Swaminarayan Sampraday

Swaminarayan Sampraday
Swaminarayan Sampraday

Udharva Marka, a symbol of the Swaminarayan Sampraday
Formation 1700s
Type Religious
Headquarters Ahmedabad and Vadtal
Acharyas Acharya Shree Koshalendraprasad Pande and Acharya Shree Rakeshprasad Pande
Affiliations Hinduism
Website http://swaminarayan.info/ http://vadtal.com

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Swaminarayan Sampraday (Devnagari: स्वामीनारायण सम्प्रदाय, Gujarati: સ્વમિનારાયણ સમ્પ્રદય, IAST: Svāmīnārāyaṇa sampradāya), known previously as the Uddhav Sampraday, is a Hindu sect established by Swaminarayan (or Sahajanand Swami) (April 2, 1781 – June 1, 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, there were 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 by its members. The most important are the Shikshapatri and the Vachanamrut. The Shikshapatri was written by Swaminarayan in 1826, is described as a book of social principles by the Bombay Gazetteer. Before Swaminarayan died, he split the administration of the Swaminarayan Sampraday into two seats of power (gadi meaning seat): the Nar Narayan Dev Gadi headquartered in Ahmedabad and the Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi 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. The sect also has a huge number of ascetics, who since inception of the organisation contribute towards growth and development of the movement and towards salvation of its members. They have a special responsibility; that of taking care of images in temples. These ascetics wear orange robes and lead a strict life refraining from worldly pleasures and devoting their life to the service of the fellowship. The Swaminarayan Sampraday has temples spread across five continents. Six temples that Swaminarayan built during his lifetime are considered to be the most important within the faith.

The Swaminarayan Sampraday has encountered a problem of off-shoots in the last century. Multiple organisations have been formed by people who split from the Swaminarayan Sampraday as a result of differences in philosophy, such as BAPS and Swaminarayan Gadi. The original movement, however remains the largest group within the Swaminarayan faith.




The Swaminarayan Sampraday was earlier known as the Uddhav Sampraday and was headed by Ramanand Swami. In 1799, Swaminarayan (as Neelkanth Varni) was initiated into the Uddhav Sampraday as an ascetic (Sadhu) by Ramanand Swami and given the name Sahajanand Swami.[1] At the age of 21, he was given the headship of the sect known as Uddhav Sampraday with the blessings of his guru Ramanand Swami, who handed over the reins of the Religious diocese to him and left his mortal body.[2] Fourteen days after Ramanand Swami left for his mortal body, Sahajanand Swami held a large gathering of followers at the town of Faneni.[3] It was during this meeting, while explaining that God is one that Swaminarayan introduced what he termed "the father of all Mantras", Swaminarayan (the name Sahajanand Swami then became known by). It should be noted that there was no Swami who he had appointed his successor or as an ideal devotee, at that time. The name refers wholly and solely to one entity, Swaminarayan. Thereafter the name Swaminarayan Sampraday came into existence.[3]



The Swaminarayan Sampraday with its roots in the Vedas was founded by Swaminarayan. It follows the Vaishnava tradition and to its followers represents the form of Hinduism.[4][5] The faith focusses on salvation through total devotion or bhakti to the God developed through dharma (virtues), gnana (spiritual wisdom) and vairagya (detachment).[6][7][8][9]

The Swaminarayan Sampraday is bhakti-focussed and advocates God within the disciplines of dharma. Swaminarayan propagated a philosophy called vishistadvaita, which says that God is supreme, has a divine form, is the all-doer and is completely independent.[4][5] He simply stated that jiva (souls) 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, above all, devotion to that God.[10]

The Sampraday aims to consolidate characters in society, families and individuals. This is done 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 pooja and meditation, works or studies honestly and donates regular hours in serving others.

Swaminarayan's lifetime objective for the organisation was to establish a permanent system of achieving aatyantik kalyaan (the ultimate redemption from the cycle of life and death). He aimed at achieving this by establishing the following.

