The garbhagruh (inner sanctum) of the Akshardham mandir is home to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and his divine successors. The divine lineage includes Gunatitanand Swami, Bhagatji Maharaj, Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, and Mahant Swami Maharaj: the gurus of our sampradaya (divine fellowship). As manifestations of Aksharbrahma, they are God’s eternal servants and the ideals of saintliness and devotion. They reside in the garbhagruh, eternally offering service and worship to Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan has been hailed by contemporary civic leaders and modern historians as a great social reformer and inspirational leader. Nineteenth-century figures of various backgrounds - Indian, British, Hindu, Muslim and Christian– have all praised his contributions to the abolition of vice and superstition. Bhagwan Swaminarayan preached the equality of all as atma (the soul). He empowered women with education and stopped female infanticide and the ritual of sati in a dark, misogynistic society. He forbade violent sacrifices and he preached a life free of addictions.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan did not simply reform society – he uplifted it by infusing faith, spirituality, virtue, and integrity. He re-established 'ekantik dharma' – supreme faith founded on the pillars of dharma (righteousness), gnan (knowledge), vairagya (detachment), and bhakti (worship). Starting in His own lifetime and continuing today, millions have recognized Him as the manifest form of Parabrahma Paramatma- Supreme God Himself. Swaminarayan Akshardham is dedicated to Him.
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Gunatitanand Swami was the first spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Like all the gurus that have followed him, he was the incarnation of Aksharbrahman, the eternal servant and foremost devotee of Parabrahma. He was the ideal of saintly virtues and the greatest exponent of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s true identity and philosophy. After Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s return to his divine abode, Gunatitanand Swami continued his work of liberating individuals from spiritual ignorance and granting them eternal bliss. His teachings and discourses have been recorded in the sacred text known as 'Swamini Vato', read daily by thousands of devotees around the world.
As God’s eternal servant, Gunatitanand Swami stands with folded hands before Bhagwan Swaminarayan, ever ready in his service.
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Gopalanand Swami was one of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s senior-most disciples. He had mastered the eight stages of Yoga. People became aware of his extraordinary personality through many miracles and samadhi shown by him. His commentaries on the Upanishads and the Shrimad Bhagvad Gita are a witness to his profound scriptural knowledge.
Bhagatji Maharaj was the second spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan after Gunatitanand Swami. His life, a shining inspiration to all seekers of truth and liberation, is a story of ultimate devotion and unconditional surrender. His birth in a humble tailor family in a caste-bound society did not stop Gunatitanand Swami from recognizing Bhagatji Maharaj's divinity and revealing him as the next spiritual successor. Bhagatji Maharaj preached Swaminarayan's true philosophy of Akshar Purushottam despite great difficulties. He followed the dharma of a celibate renunciant and was respected by devotees and renunciants even though he had not been initiated as a sadhu. To those who accepted the Swaminarayan Akshar Purushottam philosophy, he promised, "I shall take away your robes of illusion and give you robes eternal.”
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Revealed as Bhagwan Swaminarayan's third successor by Bhagatji Maharaj, Shastriji Maharaj exhibited extraordinary intellectual and divine powers from early childhood. There seemed to be no field which he could not master, ranging from Sanskrit and scriptures to mandir architecture. Behind his warm smile lay a spirit of fire - never compromising on truth nor yielding to unfair opposition. Ordained as Sadhu Yagnapurushdas, he emerged matchless in spiritual disciplines. He left comfort and security to propagate the philosophy of Akshar Purushottam as revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Although he faced scathing abuse and opposition, his saintliness refused to answer insult with insult. To him, animosity was alien.
In 1907 CE, he established the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha and built five beautiful mandirs with the sacred images of Akshar Purushottam installed in the central shrines.
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Yogiji Maharaj was the fourth spiritual successor. He was initiated into the sadhu-fold at the age of 16 and named Sadhu Gnanjivandas, but so transparent was the mystical joy within him, that he was fondly called Yogiji. Devotion, service, tolerance, austerity, humility and countless such virtues flowered within his fragile frame. He lived singularly on the word of his Guru Shastriji Maharaj, winning the love of one and all. He witnessed abundant divinity in everything and everyone – he even blessed those who censured him and praised those who persecuted him. With a vision set far into the future, Yogiji Maharaj established children and youth centers. He inspired Satsang activities in every town and village he visited, repeatedly writing words of encouragement and guidance to groups of devotees near and far. The mandirs and centers he created resounded with the energy of youth. He encouraged music, art and literature. Scores of youths regularly traveled with him, savoring his selfless love and knowledge. Learn More »
PRAMUKH SWAMI MAHARAJ
Pramukh Swami Maharaj was the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Swaminarayan Akshardham was created and inspired by his desire to fulfil the vision of Yogiji Maharaj. His message and life motto, “In the joy of others, lies our own,” is an inspiring call for followers around the globe to dedicatedly offer service to society and God. In the last half century Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited more than 250,000 homes in 15,500 villages and cities. He personally counselled and comforted more than 810,000 people. His universal wisdom,compassion for humanity and striking simplicity touched many religious and national leaders. Most important, however, was his quiet, undisturbed love for God. Learn More »
Shri Radha-Krishna are a celebrated divine pair within Hinduism and more particularly Vaishnavism. They grace a special shrine at the Akshardham, reminding all who visit the power of devotional love or bhakti.
Narayan is the name of Vishnu and the Lord of the abode Vaikuntha. Lakshmiji is his consort and embodies love, beauty and prosperity.
Bhagwan Shri Ram is worshipped as an avatar of Vishnu and role model of virtuous living. His consort Sita is an eternal ideal of devotion, loyalty, virtue, tolerance and firm faith in God’s divinity.
Shivji and Parvatiji together form the central deity of Saivism. They are spoken of both separately and also as one. Shivji is known an integral third of the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiv). Parvatiji is the goddess embodying love and fertility.