Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in United Kingdom-18/3

Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in United Kingdom


 BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Ribble Bank Street
Off Gerrard Street Preston PR1 8NF Lancashire UK
Phone: 01772 497367/200256

E-mail: info.preston@uk.baps.org

Hindu Practices:
Daily Puja   Tilak-Chandlo    Mala    Darshan    Dandvat Pranam    Aarti    Thal   

Rituals are an important part of everyday life in the Hindu tradition. These rites and rituals are not rooted in blind faith or superstition; rather, they have a practical application and relevance to people’s everyday lives. BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha followers live by the code of conduct established by Bhagwan Swaminarayan and by the guidance of the current guru. These practices stabilize the mind and purify its thoughts. They are the answer to maintaining one’s focus on God admidst one’s daily routine. This section provides an introduction to these timeless Hindu rites and rituals. 
The word ‘puja’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘puj,’ meaning to worship or to adore. Nitya Puja, or daily puja, is a prayer ritual performed every morning by Hindu devotees. A devotee can communicate with God during daily puja and convey one’s concerns and feelings directly to God. Puja helps an individual concentrate on the divine murti of God and His gunatit sadhu. It helps to calm the mind and quiet its many thoughts. Each morning, after having brushed and bathed but prior to eating or drinking, devotees put on freshly washed clothes and sit facing in a northern or eastern direction on a clean piece of cloth, or asana. The northern direction symbolizes the path for spiritual progress, and the sun rises in the eastern direction, symbolizing enlightenment. Devotees then lay out before them the murtis of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the guru parampara on another asana while reciting a Sanskrit verse inviting them to grace their puja. Thereafter, a male devotee places a tilak-chandlo made from chandan and kumkum on his forehead, while female devotees apply a kumkum chandlo. During puja, followers of Bhagwan Swaminarayan meditate on His divine form and their atma, acknowledging that their existence is separate from the body. They then engage in dhyan, yoga/pranayam, mansi, mala, dandavat, pradakshina, and prarthana. Devotees recite another shloka signaling the end of the puja and then read 5 shlokas from the Shikshapatri. After finishing puja, devotees say “Jai Swaminarayan” to those present and bow down, or perform panchang pranam, to their parents. Beginning each day in this manner spiritually prepares one’s mind for the stress associated with daily tasks. 
The tilak-chandlo has been a Hindu tradition, especially in the Vaishnav Sampraday, for thousands of years as a symbol of victory, auspiciousness, and belonging to a particular faith. Tilak, a mark of Hindu Sanatan Dharma, comes from the Sanskrit word ‘til’ which means sesame seed. The sesame seed has great importance in yagnas and charity. A tilak is imprinted on a person’s forehead because it is the location through which one can channel Divinity, thus enhancing the spiritual character of an individual. Male devotees of the Swaminarayan Sampraday apply a tilak and chandlo on their foreheads during their puja. The tilak is made of chandan, or yellow sandalwood paste, and the chandlo is made of kumkum, or red saffron powder. Female devotees only apply a chandlo, commonly known as bindi, on their foreheads. The tilak is representative of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s feet, and the chandlo is representative of the devotee. In this way, the meaning of the tilak-chandlo is two-fold. First, it represents a devotee remaining at the service of God’s feet. Secondly, it represents the dual devotion to God and the gunatit guru. In the Swaminarayan Sampraday, Bhagwan Swaminarayan introduced the tilak-chandlo to His paramhansas by applying a sample on Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami’s forehead. Today, millions of devotees wear the tilak-chandlo on their forehead, proudly symbolizing their affinity to Hindu dharma and their faith in Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. 
A mala is a string of wooden beads, similar to a rosary, which devotees pass through their middle finger and thumb. One mala contains 108 beads. The Swaminarayan mantra is chanted as each bead is turned. Devotees perform anywhere from 5 to 51 malas during their daily pujas. Many devotees also complete additional malas when their schedules permit, such as during their commute to work and prior to retiring to bed at night. Chanting the Swaminarayan mantra while turning the mala is an extremely effective method to pacify one’s mind and silence its many fleeting thoughts.  
Faith and intense attachment to the divine form of God are necessary to understand the role darshan plays in a Hindu’s life. Darshan in Sanskrit means ‘seeing, to see, or be seen by God or His gunatit sadhu.’ However, the true import of darshan is much more than its literal meaning. Darshan is the zeal for even a glimpse of God and His gunatit sadhu. Millions of Hindus travel to mandirs that are not only difficult to reach but contain dense crowds of thousands of people trying to catch a glimpse of the murtis. The expression of satisfaction, serenity, and joy on the face of a devotee who has just completed darshan truly captures the essence of darshan. Devotees perform darshan of the murtis upon arriving at the mandir. However, darshan does not have to be performed at a mandir. Devotees can do darshan of different murtis during the course of the day at home, in their office, before driving in their cars, and even before a major exam of a murti in their wallet. The faithful gather in thousands to perform the darshan of Pramukh Swami Maharaj for his morning puja ritual.  
Dandvat Pranam is a ritual during which devotees offer their respects and surrender themselves to God and His gunatit sadhu by bowing down. ‘Danda-vat,’ a Sanskrit word, literally means lying on the floor like a stick. Devotees perform dandvat pranam by lying fully prostrate on the floor with their arms stretched out towards the murtis. It is a symbol of complete submission that reminds devotees to respect God and cultivate humility. All of mankind’s karmas are performed through mind, body, or speech, and every karma in life should be offered to Bhagwan. Eight specific parts of the body should touch the floor:
  • Jãnubhyãm – thighs
  • Padabhyãm – feet
  • Karãbhyãm – hands
  • Urasã – chest
  • Manasã – mind
  • Shirasã – head
  • Vachasã – speech
  • Drushtyã – eyes
In addition to the religious aspects, dandvat pranam, a combination of three yogic postures, tones the muscles of the neck, shoulders, chest, and lower back, relieves backaches, increases flexibility of the spinal column, increases the efficiency of the pancreas and adrenals, and helps prevent diabetes. At BAPS Swaminarayan mandirs around the world, devotees perform dandavat pranam after having darshan of the murtis and as part of the aarti ceremony.
Aarti is the symbolic waving of a lighted wick in a clockwise motion in front of the murti of Bhagwan while singing a prayer. It symbolizes the removal of darkness by true spiritual enlightenment. Aarti is a tradition dating back thousands of years. In ancient times, there was little light inside the mandirs, and even less light actually reached the garbha gruh, or the inner sanctum of the mandir where the murtis are located. The only way to have darshan of the murtis was from the light cast from a divo, a clay lamp with a cotton wick dipped in ghee. During aarti, this lamp was held near each part of the murti so that devotees could properly see all the parts of the murti. Today, millions of Hindus devoutly perform aarti in their homes or attend aarti at mandirs everyday.
In the Swaminarayan Sampraday, the aarti was written by Sadguru Muktanand Swami 200 years ago. After his guru Ramanand Swami passed away and appointed Bhagwan Swaminarayan as his successor, Muktanand Swami was reluctant to accept Bhagwan Swaminarayan as the present form of God. Ramanand Swami gave him divine darshan and explained the true greatness of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Muktanand Swami rushed to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and seated Him on Ramanand Swami’s asana. From his heart flowed the words to the aarti, singing, “Jay Sadguru Swami….” Since then, this particular aarti is performed daily in Swaminarayan Sampraday mandirs and devotees’ homes.
Devotees visit their local mandirs and participate in this sacred ritual on a daily basis. In shikharbaddha mandirs, aarti is performed five times a day, while in hari mandirs, aarti is performed two times a day.
Thal is a form of bhakti in which devotees offer pure vegetarian food to the murtis. During thal, devotees sing devotional verses describing the different types of food being offered to God. The ashta kavis in Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s time wrote hundreds of different thals mentioning thousands of delicacies. While singing thal, devotees lovingly thank Bhagwan for providing them with the basic necessities to live, including ample nutritious food.
Thal is offered three times during the day at mandirs. Thal is performed right before or after the aarti ritual in mandirs. The greatest display of such bhakti is seen on the day of the New Year at the Annakut festival. Thousands of vegetarian items are prepared and offered as bhakti, symbolizing a form of appreciation and devotion to God. 
Devotees bow down to their parents every day after doing their daily puja. This gesture is a symbol of reverence and gratitude to their parents.