Temples and images

Murtis of Laxmi Narayan with Ranchhodrai at Vadtal

As an adjunct to the scriptures in establishing Ekantik Dharma and consolidating the framework of the Satsang (holy fellowship), Swaminarayan constructed stone mandirs; buttressing Upasana – worshipping God, and bhakti – devotion towards the deities. Towards the end of his second decade of work, he placed a greater emphasis on bhakti over detachment – vairagya to foster love for God. This emphasis on bhakti culminated in the building of mandirs. The mandirs served four major purposes:[citation needed]

  • As a permanent place for offering worship
  • As a centre for religious gathering and instruction
  • As a centre for studying Sanskrit, devotional music and Vedic literature
  • As centres of social services where alms, medicines and clothes were available to the poor and needy

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.

One of the most prominent features of the heritage of Swaminarayan is 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 murtis. In the temples of the dioceses of Ahmedabad and Vadtal, they are predominantly a central altar or a shrine. Human forms are predominant for an known exception of a Hanuman temple at Sarangpur, where Hanuman is the central figure.[11] The temples have accommodation for sadhus built next to them. Stones were quarried in far places and carried to the temple sites.

Swaminarayan temples, like other Hindu temples have walk-ways around the central shrine to allow worshipers to circumambulate the shrine. These are 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 propagated that men and women should be separated in temples to allow full concentration on god. Men do a specified number of prostrations. In front of the mens section, there is normally a small area reserved for ascetics and special guests. There is great variety in form and nature of the central images, in front of which are gold or silver plated doors that open during darshan.[12]

Swaminarayan ordered the construction of the following six mandirs and himself installed the images of various deities, such as Nara Narayana, Laxminarayan, Radha Krishna, Radha Ramana, Revti Baldevji, and many other images.[13]

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Ahmedabad

Swaminarayan temple in Ahmedabad

The very first temple Swaminarayan constructed, in Ahmedabad in 1822, presents images of Nara Narayana, forms of Arjuna and Krishna, in the central altar. The altar to the left has murtis of Radha Krishna. The land for construction of this first shrine of Swaminarayan Sampraday, was gifted by the British Imperial Government. The task of constructing this pilgrimage place was entrusted personally by Swaminarayan to Ananandand Swami.

This was the first temple of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, constructed as per scriptural norms with intricate carving in Burma teak and constructed with sculptural art by 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.[14][15][16]

The installation ceremony of the murti forms in the temple was celebrated in the presence of thousands of pilgrims representing many parts of India. Nara Narayana occupies the principal seat of this temple.[14][15][16]

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Bhuj

On the request of devotees from Bhuj, Swaminarayan asked Vaishnavananand Swami to proceed with a team of the saints to Bhuj and construct a temple. Vaishnavanand Swami and the accompanying saints went to Bhuj in 1822, camped at the place neighbouring the land of temple drew plans of the temple, complex, executed the plans with minute details and within a short span of one year, they built a temple abode of Nar Narayan.[15][16][17][18][19]

The Gujarat Earthquake on 26 January 2001 destroyed much of the city of Bhuj, including this temple. Members of the Swaminarayan Sampraday have resolved to construct a new temple a short distance away from the site.[20]

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Vadtal

Swaminarayan Temple in Vadtal

The town of Vadtal is also known as Vadtal Swaminarayan. The temple in Vadtal 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 later converted into a devotee by Swaminarayan. The temple was constructed under the supervision of Brahmanand Swami. The construction of this temple was completed within fifteen months and the altar of Laxminarayan ere installed by Swaminarayan on 3 November 1824. Swaminarayan also installed his own image or murti in Vadtal naming it Harikrishna Maharaj. The walls are decorated with colourful representations from the Ramayana.[15][16][21][22][23]

The idols of Laxmi Narayan were installed by Swaminarayan himself on 3 November 1824, amidst chants of vedic hymns and devotional fervour of the installation ceremony. The walls are decorated with colourful representations from the Ramayana.[15][16][21][22][23]

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Dholera

Dholera itself is an ancient port-city, 30 k.m. away from Dhandhuka in Ahmedabad District. The making this temple with three domes was supervised and planned by Nishkulanand Swami, Brai Atmanand Swami, Akshardanand Swami and Dharmprasad Swami. The land for this abode of Gods, was gifted by Darbar Punjabhai.

