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            Introduction of Shri Swaminarayan Sampraday
            (Brief life-sketch of Shree Sahjanand Swami)

            Indian land is studded with the spiritual diamonds-saints, Maharishis and great personalities. As and when the outsiders have tried to attack the Indian culture and religion, one or the other great personality has answered them in square and has again reinstated the supremacy of the Indian culture and religion at its peak. Lord Shri Ram, Shri Krishna, Buddha, Mahavir Swami, Jagatguru Sankaracharya, Swami Vivekanand etc. have released the Vedic culture from the devilish clutches during their times.

           One more such a great personality took birth on this Indian land; and he was Sahjanand Swami. He reorganized the Vedic culture. Sahjanand Swami was born on V.S. 1837 Chaitra Sud Nom in Chhapaiya village near Ayodhya. Hariprasad and Murtidevi were his parents. Economic condition of this Sarvariya Brahmin couple was not very good. But they were very famous in the village for their religiosity and knowledge. People used to call them as Dharmdev and Bhaktidevi. Dharmdev had three sons. Rampratap was the eldest, Iccharam was the youngest and Ghanshyam. The original name of Ghanshyam was Harikrishna but people used to call him by the nickname ‘Ghanshyam’. This Ghanshyam is Sahjanand Swami.

            In the history of Swaminarayan Sampraday there are many allusions of the miracles in the name of Ghanshyam. He had won the Sabha of the learned and erudite persons in Kashi at a very young age and also earned the favour and medal from the State. He also defeated many demons like Kalidatt. He acquired the knowledge of Vedas-Vedang etc. from his father Dharmdev only. In spite of ardent desire and passion for renunciation he believed the service of the parents to be the supreme service in this world and accordingly he served his parents for the seven years and remained in obedience of his elders. He renounced this world and his house after the demise of his parents only.

            During his pilgrimage through the forest Ghanshyam became Nilkanth-varni. In spite of very young age and single body Nilkanth-varni accomplished his pilgrimage throughout India. He moved through the forests and hills and mountains. He also visited the prominent places of pilgrimage of India viz. Badri, Kedar, Pulhashram, Jagganath Puri, Setubandh Rameshwar, Gangasagar Kanyakumari, Shivkanchi, Vishnukanchi, Malayachal, Nasik, Trambak and Pandharpur. He sermonized the people for noble deeds in life and got the demons like Pibek destroyed. Nilkantha roamed about seven years throughout the forests in India and tried to get at the exact picture about the social and religious condition of India.

            In search of shelter of a great person with whom he may find solace of soul, roaming Nilkanth came to Sorath region of Gujarat. He visited the Ashram of the Sadguru Ramanand Swami and he also met his disciples like Muktanand Swami. Nilkanthi was very much pleased with them; he became disciple of Ramanand Swami-adopted Bhagvati Diksha and new name Sahjanand Swami. In spite of having about 50 senior disciples like Muktanand Swami, Ramdas Swami, Jankidas, Raghunathdas, Guru Ramanand Swami handed over the charge of the Ashram to Sahjanand Swami recognizing his talent and ability. The Guru handed over the charge to the disciple in Jetpur and had had Samadhi.

           After Samadhi of his Guru, Sahjanand Swami gave Mahamantra ‘Swaminarayan’ and with chanting of this divine name thousands of people became the devotees. His fame as a miraculous person spread all around and people started calling and recognizing him as ‘Lord Swaminarayan’. In fact Sahnanand Swami was interested in neither any miracles nor any fame. His simple yet noble aim was to raise the social and spiritual standard of the society and to reinstate the esteemed place of Sanatan Vedic Dharma. Therefore, Sahjanand Swami made Gadhpur as the main centre for his activities. Considering the genuine, pure and selfless service of Ebhal Khachar and his family members, Sahjanand Swami stayed there for the rest of his life.

