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Swaminarayan Sampraday

Swaminarayan Sampraday
Urdhva Mark, a symbol of the Swaminarayan Sampraday
Formation 1800  (1800)[1]
Founder Swaminarayan
Type Religious organization
Purpose Philanthropic, Religious studies, Spirituality
Headquarters Vadtal, Gujarat, India

Acharya Maharajshree Koshalendraprasad Pande - Amdavad Desh

Acharya Maharajshree Ajendraprasad Pande - Vadtal Desh
Website .nu.swaminarayanwww

Swaminarayan Sampraday (Devnagari: स्वामीनारायण सम्प्रदाय, Gujarati: સ્વામિનારાયણ સંપ્રદાય, IAST: Svāmīnārāyaṇa sampradāya), known previously as the Uddhav Sampraday, is a Hindu sect propagated by Swaminarayan (or Sahajanand Swami) (2 April 1781[2] – 1 June 1830). Swaminarayan was handed the leadership of the Uddhav Sampraday by his guru Ramanand Swami to continue to propagate the teachings and philosophy of Vishishtadvaita, which originates from the Sri Sampradaya.

Under the leadership of Swaminarayan, the movement gained strength, and at the time of his death it had 1.8 million followers. The organisation is based on vedic and puritic Hinduism. Apart from traditional Hindu scriptures, the sect has more than three thousand works written by its members. The most important are the Shikshapatri and the Vachanamrut. The Shikshapatri, which the Bombay Gazetteer described as a book of social principles, was written by Swaminarayan in 1826.[3] Before Swaminarayan died, he split the administration of the Swaminarayan Sampraday into two seats for his two adopted sons: the Nar Narayan Dev Gadi (gadi means seat) is headquartered in Ahmedabad and the Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi is headquartered in Vadtal. This was done by means of a legal document, called the Desh Vibhag Lekh.

Followers of the faith are called Satsangis, are expected to follow certain basic rules set forth by Swaminarayan. Since its inception, the sect has had a huge number of ascetics, who contribute towards growth and development of the movement and the salvation of its members. They have a special responsibility to take care of images in temples. These ascetics wear orange robes and lead a strict life, refraining from worldly pleasures and devoting their lives to the service of the fellowship. The Swaminarayan Sampraday has temples on five continents. Six temples that Swaminarayan built during his lifetime are considered to be the most important within the faith.

In the last century, several organizations, such as the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha have been formed by former Swaminarayan Sampraday members who left because of differences in philosophy.[4]


  • Fundamentals 1
    • Foundation 1.1
    • Beliefs 1.2
  • Scriptures and important texts 2
  • Temples 3
    • Temples in India 3.1
      • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Ahmedabad 3.1.1
      • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Bhuj 3.1.2
      • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Vadtal 3.1.3
      • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Dholera 3.1.4
      • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Junagadh 3.1.5
      • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Gadhada 3.1.6
      • Other temples 3.1.7
    • Overseas 3.2
  • Organisational structure 4
    • Importance of Acharyas 4.1
    • Organisations within Swaminarayan Sampraday 4.2
  • Membership 5
    • Ascetics 5.1
    • Swaminarayan Paramhansas 5.2
  • Breakaway groups and disputes 6
  • Recent developments 7
    • Swaminarayan Museum 7.1
    • Technology 7.2
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


A portrait of Ramanand Swami


The Swaminarayan Sampraday began as the Uddhav Sampraday and was led by Ramanand Swami. In 1799, Bhagwan (Lord or God) Swaminarayan, then known as Neelkanth Varni, was initiated into the Uddhav Sampraday as an ascetic (Sadhu) by his guru, Ramanand Swami, and given the name "Sahajanand Swami".[5] At the age of 21, Neelkanth Varni was given the leadership of the sect known as Uddhav Sampraday with the blessings of Ramanand Swami, who handed him control of the religious diocese shortly before his death.[6] Fourteen days after Ramanand Swami died, Neelkanth Varni, now known as Sahajanand Swami, held a large gathering of followers at the town of Faneni.[7] It was during this meeting that Swaminarayan introduced what he termed "the father of all Mantras" and described it as "maha" (or great).[8] Then he was known as Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and the name "Swaminarayan Sampraday" came into existence.[7]

At the age of 49, Bhagwan Swaminarayan took Samādhi at Gadhada in 1830, and promised to remain within the Swaminarayan Sampraday in[9] the images he installed (and by the Acharyas succeeding him), the Acharyas and saints installed by him (and those in direct succession), the saints he initiated (and those initiated by succeeding Acharyas) and the scriptures, such as Shikshapatri, Vachanamrut, Satsangi Jeevan, Nishkhulanand Kavya and Yamdand (and those authorised by succeeding Acharyas).