You will often see Hindus great each other by saying ‘Namaste’ or ‘Jai Swaminarayan.’ That greeting is not simply a replacement for the word ‘hello’ to welcome an individual. The Hindu ‘Namaste’ is a sign of respect for the other person’s atma. It is bowing down to the the Paramatma or God inside everyone’s atma. Hindus believe that God resides in each person and should be treated, respected, and greeted accordingly. Namaskãr (Namaste) comes from the Sanskrit word ‘namaha,’ meaning to bow. During the namaskãr, we press our palms together and then bow our head and upper body to the person we meet. Also known as pranam, this is Hindu Sanatan Dharma’s modest ritual of greeting. Performing namaskãr naturally makes one humble. Humility has an immensely benevolent effect on the opposite person, instantly making them feel comfortable. The ancient rishis were experts on human psychology. They advocated this ritual of namaskãr because it effectively established a rapport with the other person. Moreover, the ancient rishis noted that performing namaskãr protects us from any undesirable vibrations of the opposite person. In the early 1980s, scientists at the University of British Columbia in Canada observed that performing namaskãr also protects us from the transfer of bacteria and viruses commonly associated with the Western tradition of shaking hands.  
Devotees read a variety of scriptures daily. Devotees read 5 shlokas from the Shikshapatri in their daily puja. Also during their daily puja or throughout the course of their day, devotees read one passage from the Vachanamrut and five Swamini Vato and spend an additional ten to fifteen minutes studying other texts, such as biographies of the guru parampara, various scriptures by the paramhansas, and contemporary publications on spiritual living.