On May 19, 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.[15][16][24]

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Junagadh

The city of Junagadh is nestled in the lap of Mount Girnar. The city of Junagadh is nestled in the lap of This temple has five domes and external decoration with sculptures. The construction of this temple was supervised by Brahmanand Swami. The land for this shrine was gifted 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.[15][16][25][26]

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Gadhada

The land for constructing this 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 in the courtyard of his own residence. This shrine has two stories and three domes. It is adorned with carvings.

Swaminarayan shared in the manual service in the construction of the temple, by lifting stones and mortar. Gopinath and Radhika along with Harikrishna were installed by him on October 9, 1828.[15][16][25]

Other temples

Sahajanand Swami also ordered construction the following three temples. Although these temples were completed after his death, the Murti pratishtas, idol installation ceremonies, were conducted by Sahajanand Swami.

  • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Muli
  • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Dholka
  • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Jetalpur

He installed images of various manifestations of God, such as Nar Narayan Dev, Laxmi Narayan Dev, Radha Krishna, Radha Raman, Revti Baldevji, etc. Swaminarayan made Gadhpur his home for over 27 years. In Gadhpur he stayed at the Darbar of Dada Khachar, one of his most well known devotees. A lot of temples have footprints of Swaminarayan, worshiped by his followers.[27] Swaminarayan entrusted the day to day performance of the worship rituals in these mandirs to ascetics.[28] There are over a thousand of Swaminarayan temples across five continents today.[29]


There are many scriptures that were written by Swaminarayan or his followers that are of an importance within the organisation. Important works include the Satsangi Jeevan (Swaminarayan's authorized biography) and other scriptures, such as, Muktanand Kavya, Nishkulanand Kavya and Bhakta Chintamani among others.[30][31] Among scriptures, the Shikshapatri and the Vachanamrut are the most notable of these.

In 1826, Swaminarayan wrote the Shikshapatri, while the original manuscript is not available, it was translated into Sanskrit by his follower under the direction of Swaminarayan and is reveared in the sect.[32] The Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency summarised it as a book of social laws that his followers should follow.[33] As a commentary to 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 also used in daily morning ritual.[30][34]

Swaminarayan's philosophical, social and practical teachings are contained in the Vachanamrut, a collection of dialogues recorded by five followers from his spoken words. The Vachanamrut is the scripture most commonly used in the Swaminarayan sect. It contains views on dharma (moral conduct), jnana (understanding of the nature of the self), vairagya (detachment from material pleasure), and bhakti (pure, selfless devotion to God) – the four essentials for a jiva (soul) to attain salvation.[7][30]

Dharmavanshi Acharyas and Succession

In 1826 at Vadtal, Swaminarayan established the dual Acharyaship in Dharmavanshi Acharyas, in direct succession to himself. Dharmavanshi meaning belonging to the lineage of Dharmadev – the father of Swaminarayan.[35][36] Swaminarayan enthroned his two adopted sons, Acharya Maharajshree Ayodhyaprasad Pande and Acharya Maharajshree Raghuvir Pande (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 each and every follower including both householders and ascetics. Swaminarayan gave sole authority to these two individuals to perform the installation of the murtis in temples and the initiation of sadhus and householders into the Sampraday.[37]

This he did by means of 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 & 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.[35] Presently, Acharya Maharajshri Rakeshprasadji 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.[38]

Samadhi and Promise

At the age of 49, Swaminarayan took Samādhi at Gadhada in 1830, promising to remain within the Swaminarayan Sampraday in:[39]

  1. the images he installed (and by the Acharyas succeeding him)
  2. the Acharyas installed by him (and those in direct succession)
  3. the saints he initiated (and those initiated by succeeding Acharyas)
  4. the scriptures, such as Shikshapatri, Vachanamrut, Satsangi Jeevan, Nishkhulanand Kavya etc. (and those authorised by succeeding Acharyas)

