–With over 3,850 satsang centers around the globe and followers in many other cities, the BAPS historical journey takes a tour of the seven seas.
Ahmedabad: Ahmedabad serves as the international headquarters of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Bhagwan Swaminarayan spent a great amount of time in Ahmedabad and built a mandir there in 1822. The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, Ahmedabad was opened by Yogiji Maharaj in 1962. The mandir campus in Shahibaug, Ahmedabad, is at the site that was often graced by Bhagwan Swaminarayan while on his way to and from the river Sabarmati to bathe.
Akshar Bhuvan, Mumbai: Originally a two room apartment in the middle of congested Dadar, Akshar Bhuvan now houses a beautiful, traditional Hindu mandir. Akshar Bhuvan was the first mandir consecrated by Yogiji Maharaj outside of Gujarat. It was home to the 51 sadhus initiated by Yogiji Maharaj from India, Africa, and the United Kingdom. They studied traditional music, Sanskrit, and Vedanta there.
Ambli Vali Pol, Ahmedabad: This small mandir inside the inner city walls of Ahmedabad served as the headquarters of BAPS for many years until a larger, traditional mandir was built in Shahibag. This is also the notable place where Shastriji Maharaj declared young Shastri Narayanswarupdas as the next Pramukh, or administrative lead, of the Sanstha. Young Shastri Narayanswarupdas came to be known as Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Today, thousands of devotees from all over Gujarat come to this small mandir every Poonam, or 15th day of the month.
Bhadra – Bhadra is the birthplace of Gunatitanand Swami, Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s first spiritual successor. Bhagwan Swaminarayan visited Bhadra more than 20 times during His lifetime, each time explaining the importance of the land as the birthplace of Aksharbrahma. Yogiji Maharaj built a mandir in Bhadra in 1969 to commemorate the birthplace of Gunatitanand Swami. Pramukh Swami Maharaj constructed a new mandir that was inaugurated in 2010.
Bochasan: The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha’s first mandir was built in Bochasan by Shastriji Maharaj in 1907. For this reason, Bochasan is regarded with special significance as the birthplace of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. The annual celebrations of Guru Purnima and Kartik Punam are routinely celebrated in Bochasan in the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Chansad: Chansad is a small village in the Baroda district of Gujarat and the birthplace of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s fifth spiritual successor. There is a traditional mandir built to commemorate the birthplace of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. There is also a Healthcare Center which provides free healthcare to the region’s people.
Chhapaiya: This small village located just a few kilometers from Ayodhya in northern India is the birthplace of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. It was here that Bhagwan Swaminarayan spent His childhood until He left for His pilgrimage at the age of 11. A mandir has been built in Chhapaiya to commemorate the significance the village holds for followers of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Thousands of pilgrims from around the world make the journey to this sacred town.
Dabhan: A large yagna was organized in Dabhan by Bhagwan Swaminarayan to reestablish the Vedic tradition of nonviolent sacrifices. At that yagna, Bhagwan Swaminarayan initiated Mulji Sharma into the sadhu fold and gave him the name Gunatitanand Swami. He later became Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s first spiritual successor.
Delhi: India’s capital is home to the Swaminarayan Akshardham Cultural Complex, Delhi. The vast Akshardham Cultural Complex was built on the banks of the Yamuna River in an engineering feat of five years. Since its inauguration in 2005, millions of people, including world leaders and celebrities, have experienced the unique art, beauty, and cultural exhibits inside the complex.
Gadhada: Many of the spiritual discourses delivered by Bhagwan Swaminarayan as recorded in the Vachanamrut were given at Dada Khachar’s darbar in Gadhdha. Bhagwan Swaminarayan used to refer to this small town in Kathiawad as His home. It is here that He spent a majority of His time with the sadhus and devotees. In 1830, Bhagwan Swaminarayan passed away in Gadhada. The mandir in Gadhada was originally envisioned by Bhagwan Swaminarayan and later built and inaugurated by Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj in 1951.
Gandhinagar: The Swaminarayan Akshardham Cultural Complex, Gandhinagar was inaugurated by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Since its opening in 1992, millions of people from all over the world have visited the Akshardham Mandir and Cultural Complex. It is a 30 acre cultural landscape, filled with exhibits and audio-visual shows dedicated to the life and work of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Gondal: The BAPS Swaminarayan Akshar Mandir, Gondal is the first mandir inaugurated by Yogiji Maharaj. Akshar Deri was built to mark the location where Gunatitanand Swami passed away inside the Akshar Mandir campus. Upon its completion, Shastriji Maharaj appointed Yogiji Maharaj as the first mahant of the mandir. Yogiji Maharaj spent many of his years as guru in Gondal. After Yogiji Maharaj passed away, his body was taken from Mumbai to Gondal for his final rites. Today, there is a museum at Akshar Deri celebrating the life and work of Yogiji Maharaj called the Yogiji Maharaj Smruti Mandir.
