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24 February 2009

On this day in history: Shri Swaminarayan Mandir inaugurated, 1822

Ghanshyam Pande was born in the village of Chhapaiya, Uttar Pradesh, Northern India in 1781. At the age of eleven he left on a seven year pilgrimage across India after which he settled in the state of Gujarat in Western India. While there he became an initiate of the Uddhav Sampraday Hindu sect, under the name Sahajanand Swami. Three years later his guru, Ramanand Swami, handed over control of the Uddhav Sampraday to Sahajanand before he died.

Two weeks after the death of his guru, Sahajanand Swami held a gathering of the sect in Faneni. He asked those gathered to repeatedly chant the word Swaminarayan. During the chanting of this mantra a number of the gathering entered a trance state realising that Sahajanand Swami to be a divine incarnation. Henceforth Sahajanand Swami became known as Swaminarayan and the Uddhav Sampraday became the Swaminarayan Sampraday.

On 23rd February 1822, Swaminarayan inaugurated the first temple of Swaminarayan Sampraday, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, when he installed the murtis (icons) of various deities including himself. The chief architect, Ananandand Swami, built the shrine with intricate Burma teak carvings in keeping with the scriptural requirements on land gifted to Swaminarayan by the British Imperial Government. Apart from himself, Swaminarayan installed murti forms of a number of other Hindu deities including NarNarayan Dev in the principle position of worship in the temple, Radhakrishna Dev, Dharmadev, BhaktiMata and Harikrishna.

Swaminarayan ordered the construction of a further eight temples of which five were completed during his lifetime. Before his death he established a dual Acharyaship to lead the sect following his death. In a legal document (known as Desh Vibhag no Lekh) he named his two successors as Ayodhyaprasadji Maharaj and Raghuveerji Maharaj. Swaminarayan departed from his mortal body on 1st June 1830 at the age of 49.