Satsangi Life

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

A member of the Swaminarayan Sampraday is known as a Satsangi. A male satsangi is initiated by the acharya of the gadi he comes under and a female satsangi is 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.[40] The ceremony involves taking of five vows (panch vartaman), i.e. not to commit adultery, not to consume intoxicants, not to consume meat, not to commit robbery and not to lie. The perpetrator then pours water over the initiates hands, gives him a Sanskrit shloka, Shri Krishna twam gatirmama, meaning Shri Krishna thou art my refuge. The initiate then offers at least half a rupee to the acharya and the acharya adorns a kanthi thread around his neck. The initiate is then required to apply the tilak chandlo to his forehead (chandan U and red kum kum dot in the middle).[41] Ladies only apply the red kum kum dot. Though the organisation is part of the Hindu faith, a satsangi need not necessarily be a Hindu. Some adherents of other religions, such as Islam and Zorastarianism are members of this movement as well.[42]

There are eight important things in the life of a Satsangi:[43]

A Satsangi must show:[45]

  • Reverence for god
  • Reverence for the Shastras
  • Reverence for the Acharya of the Gadi the Satsangi comes under (NarNarayan Dev Gadi or LaxmiNarayan Dev Gadi)
  • Reverence for festivals
  • Reverence for elders
  • Overall good conduct

Satsangi vows

Following are vows that have to be taken by each Satsangi (follower of Swaminarayan). These 11 points are called are called Niyams (Rules).[46][47]

  • Be non-violent
  • Do not have any kind of relationship with other woman other than your wife
  • Do not eat meat, i.e. including seafood, poultry products, eggs
  • Do not drink products that contain alcohol, i.e. for e.g. wine, beer, medicine that contains alcohol
  • Never touch widow woman whom you do not know
  • Never commit a suicide in any circumstances
  • Do not steal things
  • Never blame others for something that you may not know about
  • Never bad mouth about God, Goddesses, or any religion
  • Never eat someone's food who does not follow these eleven rules established by Swaminarayan in Shikshapatri
  • Never listen holy stories from a person who does not believe in the existence of God, i.e. a person who is an atheist


Muktanand Swami, a Paramhansa

Right from the beginning ascetics play a major role in the Swaminarayan Sampraday. They contribute towards growth and development of the movement and towards salvation of its members. The sadhus, initiated by either Dharmavanshi Acharya, also form an integral part of the Swaminarayan Sampraday and wear only orange robes (except for the brahmachari ascetics, who are Brahmins. They have a special responsibility; that of taking care of images in temples. These ascetics wear white robes on their waist and an orange cloth over their shoulder). They lead a strict life refraining from worldly pleasures and devoting their whole life 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.[28] Swaminarayan has stated in the Vachanamrut on numerous occasions that the association of Satpurush (true saints/devotees) opens the path to moksha (Salvation). In 1999, the Ahmedabad Gadi had 765 male ascetics and the Vadtal Gadi 1468 male ascetics.[48]

Female Ascetics

Female ascetics, known as Samkhya yogini's, receive initiation from the Gadiwala (or wife of the Acharya). They stay within the temple and follow ascetic rules strictly. They must wear dark red clothing and stay in the temple Haveli. They take care of the images in ladies temples and conduct discourses for ladies. In 1999, the Ahmedabad Gadi had 440 female ascetics and the Vadtal Gadi had 115 female ascetics.[49]

Rules for Ascetics

To render respect for asceticism and preside over the temptations of the world and the opposite sex, the first rule of becoming a sanyansi of the sect is never to come in contact with the other sex or money.[50] No sadhu is allowed to move out of the temple alone; they have to move out in pairs. In fact, even in the temple, while attending to the call of nature they must do so in pairs so as to ensure they keep their vows. The food they eat must be mixed up and eaten so that they may be no sense of taste.[51]

Swaminarayan Paramhansas

Swaminarayan and Paramhansas in Gadhada.

