On 23 January 1971, Yogiji Maharaj reverted to Akshardham and Pramukh Swami Maharaj became the Spiritual and Administrative head of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.
During this period, he continued to work tirelessly visiting hundreds of villages and initiating over 300 new sadhus. Several new temples were built including Kosindraa, Sankari and Kolkata, while establishing many other mandirs in India. Overseas saw tremendous growth with new temples being established in New York (1974), Ashton (1977), Leicester (1977), Wellingborough (1977), Dar es Salaam (1977), Mwanza (1977), London (1982), Preston (1984), Chicago (1984) and Los Angeles (1984).
To 1985, he undertook 9 international trips from visiting Africa, UAE, UK, USA, Canada, Nepal, Europe, Fiji, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. At each place he visited, he prayed and toiled for the progress of Hindu Dharma worldwide and established communities of devotees. Over the next few years, his efforts bore fruit and today there are hundreds of mandirs and thousands of devotees. It was during one of his trips to Europe in 1984 that he also met with Pope John Paul II in Vatican to engage in interfaith dialogue.
A beautiful Yogiji Maharaj Smruti Mandir was opened in Gondal in 1975. Also, in 1981 the Yagnapurush Smruti Mandir was established in Sarangpur in memory of his guru Shastriji Maharaj.
All this did not come without inflicting a price on his health. During this 15-year period he sustained his first serious illness in Mumbai in February 1978, had cataract operations on both his eyes in 1980, a gall bladder operation in 1981, and sustained a heart attack in 1983 at the early age of 62.
The following events are worthy of a special mention
3rd (and final) All-India Train Journey: 25 November 1972 to 4 January 1973
Swamishri undertook this journey with 800 devotees and sadhus. The trip had many highlights including opening of the mandir in Kolkata. The train literally became a temple and an ashram. Volunteers looked after devotees for their every need, and the train’s sound system was used for daily arti and discourses from sadhus and Swamishri. The journey concluded in Mumbai where thousands turned up at the Dadar station at midnight to welcome Swamishri.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan Bicentenary Celebrations in Ahmedabad, 1981
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha organized its first international cultural festival in 1981 to mark the bicentenary celebrations of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The festival site was spread across a lush, 200-acre campus in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The festival was celebrated for 37 days with a variety of spiritual, humanitarian, and cultural programmes, including folk music and classical music performances by some of India’s leading pandits and maestros, theatrical and folk-dance performances from all over India, and a special exhibit dedicated to world peace and universal brotherhood. The festival featured majestic gates and mandirs carved by artisans, highlighting the beauty of Indian art and architecture.
Over 8 million visitors enjoyed the celebrations while 10,000 volunteers gave their time and dedication to making the event a success. The event motivated thousands of individuals to renounce their addictions and bad habits.
A three-day interfaith conference dedicated to religious harmony attracted more than 1,500 religious leaders, while 207 educated youths were initiated as sadhus.
The festival restored an atmosphere of peace amidst severe tensions and communal riots in Ahmedabad.
The Cultural Festival of India (CFI) in London, 1985
This festival was held on the grounds of Alexandra Park, next to Alexandra Palace. It was the first of its kind to bring the wonders of India to London. This 33-day festival attracted over a million visitors from across the globe. CFI featured four intricately carved mandirs, 16 magnificent displays, five beautiful gates, and a “Cradle of Civilization” exhibition portraying 5,000 years of Indian civilisation. All of these structures were skilfully crafted in India and then shipped to London where they were assembled on the festival grounds. Additionally, CFI showcased 14 types of traditional Indian folk dances and musical performances by various pandits and maestros. It was as if India had descended on Alexandra Palace. The dedication of thousands of volunteers was evident in every corner of the festival.
Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami Bicentenary Celebrations in Ahmedabad in 1985
This 60-day festival marked the bicentenary celebrations of Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami, Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s first spiritual successor. It included numerous cultural performances and exhibits. It also hosted the International Convention for Better Living and an Interfaith Harmony event attended by political and spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama and Indian President Gyani Zail Singh.
Over 8 million visitors enjoyed the celebrations organised by 15,000 volunteers.
Through establishing mandirs and organising festivals, thousands of individuals found new meaning in life and were inspired to a higher way of noble, addiction-free living.