On Saturday, August 9, the two swamis from Hawaii joined in the investiture of prana, life, into the murtis of the new BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey. It was the main event we were called to be part of, the central purpose of our travels.
The night before, the marble murtis were installed in their golden shrines, ready to be brought to life. At 9:00am the sadhus and devotees gathered in the temple, with some 20,000 outside watching on giant screens.
Elaborate puja with traditional Vedic mantras filled the equally elaborate chamber. Senior sadhus gathered just before the main sanctum, inviting our Hawaiian swamis to sit among them, offering rice and mantras together.
After about an hour of rites, led with such precision and perfect presence by Mahant Swami, Tyagvallabh Swami and Ishwarcharan Swami, the crowd suddenly stirred. It was announced that Swamishri would now do the all-important abhishekam for the new deities in three shrines.
Prahmukh Swami Maharaj arrived, a clear joy on his face as this was the culmination of seven years of effort by his devotees. He entered the inner sanctum, personally performed abhishekam to a tiny Neelkanth Varni murti on a tray, and then was handed a remote control. Pushing the button, he started the water flowing upon the heads of the deities, one and then another and another.
Afterwards, the senior and then junior sadhus were allowed into the sanctum to pour water onto the deities' feet. Our two swamis from Kauai were lovingly guided into the innermost chamber to do likewise, a rare blessing at this most holy event. Of all the Swaminarayan temple openings to which they have been invited and attended, this is the first at which they had been given this particular, central privilege.
All exited through a special chamber, to emerge at the back of the temple, prostrating there. When we stood and turned to the back of the temple chamber, there, amazingly, was a marble bas-relief showing the very thing we had seen just three minutes earlier--a carving in white marble, inset into the wall, of Prahmukh Swami Maharaj holding a kalash and pouring water on the feet of the murtis.
A remarkable thing it is to be at an event and see what just happened carved in stone moments later!