Every night before going to bed, devotees sing the chesta, or a collection of prose lyrics describing the divine murti and actions of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The lyrics describe in great detail the many divine mannerisms of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, such as His eating habits, how He sat in a spiritual assembly, and how He fell asleep. Recalling these lila charitras has been prescribed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan as the only means to eternal happiness and peace of mind. You can listen to the chesta and incorporate it into your nightly routine. 
Abhishek is a sacred Vedic tradition through which people offer bhakti by pouring water, milk, or panchamrut on murtis. While pouring the liquid, devotees generally chant mantras, offer prayers, or sing bhajans. Devotees pray to God and ask for a sankalp, or wish, as a form of blessings for doing the abhishek. In ancient times, people performed abhishek by dipping kush, or darbha grass, in water and then sprinkling it on the murti. Pramukh Swami Maharaj has revived this tradition by installing a Nilkanth Varni abhishek murti in many BAPS mandirs around the world.
Mahapuja is a worship ritual that allows many devotees to simultaneously participate in prayer. During this ritual, devotees pray to God and ask for harmony, world peace, and an unhindered path to completing a particular endeavor. The first mahapuja was performed on June 2, 1830 CE (Jeth Sud 11 Samvat Year 1886) in Gadhada by Gopalanand Swami, a senior sadhu. Aksharbhrama Gunatitanand Swami instructed Gopalanand Swami to perform the mahapuja in front of Gopinath Dev at Gadhadha Mandir. On that day, Gopalanand Swami explained the glory of the mahapuja: “Here in Junagadh, resides Aksharbhrama Gunatitanand Swami. Those that perform a mahapuja here will be freed from emotional, mental, physical, and financial miseries.” Today, mahapujas have become an integral part of the festivities in murti pratishtas, commencements, inaugurations, housewarmings, and even birthday celebrations. Mahapujas are performed every morning in shikharbaddha mandirs around the world and on Poonam, or full moon nights, in hari mandirs.  
Prarthana, or praying, is your direct line of communication with God and His gunatit sadhu at times when you feel abandoned or lost. Prarthana is the key to overcoming obstacles and to finding solace in life. Prarthana provides a medium through which sorrows can be shared and comfort can be received from the selfless love of Bhagwan and His sadhu. Simply close your eyes and think of Bhagwan and His sadhu.
Some of the most renowned prarthanas in the Hindu tradition are mentioned in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana. Gajendra, the King of the Elephants, prays to Vishnu to save him from a crocodile pulling away at his feet in the middle of the stream. It symbolizes his last and final cry of desperation. Bhagwan Vishnu comes to save Gajendra.
A similar prarthana by Draupadiji, the wife of the Pandavas, is mentioned in the Mahabharata. After being dragged to the courtroom by the evil Dushasana to be undressed in front of the very eyes of Hastinapura, Draupadiji tries to ask the Pandavas, five mighty warriors, for help. After that fails, she tries to hold on to the cloth of the sari in the grip of her teeth. When her teeth let go of the last bit of cloth, she prays to Shri Krishna for his support. Shri Krishna aids her and keeps feeding spool after spool of cloth until the evil Dushasana stops pulling her sari. This prarthana highlights Draupadiji’s failed attempts for help from everyone around her except God. She realizes that she should have prayed to and sought refuge in Shri Krishna first.
Bal-Bhakta Prahlad’s prayer to Vishnu was of a different kind. After Nrusinh avatar kills Prahlad’s evil father, Hiranyakashyapu, Bhakta Prahlad asks for true protection. He prays to be saved from the attacks of his base instincts. This prayer symbolizes the importance of asking for the ‘right things’—true protection should be sought from our inner desires and not physical or material troubles.
In the Swaminarayan Sampraday, the prarthana by Yogiji Maharaj to his guru Shastriji Maharaj in Mahelav asks for the same. It asks for protection from his inner vices. He asks for positive perspective and the ability to understand the glory of God, His sadhu, and His devotees. This prarthana is published in its entirety in the Yogi Gita. 
The society we live in today is centered on instant gratification and quick rewards. The reality of our fast-paced world is that if you fail to keep moving forward, you risk falling behind your peers. The mental, physical, and emotional stress you can experience from this lifestyle can cause permanent damage to your body and mind.
Mental stability is vital for avoiding the harmful effects of stress. Although we must remain in step with everyone else, we must also be at peace mentally in order to succeed. This mental stability is available through meditation.
From Vedic times, Hindu Sanatan Dharma has explained the advantages of meditation. Meditation soothes the mind, bringing one into a deeper state of awareness. It helps to clear thoughts and anxieties, allowing one to focus completely on God and his/her own spiritual progress.
Meditation is a practice that is essential for spiritual progress. Without meditation, one cannot attain an elevated spiritual state. Read on to learn more about the different types of meditation described in the ancient scriptures and prescribed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami for devotees. 
Atma vichar is to meditate upon your atma. Our true identity is not this physical body but the soul that brings life to it. By focusing on the atma, we are able to remain calm and stable in extreme situations.
