On September 3-4, the site of Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, New Jersey was filled with sounds of the mantra-chanting swamis, bustling volunteers and chattering children. The two-day ceremonies were organized to celebrate the installation of the first marble pillar of Swaminarayan Akshardham Mahamandir.
The celebrations were organized by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in the presence of their leader Mahant Swami, senior swamis, and devotees from around the world, a press release from the organization said.
The celebrations included a tour of the entire complex, the Vedic ceremony to install the first marble pillar, and devotional dances. “It’s a remarkable project, one that will enhance the cultural landscape of the state. However, what engages my emotional and spiritual understanding of this organization and the Akshardham Mahamandir are the selfless acts of service and sacrifice. I am just mesmerized by their dedication and commitment,” Palak Shah, one of the attendees is quoted saying in the press release.
On September 4, the first pillar was installed by Mahant Swami Maharaj. Blessing the assembly, he said, “Even our smallest service is considered as a great act of sacrifice by God. We pray that thousands of people may benefit from this Swaminarayan Akshardham Mahamandir, and may all those that come to visit attain peace and happiness.”
The Swaminarayan Akshardham Complex in Robbinsville, New Jersey will be home to a youth and spiritual activity center, a Hindu mandir, and a center for spiritual and social development.
On Sept. 2, on ekadashi, Mahant Swami Maharaj performed the Murti Pratishtha ceremony of Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj Abhishek Murti and inaugurated the Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj Abhishek Mandapam at the temple.
The Abhishek Mandapam houses the sacred image of Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj, the childhood form of the founder of this sect, Bhagwan Swaminarayan, who was born in Chhapaiya, Northern India, in 1781.
On Sept. 7, hundreds of devotees and well-wishers from across North America gathered on the banks of the Hudson River to witness the Asthipushpa Visarjan (holy ash dispersion ceremony) of Pramukh Swami Maharaj who died last year in Sarangpur on Aug. 13 at the age of 95. The ceremony was conducted his successor Mahant Swami Maharaj. The Ashthipushpa pujan prior to scattering the sacred ashes was performed by senior swamis led by Mahant Swami Maharaj.
During his lifetime, Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited U.S. fourteen times between 1974-2014. He visited New York 13 times, inaugurating the first BAPS Mandir in North America in New York in 1974. In 2014, he inaugurated the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Robbinsville, NJ. His ashes were scattered in the Hudson River, as an expression of gratitude and in commemoration of his longstanding ties with New Jersey and New York, BAPS said in its press release.