Shastriji Maharaj, the spiritual leader who founded the Sanstha

He created a platform for individuals to connect with their spirituality, receive quality education, and serve humanity

By Ashwani Kumar

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Shastriji Maharaj’s true conviction was displayed in the way he lived his life, even as a child.
Shastriji Maharaj’s true conviction was displayed in the way he lived his life, even as a child.

Published: Wed 14 Feb 2024, 11:31 AM

Shastriji Maharaj, the third spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, formalised the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS). The prominent spiritual leader dedicated his life to uplifting society through spirituality, education, and social service. Through the establishment of BAPS Sanstha, he created a platform for individuals to connect with their spirituality, receive quality education, and serve humanity.

Born as Dungar Bhakta in the small village of Mahelav in the Indian state of Gujarat, he was known from a young age for a deep sense of devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, his philosophy, and his spiritual successors.


Shastriji Maharaj’s true conviction was displayed in the way he lived his life, even as a child. One night, he went out to the farm in the thickness of night. Though all of the town’s children were scared to walk down the dimly lit road to the fields, Dungar Bhakta was not worried.

When his father asked him why he was not afraid, Dungar Bhakta replied that he had nothing to fear if he chanted the Swaminarayan mantra.


Dungar Bhakta displayed a sharp sense of intellect from a young age. When 10 years old, he was offered free education on the promise that he would become an official in the British government upon completion of his education. Dungar Bhakta turned down the offer, unimpressed by the high worldly status it offered. Dungar Bhakta was determined to become a sadhu from the first time he met with the Swaminarayan Sanstha’s traveling sadhus.

His father, Dhoribhai, was unwilling to let him become a sadhu despite many requests. Finally, when he was 16, Dhoribhai permitted Dungar Bhakta to become a sadhu after realising it was his son’s only desire. As soon as Dungar Bhakta arrived at the temple in Surat, he devoted himself to the service of the temple and its devotees. Soon, he was given sadhu ‘Diksha’ and named Sadhu Yagnapurushdas.

He continued to serve the temple and his guru and began to study the scriptures in Sanskrit. Sadhu Yagnapurushdas was given ‘diksha’ by Swami Vignananand. After Swami Vigananand passed away, Sadhu Yagnpurushdas stayed in the service of Bhagatji Maharaj. He completed his studies of the scriptures and became known for his discourses on the Akshar Purushottam philosophy. He continued to excel at advanced levels of scriptural study.

Despite growing opposition by detractors of this purity and philosophical clarity, Sadhu Yagnapurushdas continued to spread the philosophy of Akshar Purushottam. His conviction in the Akshar Purushottam philosophy and faith in his guru’s words was firm and unflinching. He wished to install the idols of Akshar and Purushottam in the centre of a Shikharbaddha temple.

Resistance against his ideas grew, and eventually, he agreed to leave the Vadtal temple. Sadhu Yagnapurushdas continued to spread the Akshar Purushottam philosophy throughout Gujarat and decided to build a temple in Bochasan in which he could install the idols of Akshar and Purushottam without resistance.

He began to be known as Shastriji Maharaj for his unparalleled knowledge of Hindu scriptures. It was not easy for Shastriji Maharaj to build the temple in Bochasan. Shastriji Maharaj and his sadhus continued to be beaten and threatened. However, in 1907, Shastriji Maharaj opened a temple in Bochasan, the beginning of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.

After opening the mandir in Bochasan, Shastrji Maharaj traveled to Sarangpur, where he met a devotee who donated land for a second temple.

Shastriji Maharaj and his sadhus continued to face difficult circumstances but triumphantly opened the Sarangpur temple in 1916. In addition to building temples, Shastriji Maharaj began to spread the Akshar Purushottam philosophy outside Gujarat to other parts of India and East Africa.

The Sanstha grew quickly, and Shastriji Maharaj appointed 28-year-old Sadhu Narayanswarupdas as President of the Sanstha. In 1951, after appointing Yogiji Maharaj as his spiritual successor, Shastriji Maharaj passed away in Sarangpur at 86.


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