We spend our lives chasing worldly pleasures, trying to satisfy the desires of our senses. This false sense of reality is based on the misconception that we believe we are this body. The happiness we receive from indulging in materialistic objects is temporary, and in our constant pursuit of them, we forget that one day our bodies will no longer exist.
The goal of life is to be freed from the cycle of births and deaths, to attain moksh, and to permenantly reside in Akshardham, the abode of God. By separating ourselves from our body and realizing ourselves to be atma, we remain aware of what we must accomplish in life. Atma vichar should be done every morning as part of our daily puja.
Paramatma vichar is to meditate on Paramatma, or the Supreme God, and His true form. Paramatma literally means above atma, signifying God’s supremacy. To contemplate on His mahima, or glory, and to realize His greatness is Paramatma vichar.
Paramatma vichar reminds us that God is the final authority. He is omnipotent and the cause and creator of everything around us. We come to understand that everything in this world happens according to His wishes.
Paramatma vichar also reminds us that there is no other way of attaining liberation other than devotion to Him. By meditating on Paramatma, we are given the strength to continuously worship Him despite facing difficulties in daily life. 
Smruti is to meditate on the divine actions and incidents of God and His gunatit sadhu. In Vachanamrut Gadhada I-3, Bhagwan Swaminarayan says that by remembering the divine incidents of God and His Sadhu, you will attain moksha (liberation) even if you cannot remember His form or murti.
Devotees from around the world do smruti throughout the day while driving, eating, walking, working, and even before sleeping. They reminisce about moments they have shared with their guru or even those that others have experienced, which through smruti can become their own. The incidental effect of smruti is the happiness it brings to our minds, allaying any negative influences.  
Mansi puja is the mental worship of God. Mansi puja is not limited to a particular time of day and does not require a specific place or accommodation. It is primarily performed during daily puja every morning, but ideally, mansi puja is performed five times a day. During mansi vichar, members of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha focus their minds on the divine form of God. Many of them reminisce, or do smruti, of various murtis and relive moments they have experienced with their guru. In their mansi puja, they offer bhakti in various forms by mentally singing His praises, serving Him, feeding Him, putting Him to sleep, and bathing and adorning Him with garments and ornaments. Mansi puja is not imagining; it is believing that God is omniscient and accepting your service through your mental offerings. Some devotees also introspect on their day’s work and actions, which enables them to improve their productivity and spiritual output for the following day. 
Mahima vichar is to meditate on the greatness of Bhagwan and His gunatit sadhu. Mahima vichar, also called prapti vichar, helps us appreciate how fortunate we are for being blessed with the company of God and His pragat, or ever-present, gunatit sadhu.
Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami cites this method as one of the best ways to remove our inner instincts. Constantly thinking of the greatness of God and His gunatit sadhu helps us realize that their power and strength is enough for us to eradicate all of our base desires.
Many times mahima vichar also implies thinking of the glory of God’s devotees. This enables us to overlook people’s minor faults and develop a positive outlook on life and those around us.
Yogiji Maharaj was the embodiment of mahima vichar.  
Dhyan literally means meditation. To do dhyan is to meditate on Bhagwan’s image. During dhyan, the mind is focused solely on God and His gunatit sadhu. In Hindu Sanatan Dharma, murtis are used to help focus our minds on God as they are a tangible form of divinity. It is believed that Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the guru parampara actually reside within the murtis, so dhyan is done with the feelings that they are present in front of us. By focusing the mind and senses on Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the guru parampara, worldly desires are subdued. Dhyan also improves concentration as it involves striving to prevent the mind from thinking of materialistic thoughts. This concentration in turn is useful in all aspects of life – school, work, and so forth. By doing dhyan, the murti of Bhagwan becomes imprinted in our hearts. Dhyan stabilizes and soothes the mind as it focuses on God’s divine image. Dhyan should be done every morning during puja
To reinforce Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s teachings to live a spiritually charged and morally pure life, followers of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha regularly attend weekly sabhas and participate in ghar sabha. Weekly satsang sabha and ghar sabha provide a practical escape from the fast-paced, materialistic environment in which we live. Moreover, Daily Personal Satsang offers a daily dose of spirituality in an online format. Darshan of murtis from around the world and guru darshan maintains one’s focus on God admidst one’s daily routine.
The most common feature of satsang is the weekly assembly attended by devotees at the mandir or center nearest to their homes. These assemblies are weekly gatherings for all ages, where readings of the scriptures and singing of kirtans is combined with prayers and discourses. Programs at the assemblies are presented by both children and adults. 