The Swaminarayan Sampraday has its roots in the Vedas. It follows the Vaishnava tradition and to its followers represents a form of Hinduism.[10][11] Bhagwan Swaminarayan built a number of temples during his time and except in Sarangpur, installed Krishna as central deity in each. The faith focusses on salvation through total devotion (or bhakti) to the God developed through virtues (dharma), spiritual wisdom (gnana) and detachment (vairagya).[12][13][14][15]

The Swaminarayan Sampraday is devotion-focussed and advocates God within the disciplines of virtues. Bhagwan Swaminarayan propagated a philosophy called Vishistadvaita, which says that God is supreme, has a divine form, is the all-doer and is completely independent.[10][11] He simply stated that souls (jiva) never merge or dissolve into God and neither are they part of God, but are always subservient to God. Redemption consists in the realisation of ekantik dharma, comprising righteousness, right knowledge, detachment and devotion to that God.[16]

The Swaminarayan Sampraday aims to consolidate characters in society, families and individuals by mass motivation and individual attention, through elevating projects for all, irrespective of class, creed, colour and country. The organisation believes that the hallmark of the Swaminarayan devotee is that he or she devoutly begins the day with

  • Official website
  • Shree Swaminarayan Sampraday
  • Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi website

External links

  • Williams, Raymond (2001). Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. Cambridge University Press.  
  • Williams, Raymond (2004). Williams on South Asian Religions and Immigration: Collected Works. Ashgate Publishing Ltd.  
  • Chitkara, M. G. (1997). Hindutva. APH.  