Right from the beginning ascetics have played a major role in the Swaminarayan movement. They contribute towards growth and development of the movement and towards salvation of its members. They preach the philosophy and encourage people to follow a pious and religious life.[28] Tradition maintains that Swaminarayan initiated 500 ascetics as paramhansas in a single night. Paramahansa is a title of honor 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.[52][53]

Notable Swaminarayan Paramhansas include:

  • Muktanand Swami: Initiated by Ramanand Swami, Muktanand Swami was instrumental in Swaminarayan's entry into the Uddhav Sampraday. Author of the Swaminarayan Aarti and literary works such as Muktanand Kavya, Swaminarayan sometimes called Muktanand Swami the "Mother of Satsang".[51][54] He co-authored the Vachanamrut.[55]
  • Gunatitanand Swami: a prominent leader who gave valuable contribution to spreading of the Swaminarayan Sampraday and the head of Junagadh Temple for over 40 years.[56] Writer of Swami ni Vato.[57]
  • Gopalanand Swami: Swaminarayan held Gopalanand Swami in very high regard and he was very learned in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. After the demise of Swaminarayan, the responsibility of the Swaminarayan Sampraday and the acharyas were left in the hands of Gopalanand Swami.[58] Gopalanand Swami arranged for the image of Hanuman to be installed in the Sarangpur temple[51][59] and co-authored the Vachanamrut.[55]
  • Brahmanand Swami: a notable poet (writer of almost a thousand poems), his works are compiled in the Brahmanand Kavya, a copy of which is preserved in the British Museum in London.[60] He was also distinguished in architecture – as evident in the temple buildings of Muli, Vadtal and Junagadh.[51][57] He co-authored the Vachanamrut.[55]
  • Premanand Swami: a poet as well as a singer.[57] 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 while Vandu Pad describe the features and appearance of Swaminarayan.[51][51]
  • Nishkulanand Swami: composed the Bhakta Chintamani, describing the life of Swaminarayan along with his activities, sermons, theories, and obstacles faced by him. He has also composed twenty-two other scriptural works on various subjects (such as Purshottam Prakash and Yamdanda), and poems which are complied in Nishkulanand Kavya.[54][57][61]
  • Nityanand Swami: the writer of several important works, such as the Hari Digvijay and the Shri Hanuman Kavach. He produced the first Gujarati translation of the Shikshapatri which was approved by Swaminarayan. He co-authored the Vachanamrut.[55][62]

Ascetic Vows

Gopalanand Swami

The following are panch vartman or the five principal vows, that act as prerequisites for being considered as part of the Sampraday for Sadhus.[46]

  • 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.

Importance of Acharyas

Swaminarayan felt 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 etc. He therefore decided that he would create leaders for each and every sadhu and householder, who would then subsequently be responsible for the Swaminarayan Sampraday. This led to the decision of appointing his nephews as Acharyas.[63]

The Acharyas of the Sampraday are more than mere administrative heads, they are the spiritual leaders and the guru to their followers. Since the acharya is supposed to refrain from contact with the opposite sex (other than close relations), his wife is the guru for female satsangis. She too is to refrain from contact with the opposite sex (other than close relations). The acharya wears a red turban, which is a symbol of his authority along with a golden staff and umbrella.[64]

The Acharyas are responsible for:

  • Initiate followers into the sampraday with a Samanya Diksha by giving the guru-mantra [41]
  • Initiate monks-sadhus by giving them the Maha-Bhagwadi Diksha[40]
  • Perform murti-pratishtha, install deities in the temples[65]
  • Authenticate scriptures of the Sampraday[66][67]
  • Act as the Guru and leader of the entire Sampraday[66][68]

Mention in Scriptures

These responsibilities have been prescribed in the Shikshapatri, Satsangijeevan and Desh Vibhag no Lekh, and according to these shastras no other individual other than the Dharmavanshi Acharyas are permitted to carry out the above duties.[69] In the scripture Purushottam Prakash (Nishkulanand Kavya)[citation needed], the writer Nishkulanand Swami describes the instance when Swaminarayan established the Dharmavanshi Acharyas. The establishment of the Dharmavanshi Acharyas was therefore immensely important for both administrative and spiritual purposes.