Humanitarian Services:

Seva, or selfless service to society, is a cornerstone of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Bhagwan Swaminarayan initiated this tradition of integrating service with spirituality in the late 18th century through a groundbreaking program of social work.  Today, Pramukh Swami Maharaj continues this tradition through a wide range of humanitarian activities including:  (1) health and wellness; (2) education; (3) environmental awareness; (4) community empowerment and (5) disaster relief.  Together with its international and independent partner BAPS Charities, BAPS and its tens of thousands of volunteers continue to uphold this Spirit of Service, enriching their own lives and the lives of those they serve.

Developing Individuals :


Bhagwan Swaminarayan believed in responding to the social needs of the then current climate. Developing individuals and families was vital to maintaining the social structure of India in the 18th century. Thus, He concentrated on the spiritual and social development of each individual, while maintaining the primacy of the family as a basic social unit. Those development measures remain relevant today.
Life is a continuous source of change. People mature and develop through different stages in life. It is the direction of this constant change that determines the decline or prosperity of a community and a generation. Developing individuals is the foundation for strengthening our communities. The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha stays with people through life’s changes by helping them develop their academic and professional careers and their social and familial lives. BAPS fosters a community where children are nurtured through academic programs, character building initiatives, and wellness programs. Individuals are given a platform to practice and perfect their talents. With the skills developed through these initiatives, BAPS encourages people to contribute to their community. At the center of these initiatives is the mandir, an epicenter for overall development.

