Supreme Incarnation Lord Shri Swaminarayan with all His powers and abilities incarnated as Ghanshyam on 3rd April 1781 (Chaitra Sud 9, Samvat 1837), in the rustic village of Chhapaiya, in northern India, to a Sarvaria brahmin pundit named Hariprasad Pande. On the sixth day of the birth of Kotara ( evil lady knowing black art ) and such others came to kill the lord, in the infant form but they were burnt by a mere sight and were driven away. He was the second of three sons; Rampratap, the elder brother and Ichharam, the younger. His mother, Premvati was lovingly known as Bhaktimata, and father Hariprasad as Dharmadev.
When Ghanshyam was three months old, a sage astrologer named Markandeya, studied His zodiac signs. He then revealed to Dharmadev, “Since He is born in the Kark Rashi (sign of Cancer in the zodiac), His name will be Hari. His dark complexion will also confer the name Krishna and Ghanshyam. He has the virtues of tapas (austerity), detachment, yoga, Dharma, leadership, truth and vivek (power of discrimination). Therefore people will also call Him Neelkanth
Wicked persons always harass the pious ones. Every now and then, Dharmadev was, harassed by the wicked persons, residing in Chhapaiya and round about villages. When this harassment became unbearable, Dharmadev, one day, left Chhapaiya for good and settled in Ayodhya. Ghanshyam at that time was only 3 years old
At the age of 5, Ghanshyam started taking oral lessons from his learned father. As soon as He was Invested with the sacred thread at the age of 8, He started studying the Vedas and within less than two years, mastered all the four Vedas with all their branches. At the age of 10, He prepared a short summary book, comprising two Skandas, fifth and tenth, from Shri Bhagavat, Shri Bhagwadgita, Vidurniti and Vishnusahasranam from the Mahabharat, Vasudevmahatmya from Skand Puran and Yajnavalkya Smruti with Mitakshara commentary from the Dharmashastras.
Ghanshyam’s mother, Bhaktimata, left her mortal body when He was aged 10 years and 7 months. Prior to the departure of Bhaktimata, Ghanshyam gave her spiritual and philosophical knowledge of Almighty God Supreme. This knowledge is known as Hari Gita.
His father, Dharmadev, left his mortal body just seven months after the death of His mother. When Bhaktimata and Dharmadev left their mortal bodies and departed for Akshardham, Ghanshyam gave them divine darshan of Himself. Both His parents knew that their son was Almighty God Supreme and spiritually remained with Him on earth.
Ghanshyam was very fond of listening to katha from a young age. A sage called Haridas used to read the Ramayan daily at the edge of Khampa Lake in Chhapaiya. Ghanshyam would go to listen to the katha with His friends. After listening to katha, Ghanshyam with His friends went to bathe in the lake and played in the tamarind (ambli) tree next to the lake.
On one occasion, during the excitement of playing on the tree, Ghanshyam hurt Himself on His right thigh and started to bleed badly. Ashwinikumar, a divine doctor quickly arrived at the lakeside to help Ghanshyam and placed bandages on Ghanshyam’s thigh. The wound left a permanent scar on the thigh of Ghanshyam. Khampa Lake and the area of the tamarind tree are still present in Chhapaiya to this day.
Soon after returning from Benares, both parents passed away. Ghanshyam then deside to leave Ayodhya, for the Himalayas, to begin his life work of establishing Ekantik Dharma, on 29th June 1792 (Ashadh Sud 10th, Samvat 1849). He was only eleven years old. His mendicant garb consisted of only a loin cloth. He carried an icon of Bal Mukund (the Lord) and His miniature diary containing the gist of the scriptures, the result of His studies with Dharmadev. He renounced home to embark upon a 7 year spiritual pilgrimage on foot across the length and breadth of India. Ghanshyam left his house early in the morning and start to walk towards river Saryu, Where one of the follower of Kalidut show Ghanshyam and he deside to kill him,
At home when every one wake up they found Ghanshyam is no where. Rampratapbhai, Suhasinibhabhi, Icharambhai and all other family member get worried and they had no idea where to look for Ghanshyam. They all soon start to fell alone and without any hope.
Shree Ghanshyam went through the thick forests abounding in wild beasts of prey. The forests were very dense and were inhabited by demons. He practised rigorous penance like Shree Nilkanth Mahadev, and so Ghanshyam was called by the people as Nilkanth Varni during his penance and pilgrimage.One day thousands of demons came to Nilkanth and try to kill him but Hanumanji came to help him and killed most of them.