  1. ^ Williams, Raymond (2001). Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. p. 17.  
  2. ^ Williams, Raymond (2001). Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. p. 13.  
  3. ^ a b M. G. Chitkara (1997). Hindutva. APH. Retrieved 26 March 2009.  Page 230
  4. ^ Williams, Raymond (2001). Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. pp. 52–54.  
  5. ^ Williams 2001, p. 75
  6. ^ Williams 2001, p. 17
  7. ^ a b "Meaning of Swaminarayan". 
  8. ^ . Shree Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple Harrow 
  9. ^ "About the Swaminarayayan Sampraday". 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Chitkara 1997, p. 229
  11. ^ a b Williams 2004, p. 81
  12. ^ Fuller, Christopher John (2004). The camphor flame: popular Hinduism and society in India. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. p. 174.  
  13. ^ a b K. Ayyappapanicker, Sahitya Akademi (1997). Medieval Indian Literature: Surveys and selections. Sahitya Akademi.   Page 131
  14. ^ "Swaminarayan". 
  15. ^ Carl Olson (2007). The many colors of Hinduism: a thematic-historical introduction. Rutgers University Press. p. 336.  
  16. ^ Sahajānanda (1977). Shree Swaminarayan's Vachanamritam. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Retrieved 13 June 2009.  Page 131
  17. ^ Dave, Ramesh (2009). Sahajanand Charitra (English Edition). Ahmedabad: Swaminarayan Aksharpith. p. 116.  
  18. ^ a b c Williams 2001, pp. 187–190
  19. ^ "Nishkulanand Swami in his early days" (PDF). 
  20. ^ S Golwalkar (1997). "Swaminarayan, Pramod Mahajan, Bal Thackeray". In M. G. Chitkara. Hindutva. APH Pub. Corp. pp. 227–228.  
  21. ^ "Vachanamrut and other literary works". 
  22. ^ The Vachanamrut. Amdavad: Swaminarayan Aksharpith. 2001. p. 440.  
  23. ^ Williams, Raymond (2001). Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 23–24.  
  24. ^ Williams 2001, p. 96
  25. ^ Williams 2001, pp. 128, 129
  26. ^ Raymond Brady Williams (2004). Williams on South Asian religions and immigration.   Page 81
  27. ^ a b "The foundations of devotion". Asia Africa Intelligence Wire,  
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h Williams 2001, p. 29
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h "Swaminarayan temples". 
  30. ^ Mānekshāh Sorābshāh Commissaria (1980). A history of Gujarat. Longmans, Green & co. Retrieved 17 June 2009.  Page 983
  31. ^ James Burgess (1872). The Indian antiquary. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 17 June 2009.  Page 333
  32. ^ Joe Bindloss, Sarina Singh, James Bainbridge, Lindsay Brown, Mark Elliott, Stuart Butler (2007). India. Lonely Planet.   Page 761
  33. ^ "To Rebuild Kutch". 
  34. ^ "Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Bhuj : Progress". 
  35. ^ "Modi opens Bhuj Narnarayandev Mandir". Desh Gujarat. 2010-05-18. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  36. ^ a b c India (Republic) Superintendent of Census Operations, Gujarat (1964). District census handbook. Director, Govt. Print. and Stationery, Gujarat State. Retrieved 7 May 2009.  Page 53
  37. ^ a b Rajnee Vyas (2006). Welcome to Gujarat. Akshara Prakashan. Retrieved 7 May 2009.  Page 120
  38. ^ a b Vidya Shivadas (2006). World of Memories. Vadehra Art Gallery.  
  39. ^ Jay Thakkar (2004). Naqsh – the Art of Wood Carving of Traditional Houses of Gujarat. Research Cell.   Page 22
  40. ^ a b Manohar Sajnani (2006). Encyclopaedia of Tourism Resources in India. Kalpaz Publications. pp. 110, 126.  
  41. ^ Anjali Desai (2006). India Guide Gujarat. India Guide Publications. p. 280.  
  42. ^ Williams 2001, p. 118
  43. ^ a b c Williams 2001, p. 107
  44. ^ Williams 2001, pp. 203,204
  45. ^ Williams 2001, p. 206
  46. ^ Williams 2001, pp. 207,208
  47. ^ a b "Men in Saffron on goodwill tour of Pak".  
  48. ^ a b Williams 2001, pp. 200
  49. ^ "Shree Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple Bolton". 
  50. ^ Williams 2001, p. 222
  51. ^ Peggy Levitt (2007). God needs no passport. New Press. p. 223.  
  52. ^ Williams 2001, p. 228
  53. ^ "New temple one of only 8 in the United States". Sentinel. 2005-09-14. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  54. ^ "Local Hindu temple offers peace". Hudson Reporter. 2009-02-27. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  55. ^ a b Williams 2001, p. 229
  56. ^ Also Four temples in NJ, PA, WI and VA are owned and operated by Shree Swaminarayan Agyna Upasna Satsang Mandal-USA, which is controlled by Dharmkul Ashrit Shree Swaminarayan Vadtal Gadi
  57. ^ "Swaminarayan sects branch out as NRGs seek roots". Asia Africa Intelligence Wire,  
  58. ^ "Two lives dedicated to helping others". Howick and Pakuranga Times. 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  59. ^ a b Williams 2001, pp. 35, 36
  60. ^ "Devotees throng Dharmakul fest".  
  61. ^ Chitkara 1997, p. 228
  62. ^ "Acharyas: The Managing Head Of Swaminarayan Sampraday". 
  64. ^ Williams 2001, pp. 40, 41
  65. ^ a b Chitkara 1997, p. 230
  66. ^ a b c Williams 2004, p. 83
  67. ^ Williams 2004, p. 82
  68. ^ a b Williams 2001, p. 36
  69. ^ "Swaminarayan: Brief Introduction". 
  70. ^ Williams 2004, p. 84
  71. ^ Chitkara 1997, pp. 228, 230
  72. ^ Vachanamrut, Gadhada Pratham Chapter 1
  73. ^ The Vachanamrut: Spiritual Discourses of Swaminarayan (Hardcover), Swaminatrayan Aksharpith, Shahibaug Amdavad, India; Second Edition (2003); ISBN 978-81-7526-190-7
  74. ^ Swami ni Vato Prakran 5, Vat 104
  75. ^ "International Swaminarayan Satsang Organisation". 
  76. ^ "ISSO Seva". 
  77. ^ "Narnarayan Dev Yuvak Mandal". 
  78. ^ "Original Swaminarayan Organisation Vadtal – SFO". 
  79. ^ Williams 2004, p. 145
  80. ^ Williams 2001, p. 68
  81. ^ Robin Rinehart (2004). Contemporary Hinduism. ABC-CLIO.   Page 215
  82. ^ "Niche Faiths".  
  83. ^ J. J. Roy Burman (2005). Gujarat Unknown. Mittal Publications.   Page 18
  84. ^ a b "A Satsangis life: Vandu and Chesta Pad". 
  85. ^ "Guidelines to the good conduct of a Satsangi". 
  86. ^ "Daily pooja guidlines". 
  87. ^ a b "About the Swaminarayan Sampraday". 
  88. ^ Williams 2001, p. 162
  89. ^ Williams 2001, p. 108
  90. ^ Lise McKean (1996). Towards a politics of spirituality: Gurus and the Hindu nationalist movement. University of Chicago Press.   Page 19
  91. ^ a b c d e f Behramji Merwanji Malabari, Krishnalal M. Jhaveri, Malabari M. B (1997). Gujarat and the Gujaratis. Asian Educational Services.   Page 241-242
  92. ^ Williams 2001, pp. 117, 118
  93. ^ "Paramhansas". 
  94. ^ Williams 2001, p. 22
  95. ^ a b c d Williams 2001, p. 187
  96. ^ a b Williams 2001, p. 76
  97. ^
  98. ^ Williams 2001, p. 53
  99. ^ Williams 2001, p. 128
  100. ^ Williams 2001, p. 38
  101. ^ a b c d Williams 2001, p. 189
  102. ^ James Fuller Blumhardt (1915). Catalogue of Marathi and Gujarati printed books in the library of the British museum. B. Quaritch. Retrieved 8 May 2009.  Page 112
  103. ^ Sujit Mukherjee (1998). A Dictionary of Indian Literature: Beginnings-1850. Orient Blackswan.   Page 265
  104. ^ Williams 2004, p. 61
  105. ^ Williams 2001, pp. 52, 53
  106. ^ "Vadtal, the delinquent in Swaminarayan family".  
  107. ^ "Sex, swamis and a CD: Scandal sparks off row". Retrieved 2009-05-23. 
  108. ^ "Swaminarayan monks caught in sex video – India – The Times of India". Retrieved 2009-05-23. 
  109. ^ "New Swaminarayan museum opens today".  
  110. ^ "Rs 30-cr museum for Swaminarayan".  
  111. ^ "Shree Swaminarayan Museum". 
  112. ^ "Worshippers celebrate with parade". British Broadcasting Corporation. 24 May 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 


