His Holiness (HH) Mahant Swami (Swami Keshavjivandas), the sixth spiritual guru of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, was named as the successor of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj four years ago, on July 20, 2012, in the presence of senior sadhus in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Their association dates to 1971, although the saints first met in the 1950s. Last Sunday (14), HH Mahant Swami was formally inducted as the new leader in an assembly at the Sarangpur campus of BAPS.
HH Mahant Swami stressed that saints should tread the path of unity as it had transformed the Sanstha into a great spiritual organisation with worldwide appeal. He then performed an aarti in the presence of devotees and senior BAPS saints.
The new leader spent his early years travelling across India and abroad, inspiring satsang among devotees under the leadership of HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
He was also involved in the Sanstha’s festival celebrations, the activities centred around children and young people and the Akshardham projects, among others.
HH Mahant Swami was born to Manibhai Narayanbhai Patel and Dahiben on September 13, 1933, in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. Manibhai, who was from Anand in Gujarat, lived in Jabalpur for business.
When Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj, the founder of BAPS, arrived in the town, he blessed the newborn child and named him Keshav. His family called him Vinu.
Vinubhai spent his formative years in Jabalpur, completing his primary and secondary education in an English-medium school.
Later, he returned with his parents to Anand, where he enrolled in the College of Agriculture, and completed a bachelor’s degree in the subject.
Despite his deep inner spirituality, Vinubhai was inclined towards rational and logical reason. In 1951-52, he met His Holiness Yogiji Maharaj, the spiritual successor of Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj.
Vinubhai was struck by Yogiji Maharaj’s charisma and travelled with him during his summer vacations. Through his association with the spiritual leader, he was inspired to take the path of renunciation.
In 1957, Yogiji Maharaj gave him parshad diksha (initiation into a spiritual life), renamed him Vinu Bhagat and asked him to accompany him in his vicharan (travels) to look after his daily correspondence and other services.
In 1961, Yogiji Maharaj initiated 51 young people into the bhagwati (saffron) diksha in Gadhada. At the same time, Vinu Bhagat was given diksha and named Swami Keshavjivandas, and over time, he became known as Mahant Swami.
In 1971, after the death of Yogiji Maharaj, Mahant Swami dedicated himself to HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, then the new guru.