The constitution of the Sampraday is laid out in Desh Vibhag Lekh which describes in detail the functions of the 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[citation needed]

Furthermore, in one of the most authoritative scriptures the Vachamanamrut, Swaminarayan states one of the prerequisites for attaining Akshardham.

…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…

Vachanamrut, Gadhada Pratham Chapter 1[70]

So it is seen as imperative to be a humble loyal follower of the Dharmavanshi Acharya once receiving the diksha (guru mantra) in order to be qualified to achieve a bhram form.

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.”

Swami ni Vato Prakran 5, Vat 104[citation needed]


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

According to Raymond Williams, when Swaminarayan died in 1830, the movement had a following of 1.8 million people and in 2001, the original movement had 3.5 million followers of the total 5 million in the Swaminarayan faith. It more wealthy, has more followers, both householders and saints, and support more large temples than the other Swaminarayan groups.[71][72] However, in 2007, the Indian Express newspaper listed members of the Swaminarayan faith as 20 million.[73]

In the 1920s, members of the sect began to move out of India in search of work and a better life. The destination then was East Africa. Among these, were a large amount of Kutchis, who remained loyal to the Bhuj temple under the Nar Nararayan Dev Gadi.[74] All the temples built in Africa come under the temple in Bhuj. The first Swaminarayan temple in Africa was built in Nairobi in 1945.[75] This was followed by temples in Mombasa and other Kenyan towns in the following years. Temples were also built in Tanzania and Uganda.[76] The Swaminarayan temple in Karachi, Pakistan was made in 1868, however Karachi was part of the Indian Union till 1947.[77]

After the Second World War, members of the movement began immigrating to the United Kingdom from East Africa. The number of people who moved from East Africa to United Kingdom significantly rose in the 1960s and 1970s.[78] The first Swaminarayan temple to be built in the UK was in Bolton in 1973.[79] The was followed by a Swaminarayan temple in the London suburb of Willesden, which was consecrated in 1975 and is the biggest temple of the sect in the UK. Following this, temples have been built in several parts of the country, such as Cardiff, Oldham, Leicester and Brighton apart from several others in London itself. The one in Leicester was opened in 1993 and was the first under the International Swaminarayan Satsang Organsiation banner in Europe, followed by one in Sweden among others.[80][81]

A small number of followers had immigrated to the USA prior to 1965 as students. However, after 1965, following a new law on immigration, a large number of Indians, including members of the sect moved there from the 1970s and this continued till the end of the century.[78] International Swaminarayan Satsang Organisation was formed in 1978 in Chicago under the Nar Narayan Dev Gadi. The Swaminarayan temple in Weehawken, New Jersey was the first to be opened in the USA in 1987.[82] This organisation has 20 temples in the USA today in places like Boston, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tampa, Florida, Detroit and Cleveland, Ohio apart from others in New Jersey, in Colonia, Parsippany and Cherry Hill.[83][84] Another organisation, ISSM, under the Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi has temples in Chicago, Grand Prairie, Texas, Sunnyvale, California, Downey, and Somerset, New Jersey.[85] Another organisation under the Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi, the Laxminarayan Dev Spiritual Organisation has been set up in San Francisco to promote the faith there.

Apart from the above, the movement has temples in Australia, Seychelles, Canada, Thailand, Fiji, Mauritius, New Zealand, Oman, UAE, and Zambia.[77][86][87] The movement has a thousand temples across the globe, though the majority of them are in India.[29]


Logo of ISSO

International Swaminarayan Satsang Organisation

The now retired Acharya of the Ahmedabad gadi (who was then Acharya), Acharya Shree Tejendraprasadji Maharaj founded International Swaminarayan Satsang Organisation (I.S.S.O.) in the USA on the occasion of Vijaya Dasami in the year 1978. The prime objective of I.S.S.O. 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) & Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi (Vadtal) to practice their religious duties in harmony.[88]