Houston: The first traditional Hindu mandir in North America was built in Houston. The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Houston was inaugurated by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 2004. It has become a mark of pride and cultural growth for Indian Americans residing in North America.
Junagadh: Gunatitanand Swami spent 40 years as the mahant of the Junagadh mandir. Bhagwan Swaminarayan often visited Junagadh and, on many occasions, described the true identity of Gunatitanad Swami as Aksharbrahma. Junagadh is one of the six mandirs that Bhagwan Swaminarayan built in His lifetime.
Kalvani: Bhagwan Swaminarayan initiated 500 paramhansas in one night to alleviate the abuses hurled upon His sadhus by opposing societal forces. This was the first time in the history of Hindu Dharma that such a large number of sadhus took the diksha of a paramhansa at the same time.
Kampala, Jinja, Tororo: These three African towns were graced with a mandir in 1959-1960 by Yogiji Maharaj. These were, respectively, the second, third, and fourth mandirs on the African continent. These mandirs were later rebuilt and inaugurated by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
London: The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, London was initally inaugurated by Yogiji Maharaj in 1970. In 1995, a traditional Hindu mandir was constructed by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, making it the first traditional Hindu mandir in the western hemisphere. It holds the Guinness World Record for the largest Hindu temple outside of India. In addition to a mandir, the complex houses a museum focused on Hindu Sanatan Dharma.
Mahelav: Mahelav is the birthplace of Shastriji Maharaj, Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s third spiritual successor. Yogiji Maharaj expressed a desire to build a mandir to honor his guru’s birthplace, which was fulfilled by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 1999. Today, Mahelav mandir is one of the most stunning mandirs in the Charotar region of Gujarat.
Mahuva: Mahuva is the birthplace of Bhagatji Maharaj, the second spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Traditionally a large port city, Mahuva was key to spreading the Swaminarayan Satsang because it served as a transit hub for thousands of people traveling to Mumbai, Pune, and Khandesh.
Mombasa: The first BAPS Swaminarayan mandir on the African continent was inaguarated by Yogiji Maharaj in 1955. This mandir was the epicenter of the activities of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in Africa until the next three mandirs were built in 1960.
Nairobi: The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, Nairobi was initially built in 1970 by Yogiji Maharaj. The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, Nairobi was later reopened by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 1999 and became the first traditional Hindu mandir on the African continent.
New York: Flushing, New York was the epicenter of the activities of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in North America for decades. The mandir was built in Flushing in 1974 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Since then, the mandir and Swaminarayan Satsang have grown immensely. Today, there is a beautiful mandir and cultural complex in Queens, New York.
Panchala: Bhagwan Swaminarayan celebrated the Raas festival in Panchala at Zinibhai Darbar’s home. He played raas, or traditional folk dance performed with wooden sticks, late into the night. Hundreds of paramhansas and sadhus danced with Bhagwan Swaminarayan, experiencing the same divine love and affection felt by the gopis when they danced in a similar fashion with Shri Krishna on the evening of Sharad Purnima. Acharya Viharilalji Maharaj composed a bhajan commemorating the festival, which can be heard here!
Piplana: Bhagwan Swaminarayan first met Ramanand Swami in Piplana. Here, Bhagwan Swaminarayan was given sadhu diksha and named Sahajanand Swami. Piplana is also where Bhagwan Swaminarayan met Mulji Sharma (Gunatitanand Swami) for the first time.
Sarangpur: The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, Sarangpur was the second mandir built by Shastriji Maharaj. The Sarangpur mandir is the tallest mandir in the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and is the second tallest mandir in all of Gujarat. Shastriji Maharaj passed away to Akshardham at this mandir in 1951, and there is a Yagnapurush Smurti Mandir in the location where his last rites were performed. Sarangpur is also home to the sadhu training program operated by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.
Toronto: Toronto has been the center of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha’s activities in Canada since the 1970s. Toronto is now home to the first traditional Hindu mandir in Canada. It was inaugurated by Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen J. Harper in 2007. Hundreds of school children and thousands of Canadians have visited the mandir and the Indo-Canadian Heritage Museum.
Vadtal: Bhagwan Swaminarayan and His followers celebrated the Fuldol festival in Vadtal at the invitation of Bhaktaraj Joban Pagi. The highlight of the festival was a unique hindolo, or decorated swing, built by Nishkulanand Swami, upon which Bhagwan Swaminarayan was requested to sit. This festival, and the sentiment surrounding it, is one of the most celebrated occasions in the history of the Swaminarayan Sampraday.