After a while when Nilkanth came out from dhyan Hanumanji offer him some fruits to eat and ask Nilkanth to allow him to live with Nilkanth for seva. But Nilkanth replied he is fine and he want to go alone and if he need him he will call Hanuman for now he told Hanuman to inform Icharambhai about him, he is fine and he also call them later.
In the mountains of Himalayas on the bank of river Gandaki in Nepal at Pulahashram near Muktanath Temple Nilkanth Varni started severe penance, standing on one leg, keeping both the hands raised upwards observing rigid fasting and chanting the Gayatri Mantra. He being the God Supreme observed such austere penance in order to set an example to teach us that a man desirous of salvation should observe such austerity.
He was bare-footed Braving oppressive heat and torrential showers alike, he practiced rigorous penance, He sat in the water even when the weather was extremely chill. God can be realized only by such efforts along with ardent single-minded devotion that is what He taught us through His austere life.
After completing penance, Nilkanth Varni went to Butvel (Butolnagar). The king of that place had no son. Looking a luminous personality, the king welcomed Him, offered his daughter and asked Him to become a king of that region. Varni preached him the reality of life and the way for salvation and left
In the dense forests Nilkanth Varni met Gopal Yogi who was adept in Nirbij yog and was proficient in Astang yoga and was believing in God as only the formless divine light. Nilkanth Varni taught Gopal Yogi the Sabij Yoga, expounded him the ideal principles of image-worship revealed His true divine form to him and left for Adivarah.From Adivarah, He went to Sirpur (Sonepur). The king Sidhvallabh was devout. He invited Nilkanth Varni and served lovingly. There were many worshippers of the evil spirits, They envied Varni and directed some evil spirits to kill a serevant of the king who was entrusted to serve Varni. But only by mere chanting word, ‘Shree Krishna’ the servant got up, while the evil spirit went back to kill the invoker. Nilkanth Varni saved him. He got them rid of all the evil activities, made them to live the virtuous lives, showed them the real way of worship and left.
From Sirpur Nilkanth Varni went to village near Kamaxi Devi in Assam. There lived a Mantracharya (adept in evil charms, hypnotism etc.) named Pibaik. He threatened and tried to kill Varni by invoking evil spirits but in vain. On the contrary, the evil spirits turned back to invoker Pibaik. Pibaik fell down and began to bleed profousely from nose and mouth. Nilkanth Varni saved him from evil spirits. Pibaik realized that one whom he challenged was none else but God Supreme Himself. He begged for pardon. He left all evil activities and became a virtiuous and righteous devotee of God.
Nilkanth Varni went to Navalakha mountain which is now known as Chitagong Hills in Bangladesh. There lived Nine lakhs yogis penancing severally yearning the darshan i.e. holy sight and the realization of God Supreme. Nilkanth went there, embraced them all, blessed them all, for ecstatic bliss in Akshardham and left.
On the way to Rameshwaram, Nilkanth Varni saw a Sadhu named Sevakram lying by the roadside suffering from an acute stage of dysentery. No by passer cared for him. So he was crying. Nilkanth Varni pitied him and nursed him for two months. Sevakram had gold coins worth one thousand rupees. From this money, Varni brought cooking materials, cooked food and fed him, while Varni used to beg from the society for his food. Many a times, He could not get anything and had to fast. Sevakram was cured after two months and became quite healthy. On the way to Rameshwaram he asked Varni to carry his luggage of about 20 Kgs. Even after such hard service by Varni,
Nilkanth Varni took His morning bath and sat on a side of the step-well for His morning rites, i.e. meditation, worshipping etc. There was an Ashram (monestery) of Ramanand Swami, the incarnation of Udhhavji the pet disciple of Shree Krishna He was at Bhuj in Kuchha for preaching. There were about fifty disciples at Loj Ashram. Muktanand Swami was the main of them. Sukhanand Swami who had been to fetch water from the step-well saw Nilkanth Varni in meditation state. Looking at Varni’s luminous personality, he was attracted. As soon as His meditation was over, Sukhanand Swami went to Him and very politely asked,”Who are you? Where do you come from? Where are you going and who are your parents?” Nilkanth replied,” “I am brahman (god). coming from Brahmapur and going to Bramapur. For my parents, I may say,” One who does not help to get free or one who is unable to make one get free from the permanent unavoidable cycle of death and birth is not Guru (the Preceptor), not a father, not a mother, not a relative, not a husband (or master) or not a God.” Sukhanand Swami was very much impresed by the reply. Said,”Our Guru Ramanand Swami is adept in spiritual knowledge and reached to a very high stage, will lead you to the Brahman. He is in Kutch at Bhuj. His main disciple Muktanand Swami has also profound spiritual knwoledge. Please come to our Ashram else, he will come to take you.
