BAPS Sanstha: Spreading harmony and interfaith dialogue for a better world

Building magnificent temples and nurturing strong communities

By Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Wed 14 Feb 2024, 12:19 PM

Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan (BAPS) Sanstha is a volunteer-driven global Hindu organisation promoting spirituality, cultural values and social service.

BAPS, closely affiliated with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, has been serving humanity for the past 117 years. Its establishment, based on the teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, was formalised by the late Shastriji Maharaj in 1907.

Since then, BAPS has grown into an influential social and religious institution with worldwide followers of more than a million devotees. It continues to be empowered by about 80,000 compassionate volunteers and 5,025 centres spreading peace and harmony.

His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj is the present spiritual guru of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Following the passing away of Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 2016, Mahant Swami Maharaj became the sixth guru and the senior-most head of the organisation and is a guiding force for the BAPS followers.

One of the core foundations of the BAPS is rooted in the ancient Hindu scripture of the Vedas. BAPS inspires followers to lead a righteous and moral life, guided by the teachings of Hindu scriptures and blessings of the revered gurus. BAPS encourages its followers to practice self-discipline, engage in prayer and meditation, and participate in various religious and cultural activities.

BAPS has established centres and temples in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia, catering to the spiritual and cultural needs of the local communities. Renowned for building iconic temples globally, BAPS has been well-represented in the Middle East. BAPS Hindu Mandir, a magnificent masterpiece of art in Abu Dhabi, highlights the organisation’s footprints in the region with centres in Dubai, Sharjah, Ruwais, and other Gulf nations like Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. The landmark temple, including the BAPS Mandir in London – the first traditional Hindu temple built in Europe, have been serving as places of spiritual and cultural activities.

Open to people of all faiths, religions and cultures, these temples have transformed into hubs of community development and social welfare. BAPS temples are known for their intricate carvings and vibrant yet serene atmosphere.

Significantly, BAPS has been involved in various social and humanitarian initiatives. The organisation runs hospitals, clinics, schools, and colleges that provide quality healthcare and education to communities, including the underprivileged.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, BAPS volunteers supported the needy and affected individuals in countries, including the UAE. Right from running timely health awareness campaigns to reaching out to vulnerable people, delivering meals, food products, and relief materials, and donating funds, BAPS was at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus. The BAPS Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi shipped hundreds of liquid oxygen cylinders to India through the help of its network of volunteers.

BAPS also conducted disaster relief efforts, environmental conservation programmes, and initiatives to promote women’s empowerment and child welfare. The organisation emphasises family values and the importance of nurturing strong bonds within the community. It frequently organises events and festivals that bring communities together, fostering a sense of unity and belonging. BAPS places great importance on the education and moral development of children, offering programmes and activities that instill values and virtues from a young age.

BAPS, with an all-inclusive approach, actively promotes interfaith dialogue and harmony, fostering understanding and respect among different religious and cultural groups. The selfless services of BAPS have been praised by heads of state and rulers from Islamic countries, including the UAE, where President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan donated 27 acres of land for the BAPS Hindu Mandir. BAPS, with its emphasis on devotion, family values, and service to humanity, continues to make a transformative impact on individuals and inspire communities worldwide.

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