalok! "Where should I now place the third stride?" he asked Bali. With humility, Bali replied, "O Lord, set your foot (third stride) on my head." Vamanji then placed his foot on Bali's head and drove him down into Patal. Pleased with the demon king's selfless devotion, the Lord granted him a boon to remain at his doorstep. King Bali's wife, Vindhyavali, wholeheartedly supported his gift to Vamanji.
It is reported that Vamanji's ashram is situated in a town named Baksaar in the Shahaabad district of Bihar. On this same site, the rishi Vishwamitra founded his own ashram. The Vaman Puran cites 131sacred places of Lord Vamanji.

Ritual :

Devotees observe a "faraari" fast for half a day, taking normal food from the afternoon.

Om Tat Sat

(My humble  salutations to the great devotees ,  wikisources  and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )




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