Greetings from London Oct 25, 2009 6:25:17 GMT -6
Post by Nitaidas on Oct 25, 2009 6:25:17 GMT -6
This particular branch of the Swaminarayan sect is known as 'Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha', or BAPS for short. I found out through Internet discussion boards that they are different from the 'true' Swaminarayan sect. In other words, the BAPS people are rather like the IGM when compared to the 'true' tradition, which is based in Gujarat. I understand that they have similar issues regarding disciplic succession although I never got around to examining the details. A similarly opulent temple has been built in Atlanta fair recently, so I hear. The whole Swaminarayan tradition is very much a 'Gujarati' thing just as CV is a 'Bengali' thing, it seems to be relevant only to those Gujaratis who are followers of the sect, whereas other Indians and Western visitors like to attend the temple to see it's grand opulence.
It's been some time since I was last there, but the main deities you saw were probably that of Sahajanand Swami and his closest disciples/successors. Sahajanand Swami was the founder of the Swaminarayan tradition and is regarded as an incarnation of Vishnu by his followers. They do indeed worship him as God, referring to him as 'Bhagavan Swaminarayan', and their chief mantra is 'Swami Narayan'. They consider themselves a Vaishnava sampradaya and, if I remember correctly, claim descent from the Ramanandis and originally from Ramanujacharya.
Thanks for the info Ekantin. It is interesting. I do recall that all of the monitors and guards had badges on them with the letters BAPS on them. They were all extremely courteous and helpful, but there was just the faintest hint of militancy and danger about them that made me wonder. I wondered if there was a youth training camp behind them and perhaps a bit of mental "training" or "programming" as well.
Yes, it was odd to go there on Divali and there were a few minutes of something approaching panic when the crowds were close pressed and one felt unable to move in the direction one wanted to. But those passed quickly and everyone remained calm. I am not one who likes crowds so I felt a little extra anxiety. But it all turned out well. Sri Sri Radha-Krsna seemed more centrally placed than Sri Sri Sita-Rama. The sannyasi figure that I saw on one of the altars must have been the Sahajananda Swami. To appearances, however, he could have been Mahaprabhu.