The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir Mahotsav began in earnest today in Robbinsville, New Jersey. Paramacharya Sadasivanathaswami and Sannyasin Senthilnathaswami were honored to be sitting on the stage with the organization's senior sadhus who performed the preparatory pujas to Varuna, Sri Harikrishna Maharaj and Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Following this, 6,000 grihasthins performed the yagna.
The yagna blessed the many marble and panchaloha murtis which will be installed tomorrow in the mandir. Giant screens and sound system allowed the delightfully pure chanting and each gesture of the puja to be seen up close by all present in the gigantic tent.
Later we were taken on a tour of the new temple, which is not finished, so at the request of the swami who designed it, we can show only a few close-up glimpses of some of the finished carving at this time. But it is spectacular. The entire mandir is housed inside a huge building, allowing even the exterior to be crafted of the same Italian while marble used in the interior. It's quite a sight to walk into a somewhat nondescript modern building (all the ornamentation is not yet finished) and discover a full-scale, nearly finished, finely crafted all-stone shikharbaddh mandir. This scenario will allow the mandir to survive hundreds of winters, if not 1,000, in the northeastern location.
We also met with several senior swamis privately for 45 minutes and then enjoyed an amazing and spontaneous darshan outside. Pramukh Swami Maharaj came on stage to bless some 10-15,000 devotees, who were overwhelmed with the rare appearance of their 93-year-old satguru. They sang and chanted and danced in joy, a sea of people, and he clearly was equally joyous to be among so many of them. It was, as the announcer noted, the meeting of the ocean which receives and the river which gives. It was a spiritual sangam, and we felt blessed to be in such an ocean of love for the guru, a rare and precious sight. By the end of the day, an estimated 20,000 had come, the volunteer staff stretching to organize and park 6,000 cars, dozens of shuttle vans and dozens upon dozens of chartered buses that had come in from all across North America. All drawn by the rare presence of one of the greatest living gurus of our time.
We interviewed Chaitanyamurti Swami, Mangalnidhi Swami, Paramtattva Swami and Bhadreshdas Swami on the idea of trends in Hinduism, for they have a vast international experience. We also conscripted a professor of journalism at Columbia University onto our team.
Stay tuned for more.
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