Devotees celebrate Yogi Jayanti in the presence of Mahant Swami Maharaj in London
Image by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha
The birth anniversary of Yogiji Maharaj was celebrated through a one-of-a-kind theatrical production incorporating unique eyewitness accounts in the presence of Mahant Swami Maharaj on Tuesday, 16 May at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.
Involving a cast and crew of over 250 volunteers, this captivating performance explored the divine personality of Yogiji Maharaj, taking the audience beyond his endearing smile, for which he is forever remembered. The programme was screened live internationally, making it a truly global celebration.
The journey into Yogiji Maharaj’s divine personality was explored through the eyes of a ‘reporter’ who uncovered a series of cassette tapes containing archived material about Yogiji Maharaj. With each new tape, various aspects of Yogiji Maharaj’s personality were revealed – including his divine actions, soothing words, pure mind, compassionate heart, and the unbroken connection in his soul with God and his gurus.
The messages from these cassettes were brought to life through personal testimonies from senior and sadguru swamis, a series of moving videos as well as various cultural presentations, including vibrant dances, captivating sketches, an emotive shadow play, and a live performance of a devotional song accompanied with melodies on a piano, charging the assembly hall with spirituality.
Mahant Swami Maharaj’s interactions throughout the evening provided unforgettable memories, particularly when he demonstrated some of Yogiji Maharaj’s memorable actions – such as the rigorous rubbing of his head, his dhabbo (affectionate patting of a devotee’s back), or his gentle swaying whilst immersed in devotion.
Swamishri also participated in re-enactments of historic occasions with Yogiji Maharaj – his bhagwati (saffron) initiation as a swami in 1961, and of the inauguration of the BAPS mandir in Islington in 1970, the first Swaminarayan Hindu mandir in the western hemisphere.
Image by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha
During that visit to London, Yogiji Maharaj ceremoniously bathed the murti of Harikrishna Maharaj in the River Thames. Swamishri, who was present on that day, bathed the murti of Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj with water brought from the Thames, bringing those sentiments to all those who were not present in 1970.
During his various addresses throughout the evening, Mahant Swami Maharaj shared many of his personal experiences, providing a deeper understanding of Yogiji Maharaj’s selfless love, remarkable tolerance and forgiveness, and profound wisdom.
The penultimate cassette encompassed Yogiji Maharaj’s revelation of his legacy in the form of Mahant Swami Maharaj, and a live recording of Swamishri’s words to reaffirm the spiritual lineage of Bhagwan Swaminarayan that continues today.
Swamishri himself played the final cassette – a video presentation of Pramukh Swami Maharaj singing ‘Yogi āvo te rang mune shid lagādyo’ whilst playing kartals (an Indian percussion instrument) in 1988 during the Yogi Jayanti celebrations in London – rekindling cherished memories for many who were present that day. Swamishri also played the kartals, granting new memories for everyone.
Swamishri concluded the joyous celebrations by reading a personal letter that he had written to Yogiji Maharaj that morning, on the day of Yogi Jayanti. His heartfelt words and prayers provided a fitting conclusion to an extraordinary festival.