Varni reached the Ashram along with Sukhanand Swami. Nilkanth Varni had practised very stern and austere penance and his body was so frail and emaciated that his bones ribs and the veins could be counted. His face was sublime with divine luster and His eyes were full of love and mercy for all. Muktanand Swami was so much impressed that even though he was suffering from guinea-worm and was unable to stand, he got up, warm-welcomed Varni and embraced Him. Looking the pious, virtuous, peaceful, devotional atmosphere of the Ashram and the politeness, Varni was very pleased.
Muktanand Swami asked Varni to stay there. Nilkanth Varni replied,” I may stay here if you answer me the correct and distinct reply to my satisfaction.
The Questions are (1) What is Jiva (Atma) ? What is Ishwar ? What is Maya ? What is Brahman ? and What is para Brahman ? Plaease describe with their characteristics.” Muktanand Swami replied the questions to His satisfaction. (The characteristics of these five will be given further in the spiritual portion).
On the eleventh day of the bright half of the month of Kartik Samvat year 1857, on Wednesday 28-10-1800 A.D., Ramanand Swami initiated Nilkanth Varni Bhagawati Mahadiksha of his fellowship. He gave Him two new names, Narayan Muni and Sahajanand Swami.
As a disciple, He served Ramanand Swami heartily, Restlessly He remained always with Shree Swami in his every work and in his every activity for his ready service. Ramanand Swami also kept him along in every activity.
Exactly a year after initiating Sahajanand Swami, Ramanand Swami throned Sahajanand Swami as the leader of the Sampraday in Jetpur. He did this because Sahajanand Swami was none other than Almighty God Himself. Ramanand Swami wanted to hand the throne Shreeji Maharaj of the Sampraday to Sahajanand Swami. Ramanand Swami held a meeting with the prominent saints and satsangis, to nominate a suitable successor. Ramanand Swami himself nominated Sahajanand Swami to become leader, instantly Muktanand Swami joyously agreed and other members also accepted this. Sahajanand Swami initially declined to accept the throne. Ramanand Swami urged him to take the throne as he himself was old and only He (Sahajanand Swami) was capable. Sahajanand Swami took responsibility of the satsang at the young age of 20 years and 7 months.
After the passing of Ramanand Swami, Lord Swaminarayan held a large gathering of the followers at the town of Faneni.
He established temples at Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Vadtal, Junagadh, Dholera and Gadhada – installing images of various manifestations of god, such as Narnarayan Dev, Laxminarayan Dev, Hari Krishna Maharaj, Radha Raman Dev etc.
Before leaving for Akshardham Lord Swaminarayan established two gaadi’s (seats) — one in Ahmedabad (Shri Narnarayan Dev Gaadi) and one in Vadtal (Shri Laxminarayan Dev Gaadi) — on Tuesday, November 21, 1825 AD (Kartik Sud 11 Samvat 1882, Ekadashi). Lord Swaminarayan then appointed an Acharya to each of these two gaadis to pass on his message to others and to head the Swaminarayan Sampraday. These Acharyas came from his immediate family; he formally adopted a son from each of his two brothers and appointed them to the office of Acharya. Ayodhyaprasad, son of his elder brother Rampratap, was appointed Acharya of Ahmedabad Gaadi, and Raghuvira, son of his younger brother Ichcharam, was appointed Acharya of Vadtal Gaadi.
The administrative division is set forth in minute detail in a document written by Sahajanand Swami, called Desh Vibhaagno Lekh.
Lord Swaminarayan has stated that those who know me to be their choicest deity and wish to achieve moksha (Salvation) shall follow only the Swaminarayan Sampraday under the leadership of the Dharmavanshi Acharyas.
Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan established five Vows (Panch Vartaman) for people in Ghruhashram i.e. house-holders and five Vows for people in Tyagashram (Swamis/Saints).
The followers were increased in a large number. Only devotion and worship is not enough for salvation. The virtuous moral and devotional human life is absolutely necessary. So He (Lord Swaminarayan) preached the five basic Vows compulsory for
Whosoever wants to become the follower of Lord Swaminarayan has to take an oath in presence of a great Saint keeping water in his right hand to abstain from these five. If anybody transgresses any of these five is not called a follower of Swaminarayan. He is excommunicated. These are the five basic Vows for house-holders. These are known as Panch Vartman.
Saints of Swaminarayan have to observe strictly their special five vows listed below as well as the five basic vows listed above. They are given them at the time of their initiation as Saints. They are initiated by either Vadtal or Ahmedabad gadi’s Acharya.
Today the Sampraday has Temples spread across 5 continents and over 20 million followers worldwide.