The official website of the Swaminarayan Sampraday uses technology to broadcast live darshan on the internet. Temples in Chicago, Colonia in New Jersey, Los Angeles and Boston, the first temple in Ahmedabad and Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Bhuj broadcast darshan live on the internet each day. Daily darshan can also viewed from many temples worldwide. Important events, such as the 25th anniversary of the Cardiff temple, have also been webcast live on the internet. [112]


Swaminarayan Museum in Ahmedabad, which houses more than 5000 artefacts, was opened in March 2011.[109] The museum holds items such as Swaminarayan's writing scripts, day to day garments and ornaments. This is the first project in the Swaminarayan Sampraday that aims to acquire all of Swaminarayan's Prasadi items from temples across the world. This museum is a dream of the retired acharya of Ahmedabad, Acharya Maharajshree Tejendraprasad Pande.[110][111]

Swaminarayan Museum

Swaminarayan Museum inauguration

Recent developments

Within the tradition, there have been territorial disputes over the Vadtal temple and other assets since the conflict of 1902. The conflict between the Dev faction, led by ascetics, that maintains that the temple is nobody’s ancestral property and the Acharya faction, led by the former acharya of Vadtal, has seen some tensions in recent years. In May 2001, the conflict escalated when the schismatic faction brought in Acharya Maharajshree Tejendraprasad Pande from Ahmedabad for a diksa ceremony instead of Acharya Maharajshree Ajendraprasad Pande, the then acharya at Vadtal. The Government of India intervened by setting up an arbitration panel in June 2001. A settlement was brokered by a panel between the two factions in June 2002, but the Dev fraction led by Nautam Swami (mahant of the Vadtal temple) refused to cooperate, leading to an intensification of the dispute. A number of sadhus of this fraction were subsequently exposed in a sex scandal only three months after another five sadhus were sentenced to death for murdering their guru in the Vadtal branch.[106][107][108]

Muktajivandas Swami left the Ahmedabad Gadi to form the Swaminarayan Maninagar Gadi Sansthan in the 1940s, claiming Gopalanand Swami was the spiritual successor to Swaminarayan.[105]

In 1974, P.P. Hariprasad Swamiji founded Yogi Divine Society or YDS to continue the work of Yogiji Maharaj. YDS' main center is in Sokhada, India and several temples operate around the world.

Decades after Swaminarayan's death, several people claiming differences in philosophy left the original movement and established their own groups. Swaminarayan Gadi is a prominent one.

Breakaway groups and disputes

  • Muktanand Swami was initiated by Ramanand Swami, Muktanand Swami was instrumental in Swaminarayan's entry into the Uddhav Sampraday. He wrote the Swaminarayan Aarti and literary works such as Muktanand Kavya, and co-wrote co-authored the Vachanamrut.[95] Swaminarayan sometimes called Muktanand Swami the "Mother of Satsang".[91][96]
  • Gopalanand Swami was considered the chief disciple by Vadtal.[97] He was very learned in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, and after the death of Swaminarayan, the responsibility of the Swaminarayan Sampraday and the acharyas were left in the hands of Gopalanand Swami. Swaminarayan held Gopalanand Swami in very high regard.[98] Gopalanand Swami arranged for the image of Hanuman to be installed in the Sarangpur temple[91][99] and co-authored the Vachanamrut.[95]
  • Gunatitanand Swami was the mahant of the Junagadh Temple. He contributed spreading the Swaminarayan Sampraday in that region for over 40 years.[100] His works are compiled in the book Swamini Vato.[101]
  • Brahmanand Swami was a notable poet who wrote almost a thousand poems and co-wrote the Vachanamrut.[95] His works are compiled in the Brahmanand Kavya, a copy of which is preserved in the British Museum in London.[102] He was also distinguished in architecture – as evident in the temple buildings in Muli, Vadtal and Junagadh.[91][101]
  • Premanand Swami was a poet and a singer.[101] He compiled the Chesta Pad and Vandu Pad among other works. The Chesta Pad is recited daily at all Swaminarayan temples, describes Swaminarayan's daily routine and habits. Vandu Pad describes the features and appearance of Swaminarayan.[91][91]
  • Nishkulanand Swami wrote the Bhakta Chintamani, which describes the life of Swaminarayan, his activities, sermons, theories and obstacles faced by him. He also wrote 22 other scriptural works on various subjects, such as Purshottam Prakash and Yamdanda, and poems which are complied in Nishkulanand Kavya.[96][101][103]
  • Nityanand Swami wrote several important works, such as the Hari Digvijay and the Shri Hanuman Kavach, produced the first Gujarati translation of the Shikshapatri which was approved by Swaminarayan, and co-authored the Vachanamrut.[95][104]

Tradition maintains that Swaminarayan initiated 500 ascetics as paramhansas in a single night. Paramahansa is a title of honour sometimes applied to Hindu spiritual teachers who are regarded as having attained enlightenment. Paramhansas were the highest order of sannyasi in the sect. These paramhansas practiced strict restraint and spread the message of purity to many people.[93][94] Notable Swaminarayan Paramhansas include:

Swaminarayan and Paramhansas in Gadhada.