Community and Family

BAPS humanitarian initiatives are rooted in our commitment to serve communities by focusing on their macro development and cohesion while simultaneously catering to the specific needs of the families and individuals that comprise the community. BAPS works to strengthen nuclear family units by, for example, encouraging individuals to live addiction-free lifestyles. This, in turn, helps individuals’ focus their energies toward personal success and then give back to their community. BAPS also provides a platform for children and youth to develop their talents and skills in order to better serve and lead in their communities. Our initiatives aim to help individuals respect one another and live in harmony.

Culture and Heritage

Culture and heritage are a distinct part of the identity of an individual and a community. The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha hosts a variety of initiatives to help Indians stay connected with their cultural roots. The Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi and Gandhinagar stand as a testament to the 10,000 year old culture of the Indian subcontinent and will remain a tribute for future generations. Various exhibitions and special Mega Festivals bring India to the doorsteps of Indians living both geographically and ideologically outside of India. Mystic India, the first large format film ever produced about India, transported the mysticism of India to the hearts and homes of millions worldwide. BAPS mandirs preserve ancient Hindu traditions. They are a celebrated example of majestic Indian architecture and promote a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle prescribed by the ancient sages. Through BAPS’ many cultural initiatives, millions of people can experience they beauty of India and its traditions.
Mystic India:
Mystic India is a large format film that rediscovers India by tracing the journey of an 11-year-old child yogi, Neelkanth Varni. From the snow-capped cliffs of the Himalayas, through the dense jungles of eastern India, to the crystal sand beaches of southern India, Neelkanth’s travels share the story of more than a billion different people, their customs, and languages, all unified by their diversity. Mystic India is directed by Keith Melton, and the score is composed by EMMY Award Winner Sam Cardon and renowned flutist Pandit Ronu Majumdar. The film sports a cast of over 45,000 and captures the breathtaking sights, sounds, and awe-inspiring festivals of India. The film was awarded the Audience’s Choice Award in 2005 at the 10th International Large Format Film Festival in Paris, France and has since been used by various educators to teach cultural diversity and Indian heritage to their students. It depicts a true portrait of India’s mysticism.
“I have visited India many times, and would like to go back again. Mystic India has captivated my heart and soul…again.” – Audrey Smith, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

