Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday (14) hailed BAPS leader Pramukh Swami Maharaj as a reformer who devoted his life to selfless service of others and recalled his long association with the late saint, who he said, treated him like a son.
Recalling his conversation with Pramukh Swami Maharaj when the Akshardham temple faced a terrorist attack in September 2002, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi said the former had asked if the CM’s residence was affected as it was near the temple.
The PM made the remarks while inaugurating the centenary celebrations of the late BAPS leader along with its current chief Mahant Swami Maharaj.
Modi, who was in Ahmedabad on Monday (12) to attend the swearing-in of Bhupendra Patel as chief minister for a second term, made his second visit to his home state in three days to inaugurate the month-long celebrations.
Modi, during his speech, recalled his special relationship with Pramukh Swami Maharaj and said he was treated as a son by the saint who built many temples across the world.
“The pen with which I signed my first nomination papers for fighting my first Assembly elections from Rajkot was sent to me by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. After that he used to send pens to me every time to sign nomination papers and he had even sent pens with colours of the BJP flag of green and orange when I went to fight (Lok Sabha) election from Varanasi in 2014,” said Modi.
“When the terrorist attack took place on the Akshardham temple (in September 2002), I called up Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who was not agitated by the attack and asked me if the chief minister’s residence was affected as it was near the temple,” he said.
Modi said the revered saint was the first one to call him when he along with Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart Murli Manohar Joshi had gone to unfurl the tricolour in Kashmir (as part of Ekta Yatra of BJP taken out in 1992) and enquired about his well being.
The prime minister hailed the saint as a reformer who during his entire life did service to others and taught the same to his disciples.
Modi said Pramukh Swami Maharaj taught him how to do service to people and guided on every occasion.
He recalled the spiritual leader used to send him a pair of kurta and pyjama every year and this practice lasted for 40 years.
Bhramvihari Swami of the BAPS said Pramukh Swami Maharaj used to treat Modi as his son and always cared about him.
“Once during a meeting between the two, when Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat, he (Modi) told him (Pramukh Swami) that he wanted to leave everything and become a monk. To which, Pramukh Swami had said he should never give up as the future of the country depends on him,” said Bhramvihari Swami while addressing the gathering.
‘Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar’, the makeshift city built for centenary celebrations, is spread across 600 acres and houses insightful exhibitions and programmes that are free to visitors.
The inauguration ceremony started with chanting of Vedic mantras and puja from the Sant Dwar, the majestic 380-foot-wide entrance gate honouring great sages and saints of India.
Governor of Gujarat Acharya Devvrat, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, and senior swamis of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha also participated in the ceremony.
As its fifth spiritual guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj headed the BAPS, the most popular of the 16 branches of the Swaminarayan community, between 1950 and 2016.
During this period, the BAPS set up temples in places like Atlanta, Los Angeles, London, Toronto, Auckland and Sydney. There are Akshardham temples in New Delhi and Gandhinagar and another will open soon in New Jersey.
The Swaminarayan Sampraday is a Vaishnavite movement that originated in the early 18th century, reaffirming the values of the Hindu ‘sanatan dharma’.
Mahant Swami Maharaj, in his blessings, stated, “Why has Narendrabhai Modi come? He is very intelligent and can grasp the entire nagar in an instant, but he has come solely to offer his homage to Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”
The evening concluded with a maha-arti with tens of thousands of devotees as they paid tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who personified his universal teaching, “In the joy of others lies our own.”
Ishwarcharandas Swami, international convenor of BAPS, extended an invitation to everyone to visit ‘Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar’ and enjoy the free inspiring presentations, exhibitions and attractions.