Swaminarayan Paramhansas

  • Lustless, Desireless:- Observe Naishthik Brahmacharya i.e. eightfold celibacy strictly. He has to observe a fast if he has seen a face of a lady. Not to expect any remuneration even of his good deeds or must not have any desire of anything.
  • Greedless:- Not be attached at all to the worldly objects. He should keep clothes and things only permitted to him. He should not accept, touch or possess even any sort of currency of his own.
  • Tasteless:- Not be allured or tempted at all to any taste. Not to eat anything which is not offered to God.
  • Prideless:- Not have any sort of pride of renouncement, penance, knowledge, efficiency religious austerity, devotion, etc. If anybody beats him, abuses him or insults him, he should endure patiently, not to be angry at all, should forgive, not to oppose, not to keep any grudge or any ill feelings for him, but to wish good for him and to pity for his ignorance.
  • Affectionless:- Not have any affection at all towards his body, his relatives, his disciples or anything except Almighty God Supreme.

The panch vartman, or the five principal vows, are prerequisites for being considered as part of the Sampraday for Sadhus.[87]

Gopalanand Swami

Female ascetics, known as Samkhya yoginis, receive initiation from the Gadiwala, or wife of the Acharya. They stay within the temple, follow ascetic rules strictly, wear dark red clothing and stay in the temple Haveli. They take care of the images in women's temples and conduct discourses for women. In 1999, the Ahmedabad Gadi had 440 female ascetics and the Vadtal Gadi had 115 female ascetics.[92]

The first rule of becoming an ascetic (sanyasi) of the sect is never to come in contact with the opposite sex, or money.[90] Ascetics are not allowed to leave the temple alone; they have to move out in pairs. Even in the temple, while using the toilet, they must do so in pairs to ensure they keep their vows. The food they eat must be mixed up so that they may not taste it.[91]

From the beginning, ascetics have played a major role in the Swaminarayan Sampraday. They contribute towards growth and development of the movement and towards the salvation of its members.[43] Sadhus, initiated by either Dharmavanshi Acharya, also form an integral part of the organisation and wear only orange robes. The Brahmachari ascetics, who are Brahmins, have a special responsibility of taking care of images in temples. These ascetics wear white robes on their waist and an orange cloth over their shoulder. Ascetics lead a strict life, refraining from worldly pleasures and devoting their lives to the service of the holy fellowship. They preach the philosophy and lifetimes of Swaminarayan and encourage people to follow a pious and religious life.[43] Swaminarayan has stated in the Vachanamrut that the association of Satpurush (true saints/devotees) opens the path to salvation. In 1999, the Ahmedabad Gadi had 765 male ascetics and the Vadtal Gadi 1468 male ascetics.[89]

Muktanand Swami, a Paramhansa


  • Be non-violent
  • Do not have any kind of relationship with a woman other than your wife
  • Do not eat meat, including seafood, poultry products or eggs
  • Do not drink products that contain alcohol, including medicines
  • Never touch a widow woman whom you do not know
  • Never commit suicide in any circumstances
  • Do not steal
  • Never blame others for something that you may not know about
  • Never disparage God, Goddesses, or any religion
  • Never eat someone's food who does not follow these eleven rules
  • Never listen to holy stories from an atheist.

Upon initiation, Satsangi make 11 vows, called Niyams (Rules):[87][88]

There are eight important things in the life of a Satsangi;[84] these are Kanthi – a thread worn around the neck,[10] the Tilak Chandlo – a holy mark,[10] the Mala – a thread with 108 beads,[66][85] Nitya Pooja – daily prayers,[10] the Temple,[10] Darshan – a form of worship,[10] Aarti – a ceremony, and[10] Vandu Pad and Chesta Pad – verses recited in the temples daily.[84] A Satsangi must show reverence for God, the Shastras, the Acharya of the Gadi the Satsangi comes under (NarNarayan Dev Gadi or LaxmiNarayan Dev Gadi), festivals, elders and be of overall good conduct.[86]

A member of the Swaminarayan Sampraday is known as a Satsangi. Male satsangis are initiated by the acharya of the gadi he comes under. Female satsangis are initiated by the wife of the acharya, who is the leader of women in the Swaminarayan Sampraday. In the absence of the acharya, ascetics perform this initiation, which is then confirmed by the acharya on his next visit.[66] The ceremony involves the taking of five vows (panch vartaman): not to commit adultery or robbery, not to consume intoxicants or meat and not to lie. The initiator then pours water over the initiates hands, gives him a Sanskrit Islam and Zorastarianism are members of this movement as well.[83]

According to Raymond Williams, when Swaminarayan died in 1830, the movement had a following of 1.8 million people. In 2001, the original movement had 3.5 million of a total of 5 million followers of the Swaminarayan faith. It was more wealthy, had more followers, both householders and saints, and supported more large temples than the other Swaminarayan groups.[80][81] However, in 2007, the Indian Express newspaper reported that the Swaminarayan faith had 20 million followers.[82]