Logo of ISSO Seva


In 2001 ISSO-Seva was established. It is an independent running charity under the Swaminarayan Sampraday to give a helping hand to mankind, to help the homeless and needy as well as making awareness about the modern day diseases and infections. It provides relief for when a natural disaster strikes worldwide. The charity is run by professionals and volunteers of the Swaminarayan temples and centres.[89]

Logo of NNDYM

Narnarayan Dev Yuvak Mandal

Narnarayan Dev Yuvak Mandal is a youth orgainisation which was founded by Acharya Shree Koshalendraprasadji Maharaj (In his Acharya status) in 1994 with its headquarters at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Ahmedabad and was created to help young people to confront the challenges of human life.

This step set into motion various initiatives by this organisation to build a foundation of young people across the globe. The organisation propagates dharma (duty), bhakti (devotion), gnaan (knowledge), and vairagya (detachment from maya).[90]

Logo of LNFO

LaxmiNarayan Dev Spiritual Organisation

Located in the San Francisco Bay area this organisation was formed at the behest of Acharya Maharajshree Rakeshprasad Pande to perform Satsang in the area.[91]

International Swaminarayan Satsang Mandal

The International Swaminarayan Satsang Mandal (ISSM) is an organisation based in USA that comes under the Laxminarayan Dev Gadi, Vadtal.[92] It has temples in various parts of the country, all of them being named Vadtal Dham after the parent organisation.[85]

Other groups and criticism

Decades after Swaminarayan's death several people claiming differences in philosophy left the original movement to make their own groups. BAPS and Swaminarayan Gadi are the two more prominent ones. In 1906 the original movement had suffered its greatest schism when a prominent ascetic named Shastri Yagnapurushdas left the Vadtal Gadi to formed his own institution, Bochasan Swaminarayan Sanstha (now BAPS) claiming Gunatitanand Swami was the rightful successor to Swaminarayan.[6] He was legally excommunicated from the Vadtal Gadi.[93] 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.[94]

Within the tradition, there has been a turf war over the Vadtal temple along with other assets since the conflict of 1902. This conflict between the Dev faction (led by ascetics) that maintain that the temple is nobody’s ancestral property and acharya faction (led by the former acharya of Vadtal) has seen some tensions in recent years. In May 2001 conflict escalated, when the schismatic faction brought in Acharya Maharajshree Tejendraprasad Pande from Ahmedabad for 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 intensification of the struggle. A number of "sadhus" of this fraction were subsequently exposed in a sex scandal only three months after another five of "sadhus" were sentenced to death for murder of their guru in the Vadtal branch.[95][96][97]

Recent developments

Swaminarayan Museum inauguration

Swaminarayan Museum

Swaminarayan Museum in Ahmedabad, which houses more than 5000 artefacts was opened in March 2011. [98] The museum holds items such as Swaminarayan's writing scripts, day to day garments, ornaments etc. This is the first ever project in the Swaminarayan Sampraday to create this unity in all of Swaminarayan's Prasadi items from Temples all over the world. This museum is a dream of the retired acharya of Ahmedabad, Acharya Maharajshree Tejendraprasad Pande.[99][100]


New temple in Bhuj

Due to the Earthquake on 26 January 2001, much of the City of Bhuj was shattered, including the Swaminarayan Temple in Bhuj temple built by Swaminarayan. The saints and satsangis of Kutch residing in India and abroad, resolved to construct a new marble temple a short distance away from this historic site.[101] The new temple, largest in Gujarat was opened in May 2010 by the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. [102]


The official website of the Swaminarayan Sampraday uses technology to broadcast live darshan on the internet. To start of with, four of the USA temples, in Chicago, New Jersey (Colonia), Los Angeles and Boston and the first temple in Ahmedabad as well as Shree Swaminarayan Temple Bhuj are broadcasting darshan live on the internet everyday. Daily darshan is also able to be viewed from many temples worldwide. Apart from this, important events, such as the 25th anniversary of the Swaminarayan temple in Cardiff have also been webcast live on the internet. [103]


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