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Creator and inspirer of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, passed away on Saturday 13 August 2016 at 6pm IST in Sarangpur, Gujarat, India. He was 94.
His Holiness, celebrated for his worldwide socio-spiritual services, was the fifth spiritual successor in the guru parampara tradition of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the head of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS). For more than seven decades he had been travelling tirelessly, visiting over 17,000 towns and villages in India and abroad. For the last two years, because of old age and frail health, he had been residing at the BAPS Swaminarayan temple in Sarangpur. Due to his longstanding heart problems, he passed away there peacefully.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj was born on 7 December 1921 to a humble farmer’s family in the small village of Chansad, near Vadodara in Gujarat. In 1939, at the age of 18, he renounced his home to become a sadhu and received initiation into the monastic order from his guru Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj. He was named Sadhu Narayanswarupdas.
On completing his Sanskrit studies, he was appointed as the kothari (head sadhu) of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Sarangpur in 1946 at the age of 25. Then in 1950, aged 28, Shastriji Maharaj appointed him as the president (Pramukh) of BAPS in his place. Since then, he had been fondly known as ‘Pramukh Swami’.
Shastriji Maharaj passed away in 1951, declaring Yogiji Maharaj as his spiritual successor. Thereafter, Pramukh Swami served under the guidance and blessings of Yogiji Maharaj. In 1971, after the departure of guru Yogiji Maharaj, Pramukh Swami Maharaj succeeded him as the fifth spiritual guru of BAPS. Over the next 45 years, his unremitting satsang travels, selfless services to society, saintly virtues and profound devotion to God earned him the respect and reverence of countless worldwide.
Some of his many outstanding services to society include uplifting the needy, liberating thousands from vices and addictions, providing relief and rehabilitation in times of calamity, and inspiring character and faith in hundreds of thousands of children and youths.
As a leading representative of the worldwide Hindu community and a keen proponent of interfaith dialogue, Pramukh Swami Maharaj addressed the United Nations Millennium Peace Summit in 2000 at the UN General Assembly in New York. He stressed, “True religion is that which inspires love for one another.”
He created over 1,100 temples around the world, including Europe’s first traditional Hindu temple, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London (popularly known as the ‘Neasden Temple’). He also created the ‘Swaminarayan Akshardham’ temple complexes in New Delhi and Gandhinagar to portray the spiritual heritage of India. He inspired and initiated over 980 youths into the Hindu monastic order.
Renowned religious leaders and heads of state have been deeply touched by his simplicity, humility, saintliness and edifying works. These include His Holiness The Dalai Lama, HRH Prince Charles, the late Sheikh Isa bin Salman al Khalifa of Bahrain, India’s late president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and many other royals, religious and national leaders, and dignitaries.
He lived by and preached the message: “In the joy of others lies our own.”
Pramukh Swami Maharaj is succeeded by His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj (Sadhu Keshavjivandas), now the sixth guru in the spiritual lineage of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the current head of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.
To learn more about the life, work and teachings of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, please visit pramukhswami.org.