The International Swaminarayan Satsang Mandal (ISSM) is an organisation based in United States that comes under the Laxminarayan Dev Gadi, Vadtal.[79] It has several temples in the US, all of which are named Vadtal Dham after the parent organisation.[55]

Shree Swaminarayan Aygna Upasana Satsang Mandal (SSAUSM) is based in the New Jersey - Chicago - Scranton - Virginia; this organisation was formed at the behest of Acharya Maharajshree Ajendraprasadji Pande to perform Satsang in the area.[78]

Narnarayan Dev Yuvak Mandal (NNDYM) is a youth organisation which was founded by gnaan) and detachment from illusion (maya).[77]

Logo of LNFO

In 2001, ISSO-Seva, an independently run charity under the Swaminarayan Sampraday was established to help mankind, the homeless and needy and promote awareness about modern day diseases and infections. It provides relief after natural disasters worldwide. The charity is run by professionals and volunteers of the Swaminarayan temples and centres.[76]

Logo of NNDYM
Logo of ISSO Seva

In 1978, the Acharya of the Ahmedabad gadi, Vijaya Dasami. The prime objective of ISSO is, "To advance the Sanatan Dharma, in accordance with the principles and teachings of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, founded and ordained by Sahajanand Swami", enabling Swaminarayan's devotees from both the Nar Narayan Dev Gadi (Ahmedabad) and Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi (Vadtal) to practice their religious duties in harmony.[75]

Logo of ISSO

Organisations within Swaminarayan Sampraday

In one of the most authoritative scriptures, the Vachanamrut, Swaminarayan states one of the prerequisites for attaining Akshardham. He wrote, "The devotee who is aashrit of Dharmakul (i.e. he who has received initiation from Dharmavanshi Acharya and remains loyal to the Acharya) gets a divine Bhram-state body by God's wish." [72][73] It is seen as imperative to be a humble, loyal follower of the Dharmavanshi Acharya once receiving the diksha (guru mantra) in order to achieve a bhram form. In Swamini Vato, Swaminarayan was quoted, "Even Gunatitanand Swami, one of the main sadhus of Swaminarayan states, 'He who insults the temples, Acharyas, sadhus and satsangis will find his roots being destroyed and will inevitably fall from the satsang.' " [74]

These responsibilities are prescribed in the holy texts Shikshapatri, Satsangi Jeevan and Desh Vibhag Lekh, according to which no person other than the Dharmavanshi Acharyas may carry out these duties.[71]

  • Initiating followers into the organisation with a Samanya Diksha by giving the guru-mantra [65]
  • Initiating monks-sadhus by giving them the Maha-Bhagwadi Diksha[66]
  • Perform murti-pratishtha, installing deities in the temples[67]
  • Authenticating scriptures of the Sampraday[68][69]
  • Acting as the Guru and leader of the entire Sampraday[68][70]

The Acharyas are responsible for:

The Acharyas of the Sampraday are administrative heads, spiritual leaders and the gurus of their followers. Since the acharyas are supposed to refrain from contact with the opposite sex, except close relations, the acharyas' wives are the gurus for female members of the sect, and must avoid contact with unfamiliar men. The acharyas wear a red turban, and carry a golden staff and umbrella, the symbols of their authority [64] In the scripture Purushottam Prakash (Nishkulanand Kavya), the writer Nishkulanand Swami describes Swaminarayan's establishment of the Dharmavanshi Acharyas.

... it is my command to all sadhus, bhamcharis and all satsangies, that for the purpose of your kalyaan (emancipation) you must obey and follow the two Acharyas of Dharmavansh, and obey their commands by thought, action and speech. If this is compromised and whoever turns elsewhere (rejecting the Acharyas) will find that they will never find sukh (happiness) in this world or the worlds beyond and will experience immense distress ... ― Desh Vibhag Lekh

[1] Swaminarayan thought that as he had established the temples and the Swaminarayan Sampraday, he wanted to keep his sadhus free from the affairs dealing with wealth, power and other worldly affairs. He decided to create leaders who would subsequently be responsible for the Swaminarayan Sampraday. This led to his decision to appoint his nephews as Acharyas.[63] The constitution of the Sampraday is laid out in Desh Vibhag Lekh which describes in detail the functions of the Acharyas.

Importance of Acharyas

In 1826 at Vadtal, Swaminarayan established the dual Acharyaship in Dharmavanshi Acharyas, whom he intended as his successor. "Dharmavanshi" means "belonging to the lineage of Dharmadev" – the father of Swaminarayan.[59][60] Swaminarayan enthroned his two adopted sons, Acharya Maharajshree Ayodhyaprasad Pande and Acharya Maharajshree Raghuvir Pande, who were the sons of his brothers Rampratapji and Ichcharamji, as the spiritual leaders of the Nar Narayan Dev Gadi headquartered at Ahmedabad and the Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi headquartered at Vadtal respectively. He installed them as the Acharyas for all followers, including householders and ascetics. Swaminarayan gave sole authority to these two individuals to install murtis in temples and to initiate sadhus and householders into the Sampraday.[61] He did this using a legal document known as "Desh Vibhag no Lekh", which he dictated and was written by Shukanand Swami. Learned saints and elder satsangis witnessed this document. Copies were presented to the inaugural Acharyas, Acharya Maharajshree Ayodhyaprasad Pande and Acharya Maharajshree Raghuvir Pande – these are currently in the possession of the current Acharyas. The document was accepted by the Bombay High Court as the authoritative document regarding the apportionment of the two dioceses, so it has legal standing.[59] Presently, Acharya Maharajshri Ajendraprasadji Maharaj is at the head of Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi, while Acharya Maharajshri Koshalendraprasadji Maharaj is at the head of the Nar Narayan Dev Gadi at Ahmedabad.[62]