“In religion, India is the only millionaire - the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.” – Mark Twain
Experiencing the vast diversity of India can take a lifetime. The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha works to provide an initial introduction and, eventually, a detailed journey through the affluence of Indian heritage to millions of people through their cultural complexes, exhibitions, seminars, retreats, and Mega Festivals.
As part of its initiatives to help preserve and raise awareness about Indian culture and heritage, the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha has researched and exhibited facts and information about Indian culture from ancient scriptures, archeological findings, and the work of previous historians and scholars. These exhibitions include the latest research and findings about India and its people. Some of these exhibits are created as part of major festivals or inaguarations, while many have been created on a permanent basis at mandirs and cultural complexes around the world. These exhibits highlight the contributions Indian civilization has made to the world in the fields of computers, science, arts, medicine, and aviation.
 Sanskruti Vihar literally means ‘a journey through India’s heritage.’ This 12 minute boat ride takes you through ancient Indian civilization’s villages and bazaars, then to Takshasilla, the world’s first university, and finally through a tunnel-like labyrinth of ancient discoveries by India’s rishis. It unravels ancient Indian history as it sails down the Sarasvati River, the mother of Indian civilization. Visitors are seated in a peacock shaped boat and taken through an exciting displays of dioramas and audio-animatronic displays. From this unique boat ride, visitors learn about India’s contributions to society. For example, the rishis of ancient India were first to discover the numeral zero, the mathematical concept of pi, the laws of gravity, plastic surgery, Ayurveda, flight, and much more. The concluding message illustrates the essence of Indian culture and its message of coexistence: “The world is one human family….” Sanskruti Vihar is a permanent display at the Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi.
Glorious India and Understanding Hinduism exhibits are short and concise introductions to Hindu Sanatan Dharma and India’s contributions to society. These exhibits raise cultural awareness and tolerance within various local communities. They provide an accurate picture of the culture and clarify many of the misconceptions about India and Hindu Dharma that have been propagated for decades. These exhibitions are displayed around the world at BAPS Swaminarayan Mandirs and are also exhibited on a temporary basis at various fairs, festivals, and conventions.
Unique, 3-D dioramas through which visitors can stroll and state-of-the-art light, sound, and audio-animatronics greet visitors with the universal messages of Indian culture told through the life and work of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Love, compassion, service, honesty, nonviolence, family harmony, and humility resonate through the lifelike animated displays. The exhibits illustrate the vibrant colors, clothing, and village setting of 18th century life in India. The technology combined with the storytelling transport the audience to over 200 years ago, making the experience even more authentic.
In order to pass on Indian culture to future generations, the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha has developed a variety of initiatives geared towards youths. These programs instill a sense of pride in and make them aware of the affluence of Indian heritage. Furthermore, respect for other cultures is also propouned. BAPS has organized a variety of training sessions and courses to teach youths about festivals, rituals, the performing arts, literature, language, and cuisine. Cultural Conventions catering to the interests of youths are organized around the world annually. These conventions bring thousands of youths together to create an environment of cultural awareness and celebration. Special Experience India Tours, or cultural retreats, are also organized annually to expose nonresident Indian youths to the beauty and grandeur of India, its people and their way of life.
Cultural conventions with thousands of participants are held in North America, Europe, India, Africa, and the Far East. These conventions are organized by sadhus and volunteers to provide a deeper understanding of the lessons of Bharatiya Sanskruti, or Indian culture. They involve lectures, interactive workshops, and recreational activities. To provide an authentic sense of Indian culture, the participants are encouraged to eat, dress, and speak traditionally. Many of these conventions are held at cultural complexes and mandirs to maximize the traditional effect of the environment. Participants leave these conventions with a better understanding of their own identity.
One such Cultural Convention was held in Jacksonville, Florida in 2007. The convention was attended by over 8,000 participants from North America, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The convention presented India’s cultural heritage in creative workshops utilizing advanced audio-visual methods. Pramukh Swami Maharaj attended the entire 10-day convention. His presence and message was clearly the prime attraction for the participants.
Training sessions are held at BAPS centers to provide a better understanding of Indian culture through the study of its history, music, art, and language. These training sessions are effective because they are organized and taught by experts who understand the subject matter and are able to relate to the education and receptivity of their audience. Many times, the trainers themselves have gone through the same system and are able to identify which modes of instruction are best. These training sessions are held on a local, regional, and, at times, national scale. They provide hands-on training and instruction in the fields of classical music, such as vocal, tabla, and sitar; preparing traditional cuisine; language instruction; and the analytical study of literary works in Gujarati, Hindi, and Sanskrit. They also provide training in traditional forms of folk art such as embroidery, cloth design, stitching, and weaving.
Every year, high school and college students from around the world leave for the summer months on a journey of self discovery. Experience India Tours organized by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha provide youths with an opportunity to connect with India. During these expeditions, youths fully immerse themselves in the culture by interacting and familiarizing themselves with the people, their languages, lifestyles, and places of worship. They visit places of natural beauty and historic importance, such as Benares, Konark, Ajanta, Elora, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamnotri, Gangotri, and Rameshwaram. After an adventurous six weeks touring the spiritual, political, and natural landmarks of India, youths return to their homes with a clear understanding of Indian culture and Hindu Sanatan Dharma.
Festivals Celebrated:
Indians do not simply live life; they celebrate it. Two hundred years ago, Bhagwan Swaminarayan revived the ancient Indian tradition of celebrating festivals in a moral and spiritual way. He purged celebrations of various negative elements that had seeped in over time, including substance abuse, profanity, and the oppression of women and the poor. Today, the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha encourages and facilitates the celebration of life and Indian culture by organizing Mega Festivals all over the world. Each of these festivals includes cultural performances, exhibits of intricate art and architecture, and timeless traditions. These festivals serve as a source of information, inspiration, and pride.
India’s ancient traditions and rituals are as relevant today as they were centuries ago. The rites and rituals, art, architecture, dance, theatre, music, and alternative wellness methods passed down for generations have touched millions of people and continue to influence the lives of many around the world. The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha reinforces these traditions through activities around its global network. Celebrating festivals, performing special Vedic prayers and rituals, preserving ancient art and architecture, and promoting a healthy lifestyle through yoga and a vegetarian diet are all integral parts of BAPS’ cultural and development activities. These activities celebrate Indian traditions in over 3,850 communities worldwide.


