Lord Shree Krishna has pledged:
''Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice and wicked actions predominate, I descend myself and assume a form. In order to protect saints and to destroy and annihilate the devils and to establish the principles of religion, I advent myself and come into concrete existence from time to time.'' (Bhagwad Geeta Chapter 4, verses 7 and 8)
By the 18th century, there was social and political chaos in India. There was gross superstition, atrocities, immoral deeds, looting and no one to protect the poor and downtrodden. The condition of women was most deplorable. A few Brahmins dominated the masses in matters and religion. Might was right. The standard of life was extremely low.
It was at this juncture that Lord Shree Krishna manifested in this mortal world as Lord Shree Swaminarayan to protect the saintly persons, destroy the sinful elements and re-establish true religion.
Dharmadev and Bhaktimata
Janmastan: Itar, Uttar Pradesh
Birth Date: Kartik sud 11, VS 1796
Father's Name: Bala Krishna
Mother's Name: Bhagyawati
Caste: Sarvariya Brahman
Family Name: Pande
Birth Date: Kartik sud 15, VS 1798
Fathers Name: Krishna Sharma
Mothers Name: Bhawani Devi
Maiden Name: Baldevi
Dharmadev and Bhaktimata stayed in Ayodhya after marriage and were constantly harassed by demons and evil forces. They prayed to Hanuman to free them from these atrocities.
Hanuman asked them to go to Vrindavan and do penance of God. With complete faith in Hanuman they went to Vrindavan. After completing their strict penance, Lord Shree Krishna Himself gave divine darshan to them, where He revealed to them that He Himself would take birth as their son and that peace would return to their lives.
Fathers Name: Dharmadev
Mothers Name: Bhaktimata
Brothers: Rampratapji (married to Suvasini Bai), Ichharamji (married to Variyari Bai)
Ghanshyam was born on the auspicious day of Ramnavmi, Vikram Samvat 1837 (2nd April 1781) at 10.10pm. Right from early childhood He showed divine powers. He expelled many a danger from evil spirits and evil doers, exhibited a remarkable height of wisdom and knowledge and superhuman power in many miraculous deeds. He mastered the Vedas and other holy scriptures at the tender age of ten. By virtue of such divine powers, He earned various names and epithets such as Shree Hari, Shree Harikrishna, Vasudev, Narayan and others.
Pilgrimage (Van Vicharan)
After the departure of His parents to Akshardham (His divine abode), He forsook His home and like Lord Gautam Buddha, set out to practice penance at the tender age of eleven. Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj was a Bal Brahmchari (celibate) all His life. He went to almost all the places of pilgrimage, barefooted.
Before His pilgrimage He studied the Vedas, Bhagwad Geeta, Vishnupuran, Shrutis, Smrutis, VishnuShahasra Nama etc. He jotted down the important precepts of these great books in a small pocket book.
For seven years He moved in all the corners of India, collecting as much good as He could. On account of His celibacy and profound penance, He had a rare radiant lustre on His face.
Meeting of Ramanand Swami
At the age of eighteen He came to Loj, a village in Gujarat. This was a prominent place amongst the followers of Ramanand Swami. Soon after Ramanand Swami saw Him, he declared Him as his successor on the 11th day (Prabodhini Ekadashi) of the bright half of Kartik VS 1857 and instructed all his followers to abide by His directions. Ramanand Swami gave Him two names – Sahajanand Swami and Narayan Muni.
He, by His exalted spiritual magnificence, universal love and kindness to all souls, undertook to remove the miseries and woes of all human beings and animals.
He established His own Sampraday, which holds the bhakti sect in strict pursuance of the Uddhav. The Swaminarayan Sampraday believes in Dharma (religious duties), Bhakti (devotion), Gnan (knowledge) and Vairagya (non-attachment). He preached love, non-violence, compassion and purity of thought, speech and action.
He made Himself accessible to even the humblest of man. The lowest members of society came to His feet and their standard of living was improved to the extent that they gave up their hereditary professions of theft and robbery and adapted the religious way of life. The knife, sword and arrow were replaced by the Mala (108 beaded rosary).
He erected temples in Ahmedabad, Vadtal, Bhuj, Dholera, Gadhada and Junagadh, wherein deities of Shree Nar Narayan Dev, Shree Laxmi Narayan Dev, Shree Radha Krishna Dev and others were installed by Him personally. He initiated some of the most prominent saints in the Sampraday, many of them scholars of the highest calibre.
In a short span of thirty-one years, He did miraculous work, too herculean for any single person to perform.
Lord Shree Swaminarayan authorised several books to be written based on Bhagvat Dharma. He stayed in Gadhada the village of Dada Kachar, on the banks of River Ghela, where He often delivered lectures. He also lectured at other places such as Ahmedabad, Vadtal, Loya, Panchala, and many others on the subject of religion, humanity, honesty, non-violence and mercy to deserving people. The lectures were discourses with saints and devotees, and have been complied as Vachnamrut; and to crown all His other activities, He wrote the Shikshapatri, a jewel amongst all other scriptures, for the spiritual welfare of every soul. This is a book of great wisdom. It helps a lay-person to mould ones' life into one of purity, love and compassion. In this invaluable book, Lord Shree Swaminarayan sets out the codes of conduct for males and females, widows, saints, celibates, Acharyas and others. One can only say that this book is a cultural treasure for every soul to lead a perfect life. Even one verse, if studied well, is capable of changing the whole attitude to life.
Lord Shree Swaminarayan's method of preaching is simple, loving and affectionate. It comes from the depth of His heart. It touches the very core of the follower's heart. He was not as severe with the sinner as He was with the sin. He performed Yagnas (sacrifices), all based on Ahinsa (non-violence), He has established His own Sampraday wherein Lord Shree Krishna is held high, but He also has equal respect for other sects. He advocated Panch Dev Pooja (worship of five deities namely Vishnu, Shiva, Parvati, Ganesh and Surya) to all His disciples. Besides Hindus, people of other religions have great love and respect for this Sampraday. Many have embraced this Sampraday only for the inherent cultural uplift in the supremely effective teachings of Lord Shree Swaminarayan. Lord Shree Swaminarayan was a grand co-mixture of divinity of the Yugas (time span); the profound knowledge of the Vedas (Satya Yuga); the truthfulness, love and virtues of Lord Shree Ram (Treta Yuga); the profound knowledge, wisdom and high philosophy of Lord Shree Krishna (Dwapar Yuga); the renunciation, Ahinsa and love for all creations – high and low – of Lord Gautam Buddha and Lord Mahavir (Kali Yuga); all were divinely mixed and assembled in one Purna Purshottam.
When Lord Shree Swaminarayan felt that the purpose for which He had graced this earth was accomplished, the well planned Sampraday was working in full swing and working on the right lines, He divided the administration of the Sampraday into two dioceses with headquarters at Ahmedabad and Vadtal. He placed each diocese under the Acharyaship of His two descendants (His adopted sons Rampratapji and Ichharamji) and advised His followers to abide by their respective Acharyas.
This great manifestation of Purna Purshottam left His mortal body on the tenth day of the first half of the month of Jeth, Vikram Samvat 1886 (June 1830), at Gadhada, for his Akshardham, at the age of 49 years 2 months and 1 day. Even though His physical being is no more in this world, His devotees still feel His presence by His vision at the moment of their passing away.