Illustration of Swaminarayan writing the Shiskhapatri

Organisational structure

The movement also has temples in Australia, Seychelles, Canada, Thailand, Fiji, Mauritius, New Zealand, Oman, UAE and Zambia.[47][57][58]

A small number of followers migrated to the United States before 1965 as students, and following a 1965 immigration law, a large number of Indians, including members of the sect. moved there from the 1970s until 2000.[48] The ISSO was formed in 1978 in San Francisco to promote the faith there. [56]

Swaminarayan in the form of Ghanshyam (left) with Radha Krishna at the Swaminarayan temple in Houston

[51][50] The first Swaminarayan temple in the UK was built in [48] After the Second World War, members of the movement in East Africa began migrating to the United Kingdom; the number of migrants rose significantly in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1920s, members of the sect began to move out of India to East Africa in search of work and better lives. Among these was a large number of Kutchis of the Leva Patel/Patidar community, who remained loyal to the Bhuj temple under the Nar Nararayan Dev Gadi.[44] All the temples built in Africa come under the temple in Bhuj. The first Swaminarayan temple in Africa was built in Nairobi in 1945,[45] and temples were built in Mombasa and other Kenyan towns in the following years. Temples were also built in Tanzania and Uganda.[46] The Swaminarayan temple in Karachi, Pakistan, was built in 1868 when Karachi was part of the Indian Union.[47]

First Swaminarayan temple outside the Indian subcontinent in Nairobi (1945)


Sahajanand Swami also ordered construction of temples at Muli, Dholka and Jetalpur. Although these temples were completed after his death, the Murti pratishtas, idol installation ceremonies, were conducted by Sahajanand Swami. He installed images of various manifestations of God, such as Nar Narayan Dev, Laxmi Narayan Dev, Radha Krishna, Radha Raman and Revti Baldevji. Swaminarayan lived in Gadhpur for about 27 years; he stayed at the Darbar of Dada Khachar, one of his best-known devotees. At some temples, footprints of Swaminarayan are worshiped by his followers.[42] Swaminarayan entrusted the day-to-day performance of the worship rituals in these mandirs to ascetics.[43] By 2012, there were over a thousand Swaminarayan temples across five continents.

Other temples

The land for the temple in Gadhada (or Gadhpur) was donated by the court of Dada Khachar in Gadhada. Darbar Shri Dada Khachar and his family were devotees of Swaminarayan. The temple was made built the courtyard of his own residence. This shrine has two stories and three domes and is adorned with carvings. Swaminarayan assisted in the construction of the temple by lifting stones and mortar, and he installed the figures of Gopinath, Radhika and Harikrishna on 9 October 1828.[28][29][40]

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Gadhada

This temple, in the city of Junagadh on Mount Girnar, has five domes and external decoration with sculptures. Its construction was supervised by Brahmanand Swami; it was built on land donated by king Hemantsinh of Jinabhai, Darbar of Panchala. On 1 May 1828, Swaminarayan installed the murtis of Ranchhodrai and Trikamrai on the principal altar of the temple, which is 278-foot (85 m) in circumference. The life of Swaminarayan is crafted in stone on the dome of the sanctum.[28][29][40][41]

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Junagadh

Dholera is an ancient port-city, 30 kilometres (19 mi) from Dhandhuka in Ahmedabad District. This temple has three domes. Its construction was supervised and planned by Nishkulanand Swami, Bhai Atmanand Swami, Akshardanand Swami and Dharmprasad Swami. The land for the temple was donated by Darbar Punjabhai. On 19 May 1826, Swaminarayan installed the idols of Madan Mohan and his own form Harikrishna, at the principal seat of the temple and invoked Gods amidst Vedic hymns.[28][29][39]

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Dholera

The temple in Vadtal, also known as Vadtal Swaminarayan, is in the shape of a lotus, with nine domes in the inner temple. The land for this shrine was donated by Joban Pagi, a dacoit who was later converted into a devotee by Swaminarayan Bhagavan. The temple was constructed under the supervision of Brahmanand Swami, was completed within fifteen months and the idols of Laxmi Narayan was installed by Swaminarayan on 3 November 1824, amidst chants of vedic hymns and devotional fervour of the installation ceremony.[36] Swaminarayan Bhagavan (Lord/God) also installed his own murti in Vadtal, naming it Harikrishna Maharaj. The walls are decorated with colourful representations from the Ramayana.[28][29][36][37][38] The temple's walls are decorated with colourful representations from the Ramayana.[28][29][36][37][38]