The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha publishes a variety of literature in multiple mediums to raise cultural awareness and encourage religious tolerance. These publications and audio-visual media are produced in many languages, such as English, Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Sanskrit, and French, and are available at over 3,850 BAPS centers around the world.

17 March 2014

Eager to be coloured by the divinity of the gunatit guru, close to 90,000 men and women from across five continents made their way to the village of Sarangpur (Gujarat) for the Pushpadolotsav. Themed “Yagnapurushna Range” – “By the Colors of Yagnapurush” – the festival began with the melodies of the Swaminarayan dhun and hymns celebrating the festival of colors and the life of Shastriji Maharaj. Throughout the assembly senior sadhus gave inspiring speeches on how the faithful may better enjoin themselves in Satsang and the year-long sesquicentennial celebrations (Sardh Shatabdi Mahotsav) of Shastriji Maharaj’s birth, by offering devotion through spiritual reading, prayers, dialogue, and service.
The festival came to its height at the arrival of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Swamishri, despite his advanced age, graced the assembly for an hour and gave darshan as the devotees joyously came forward to be colored by sanctified colored water.

18 March 2014

As a part of the Pushpadolotsav celebrations, Pramukh Swami Maharaj blessed the sadhus. As Swamishri graced the stage, first the senior sadhus came forward to be colored. Following them, the 600 sadhus in attendance each took their turn to be coloured and blessed by Swamishri. The senior sadhus then garlanded Swamishri with offerings that devotees had sent from around the world. To conclude, Pujya Bhaktipriya Swami (Kothari Swami) offered a humble prayer to Swamishri on behalf of all of the sadhus.
International women’s day was first celebrated in 1911. Since then, the achievements of women have been acknowledged, encouraged and celebrated over the years. The theme for 2014 is “Inspiring Change” (Prerak Parivartan). Change occurs after people take action, and action occurs when people are inspired. Centered on this theme, Mahila Din was held at many different mandirs and centers across India by the BAPS Mahila wing.
As part of the ongoing year-long celebrations of “Shastriji Maharaj Sardh Shatabdi Mahotsav”, speakers presented inspiring speeches on the life of Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj. Devotees presented an inspiring skit “Mukta Atma Karnibaa Banesinhaji Rana” in many different centers. Invited guests also addressed the audience. The objective was to inspire those who came to the event and to empower women everywhere.
Invited guests and members of the Mahila Karyalay were honored. Awards were presented to the women who achieved first-class in Satsang exams. Mahila Din celebrations included a speech on the women devotees at the time of Shastriji Maharaj, followed by a mantra pushpanjali. Yuvatis performed a traditional dance depicting the glory of Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj.

Mandir Timings:
Daily Arti
8:00 am & 6:30 pm
Darshan Timings:
8:00 am to 12:00 noon

4:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Weekly Assembly

Bal Sabha
Sunday 5:15 pm to 6:25 pm
Balika Sabha
Sunday 5:15 pm to 6:25 pm

Kishore Sabha
Sunday 5:15 pm to 7:00 pm
Kishori Sabha
Sunday 5:15 pm to 6:25 pm

Yuvak Sabha
Friday 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Yuvati Sabha
Saturday 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Mahila Sabha
Saturday 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Satsang Sabha
Sunday 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

 Driving Directions

1.      Take Junction 31 on ( M6) Motorway.
2.    Follow (A59) Towards Preston (Road leads on BROCKHOLE BROW Then onto New HALL LANE )
3.    Follow Road until arrive at main T Junction (Home Base Superstore offsite)
4.    Turn left at Traffic Light on to London Road (A6)
5.     Take first right at next traffic lights on to QUEEN STREET (You will pass Mercedes garage and then Avenham multi storage car park on your right)
6.    Frenchwood street is 6th street on left
7.     Follow road until you reach cross road
8.    Turn left on to Avenham Place
9.    Through large gate on your right you can enter Mandir

Om Tat Sat

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

(The Blog  is reverently for all the seekers of truth, lovers of wisdom and   to share the Hindu Dharma with others on the spiritual path and also this is purely  a non-commercial blog)


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