           He roamed around the whole of Gujarat and put in tremendous efforts to raise the moral, social, spiritual and economic standard of the people. He also released the society from the clutches of the social evils like Sati (a widow burning herself on the funeral pyre of her husband), female infanticide (killing of a female child by ‘drowning her in milk’), dowry etc. He also released so many people from the addictions of liquor, smoking, gambling and other narcotic drugs and guided them to the noble path of worship to god and of a pious and righteous life. He preached the proper and noble conduct to such nomadic tribes who considered robbery and theft as natural way of life hailed from their ancestors and thereby earned them a place of honour in the society. Sahjanand Swami raised the moral standard of life of the people of downtrodden and established equality in the society. He transformed the lives of Sagram Vaghri, Munjo Suru, Joban Vadtalo, prostitute Rupa of Jetalpur and earned the name of ‘Reformer of the Downtroddens’.

            He made about five hundred Paramhans to bring about a revolution in the field of social service and religion. The Sahjanand army reached to all the corners of the society and extended the help even to the isolated families residing amidst the dense forest. Many people became devotees due to the exemplary stories from the Scriptures and selfless love. They were also explained the importance of human life and reminded them the rich heritage of glorious Indian culture, helped them to forsake social evils and prohibited customs and thereby tried to remove the age-long blind faith and infirmity. The Sahjanand army helped the people recognize the human values, prevent perpetuation of wrong practices running in the name of religion. Therefore, Sahjanand Swami, his other saints and devotees became the target of these hypocrites of the religion. One who is determined to guide the society in the right direction and aspires to achieve noble aims in life, has to suffer a lot and only those who can stake their lives can expose the hypocrisy prevailing in the society.

           Sahjanand Swami did not limit his work to his devotees only. He started welfare activities like digging wells for drinking water, starting centres of social service keeping in mind the whole society and therefore the whole society looked at the Sampraday with great respect and reverence and many people became the devotees of the Sampraday. Sahjanand Swami also organized Vishnu Yagna at Dabhan,Jetalpur and at many other places, honoured erudite Brahmins and rejuvenated the Vedic thoughts in social life.

            In order to have spiritual base, Sahjanand Swami established Panchayatan- Five gods- Vishnu, Shiv, Ganpati, Parvatiji and Suryanarayan (The Sun-god) eradicated blind faith prevailing in Shrot (Vaishnav) and Smart (Shaiv) sampradayas. He also explained the real truth of religion to the people and propagated the Sakar form of worship of only one God. Sahjanand Swami established co-ordination among the religions and got constructed temples at Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Vadtal, Dholera, Junagadh, Gadhpur, Muli etc.

            He did a noteworthy work in the fields of upliftment of the women and their education. He separated Sabha for the men and women and availed opportunities of leadership and independence to the women. He encouraged Sadguru Muktanand Swami, Brahmanand Swami, Premanand Swami, Bhumanand Swami etc. eight saint-poets to create religious songs of Kirtan-Bhakti and Stutis which smeared the society with Bhakti-rasa. Sadguru Gopalanand Swami, Satanand Swami, Nityanand Swami etc. erudite saints have

            prepared commentary on ‘Brahma-Sutra’, ‘Bhagvad Geeta’ and ‘Upanishads’ and thereby explained in classical tradition the real significance of Vedic religion. Sahjanand Swami himself created the pious “ Shikshapatri” and prescribed the noble conduct and noble thought in human life. In order to maintain the purity of the Sampraday established two gadis at two different places viz. at Ahmedabad and at Vadtal and appointed Ayodhyaprasadji and Raghuvirji Maharaj on the seat of Acarya of these two Gadis respectively. He devised different divisions of the devotees in terms of Sadhu, Brahmchari, Parshad, Sankhya-yogi women and devotee men and women.

            He enlarged and developed the Uddhav Sampraday established by his Guru Ramanand Swami on a large scale and put him on a high pedestal. On Jeth Sud Dashami V.S. 1886, Sahjanand Swami accomplished his Lila on this earth and thereafter the sampraday came to be known as ‘ Swaminarayan Sampraday’.

            Within a short span of life of just 49 years Sahjanand Swami rendered service to his parents and his guru, led an austere life of a Sanyasi governed by and saturated with spiritual Sadhana, service to the society, high standard of social and moral life, pure tradition of worship, construction of huge temples- thus he did whatever he said. He accomplished miraculous tasks in the religious, social and political fields beyond the reach of common human understanding. Great and reverent Pranam and Sat-Sat Vandan to Purna-Purushottam Shree Sahjanand Swami- Lord Swaminarayan- the guide to the society.

*** Jay Swaminarayan***