Swaminarayan Temple in Vadtal

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Vadtal

On the request of devotees from Bhuj, Swaminarayan asked Vaishnavananand Swami to go there with a team of saints and build a temple. In 1822, they camped on land adjacent to the temple site and drew plans of the temple complex. within a year they had built a temple abode of Nar Narayan.[28][29][30][31][32] The Gujarat earthquake on 26 January 2001 destroyed much of the city of Bhuj, including this temple. Members of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, including saints and satsangis of Kutch residing in India and abroad, have resolved to construct a new marble temple a short distance from the site.[33][34] The new temple, the largest in Gujarat, was opened in May 2010 by the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi.[35]

New temple in Bhuj

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Bhuj

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is the first temple Swaminarayan constructed. It was built in Ahmedabad in 1822, and presents images of Nara Narayana, who occupies the principal seat of the temple, and forms of Arjuna and Krishna at the central altar. The left altar has murtis of Radha Krishna. The land for construction of the temple was donated by the British Imperial Government. The task of constructing it was entrusted by Swaminarayan to Ananandand Swami. The temple is constructed as per scriptural norms with intricate carving in Burma teak and sculptural art depicting deities' episodes, auspicious symbols and religious icons representing axiomatic religion and Indian culture. The temple is believed to be a valuable cultural heritage in the socio-religious history of Gujarat and India.[27][28][29] The installation ceremony of the murti forms in the temple was celebrated in the presence of thousands of pilgrims from across India. Nara Narayana .[27][28][29]

Swaminarayan temple in Ahmedabad

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Ahmedabad

Temples in India

Swaminarayan temples, like other Hindu temples, have walkways around the central shrine to allow worshipers to circumambulate the shrine, which is often decorated with designs and inlaid marble. The main shrine area is divided by railings. One side of the railing is reserved for women, as Swaminarayan said that men and women should be separated in temples to allow full concentration on god. Men perform a specified number of prostrations. In front of the men's section, there is normally a small area reserved for ascetics and special guests. There is great variety in the form and nature of the central images, in front of which are gold or silver plated doors that open during darshan.[25] Swaminarayan ordered the construction of the following six mandirs and installed the images of various deities, such as Nara Narayana, Laxminarayan, Radha Krishna, Radha Ramana, Revti Baldevji, himself.[26]

One of the most prominent features of the heritage of Swaminarayan is its temple architecture. The images in the temples built by Swaminarayan are the evidence of the priority of Krishna. All of the temples constructed during his life show some form of Krishna, and all temples since have such worshipable figures, or murtis. In the temples of the dioceses of Ahmedabad and Vadtal, these are predominantly a central altar or a shrine. Human forms are predominant, with the exceptioon of the Hanuman temple at Sarangpur, where Hanuman is the central figure.[24] The temples have accommodation for ascetics built next to them. Stones were quarried in far places and carried to the temple sites.

As an adjunct to the scriptures in establishing ultimate redemption and consolidating the framework of the holy fellowship (Satsang), Swaminarayan constructed stone mandirs, buttressing Upasana – worshipping God, and devotion towards the deities. Towards the end of his second decade of work, he placed a greater emphasis on devotion than detachment – vairagya to foster love for God.[22] This emphasis on devotion culminated in the building of mandirs, which served as permanent places of worship, centres for religious gathering, instruction, the study of Sanskrit, devotional music and Vedic literature, and as centres of social services where alms, medicines and clothes were available to the poor and needy.[23] In a span of six years, from 1822 till 1828, Swaminarayan sanctioned the construction of nine mandirs in Gujarat: Ahmedabad, Mooli, Bhuj, Vadtal, Jetalpur, Dholera, Dholka, Junagadh and Gadhada.

Murtis of Laxmi Narayan with Ranchhodrai at Vadtal


Bhagwan Swaminarayan's philosophical, social and practical teachings are contained in the Vachanamrut, a collection of dialogues recorded by five followers from his spoken words. It is the most commonly used scripture in the Swaminarayan sect, and contains views on moral conduct (dharma), understanding of the nature of the self (jnana), detachment from material pleasure (vairagya), and selfless devotion to God (bhakti) – the four essentials for a soul (jiva) to attain salvation.[13][18]

In 1826, Bhagwan Swaminarayan wrote the Shikshapatri; the original manuscript is not available but the work was translated into Sanskrit under his direction by one of his followers and is revered in the sect.[20] The Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency summarised it as a book of social laws that Swaminarayan's followers should follow.[3] The work is a commentary on the practice and understanding of dharma,; it is a small booklet containing 212 Sanskrit verses that outline the basic tenets of religious views that all his followers should follow to live a well-disciplined and moral life. It is used in the daily morning ritual.[18][21]

Many scriptures were written by Bhagwan Swaminarayan or his followers, which are important within the organisation, of which the Shikshapatri and the Vachanamrut are the most notable. Other important works include the Satsangi Jeevan (Swaminarayan's authorized biography), Muktanand Kavya, Nishkulanand Kavya and Bhakta Chintamani.[18][19]

The Vachanamrut

Scriptures and important texts


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