Uddhav sampradaya, the Vaishnava bhakti sampradaya, became known as Swaminarayan sampradaya after Sahajanand swami took over its leadership from Ramanand Swami, in 1801. Before his death, Swaminarayan (Sahajanand Swami) had established two seats of leadership or gadis in Gujarat – Nar Narayan Dev Gadi (Ahmedabad) and Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi (Vadtal). He had installed his two adopted sons as the heads of the two gadis, and the succession of the gadis was hereditary, as instructed by Swaminarayan in Desh Vibhag Lekh.
There were numerous separate new organisations which arose out of the two gadis which still followed Sahajanand Swami but were organised independently. Hereditary succession was not followed in these sansthas.
In 1905, Shashtriji Maharaj broke away from the Vadtal gadi, because of his differing interpretations of Vachanamrut and the concepts of Akshar and Pusushottam. He along with 5 other sadhus of the original sect then built a temple in Bochasan village of Gujarat in 1907, thus leading to creation of BAPS.
The differing interpretation was thus – the original Swaminarayan sampradaya held the belief that Sahajanand Swami is not the purushottam. However, the founder of BAPS Shashtriji Maharaj held that he Sahajanand Swami indeed is the purushottam and the different gurus in the lineage are forms of Akshar.
Another offshoot of the sampradaya was formed in 1941 when Muktajivandas Swami left the Ahmedabad gadi, claiming that Gopalanand Swami was the true heir of Swaminarayan, and he set up Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan in Maninagar.
To have a sansthan having women sadhus, Gunatit Jyoti sprung out of BAPS, in 1966, led by Pappaji Maharaj.
In 1971, the Yogi Divine Society was established by Hariprasad swamiji.
In 1987, Swaminarayan Mandir Vasna Sanstha (SMVS), was established by Devnandandasji Swami.
In the international forum, two institutions are of renown: 1. International Swaminarayan Satsang Organisation (ISSO) found in 1978, in US by the acharya of Ahmedabad gadi. 2. International Swaminarayan Satsang Mandal (ISSM), belonging to the Vadtal gadi.
So all these organisations, (there could be more) form the Swaminarayan sampradaya. Out of all these BAPS is the largest, in many ways.
Institutions owned by the sampradaya
The Swaminarayan Sampradaya, as a whole, has myriad temples, schools, colleges, research centers, hospitals. The ownership of the facilities is by the individual sansthans.
There are 2 basic types of Swaminarayan mandirs – Hari Mandir and Shikharbaddha mandir.
Hari mandirs are built in modern style using steel, cement, concrete etc and act as places of worship. The pujaris of the Hari mandirs are householders.
On the other hand, Shikharbaddha mandirs are built using ancient hindu shilpa shastras, using stones only. Sadhus of the Swaminarayan tradition are only allowed to take care of those temples.
For householder devotees of the tradition, Ghar mandirs are available which are made of wood, which they install in home and perform puja.
As of 2019, BAPS has 44 shikharbaddha mandirs and more than 1,200 mandirs worldwide. There are more temples in other Swaminarayan sansthans as well.
Schools, Hostels, Research centers and Education initiatives
Amongst the different sansthans, BAPS runs 6 schools (Swaminarayan Vidyamandirs) and 9 residential schools worldwide. The students are taught traditional education combined with Vedic education. It also runs 15 hostels.
BAPS has 4 research centers built for carrying out research on topics of our ancient heritage – Indian culture, philosophy, language history, literary and sacred texts.
The School of Philosophy and Sanskrit Pathsala in Sarangpur, Akshardham Center for Applied Research in Social Harmony in Gandhinagar and BAPS Swaminarayan Research Institute in New Delhi.
To promote the education of the community, BAPS also grants scholarships, funds higher education, conducts educational awareness programs, exam preparatory courses, summer education camps and other initiatives.
Hospitals, Clinics, Health Awareness and Treatment Camps
BAPS runs 5 hospitals and 1 clinic in Gujarat, and 1 Hospital in Maharashtra. They provide affordable treatment for the poor. It also runs 14 Mobile Medical Clinics (MMC) in Gujarat and Rajasthan to cater to the people living in remote areas of the state not having access to healthcare.
To promote ayurveda, BAPS has set up BAPS Swaminarayan Herbal Care which manages the production, selling and distribution of various Ayurvedic medicines and ayurvedic treatment at its different hospitals and clinics.
Furthermore, BAPS conducts Health awareness lectures, Health fairs, Preventive health screenings, Blood donation drives, Bone marrow donation drives and Treatment camps.
To promote healthy living lifestyle, it conducts de-addiction drives, yoga classes, sports tournaments, conducts Medico-spiritual conferences and encourages students to follow a medical career by financial support and job placement support.
Other humanitarian activities
Taking care of environment and Disaster relief – To increase awareness and positively impact the environment, BAPS conducts environmental awareness campaigns on topics like Water conservation, Tree planting, Matter Recycling and Energy Conservation.
To help people pass through the difficult time after a disaster strikes, BAPS spends money and resources. After drought, it helps seeds of crops, and taking care of the cattle of farmers. It has rebuilt entire villages, schools, hospitals, commercial buildings after earthquake struck places in Gujarat. It has also immensely helped people who suffered the destruction of tsunamis, hurricanes, cyclones and floods.
Community and Family development – With an intention to create responsible families and a responsible community, BAPS has taken various initiatives:
- Youth Activity Centers and Family Activity Centers: Places where parents and children can meet and participate in – recreational, sporting and educational activities, spiritual discussion forums, skill and talent development activities, cultural programming and humanitarian service initiatives. Family outings are also organised.
- De-addiction and Substance abuse awareness initiatives where people are made aware of substance abuse problems and encouraged to lead substance free lives.
- Voter registration drives to encourage people to vote and take active part in choosing their leaders.
- Conducting vishwa shanti yagnas for world peace
- Encouraging ghar sabhas – Encouraging each family to meet at sometime to discuss their emotional and spiritual experiences and needs.
- Organising anti dowry campaigns, marriage counselling, conducting marriage ceremonies to stop dowry practice.
It helps the rural and tribal areas with a variety of services and initiatives – 1. Agriculture development programs to train farmers in water conservation through drip irrigation, address disease and blight, improving crop yields through better management.
2. Rural education initiatives which brought primary and secondary schools to remote places. Providing vocational training to empower them with skills.
3. Providing spiritual guidance to help people stay away from vicious practices like thefts, murder, gambling and improving the community.
4. Giving free healthcare services through MMCs, conducting health awareness sessions and de-addiction drives.
The international version of all these humanitarian activities is managed by BAPS Charities, which conducts similar activities worldwide.
Although I spoke majorly about BAPS, other organisations are also involved in these activities, and, all together, the entire Swaminarayan sampraday is a strong beneficial force for the uplifting of humanity. In every possible way the being will be benefitted, spiritually as well as materially, the sampraday works and is a beacon for humanity.