More than 200,000 devotees gathered on Wednesday (17) at Sarangpur in Gujarat for the last rites of His Holiness (HH) Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the head of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Sanstha (BAPS), who passed away last Saturday (13), aged 95.
Followers of the saint came from India and abroad to bid farewell to the fifth spiritual leader of the BAPS Sanstha, and thousands of devotees who were unable to be there in person watched the cremation as it was shown live on baps.org
Amid the chanting of hymns, the new leader of BAPS, HH Mahant Swami, carried out the cremation rituals, watched by senior saints from the organisation and senior politicians and BAPS followers.
Ahead of the funeral, HH Pujya Pramukh Swami’s body was kept in a glass case as India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, senior cabinet ministers and leaders from all over Gujarat and the country came to pay their last respects.
In an emotional tribute, Modi said he had lost a “fatherly figure” in HH Pramukh Swami’s death.
Among other prominent personalities who paid their respects were finance minister Arun Jaitley; ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah; railway minister Suresh Prabhu; Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani; deputy chief minister Nitin Patel and Gujarat BJP head Jitubhai Vaghani.
Jaitley said: “Swamiji’s personality was in tune to the institution he headed. Under his astute leadership, BAPS grew, grew and grew. He inspired many youth to renounce the comfort of their homes. He inspired the very best talent of society. BAPS mandirs are ambassadors of Indian culture worldwide.
“He inculcated restraint and there was nothing boisterous about him. He engaged youth into creative endeavours of Indian spirituality. Pramukh Swami’s greatest legacy is BAPS that is always ready to work for society.”
In his tribute, Shah said: “Pramukh Swami Maharaj built so many temples. He inspired not only the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, but also Sanatan Dharma as a whole. He silently, yet so actively inspired millions of people to have faith and devotion to God.”
Pujya Morari Bapu joined HH Mahant Swami in performing the formal rituals ahead of the cremation.
He said: “Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a confluence of simplicity and spirituality. It is quite rare to sustain simplicity after attaining such heights.
“He was a ‘Mahatma’. He has not left us; his legacy shall remain present forever. I have not found such an instance yet where millions of people have paid such heartfelt tributes on the departure of any spiritual leader.”
Organisers said a week-long discourse on HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s his life and work would commence from Thursday (18) in Sarangpur.