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Navin Shah GLA Brent & Harrow
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Asian Voice: The Swaminarayan Museum, Amdavad

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In the last ten days from dreadful weather in London to pleasant pre-summer break in Mumbai and Amdavad has been very refreshing for me. The added bonus to this and my prime purpose of the current visit to India this time is to attend opening of a Swaminarayan Museum in my hometown of Amdavad. At the time of putting together this column the Museum has not opened formally but due to open today (Tuesday 8th March). I’ve just returned from the Museum this morning after Narendrabhai Modi the Chief Minister’s visit prior to the formal celebratory cultural programmes this evening.

 

Las week I’ve had the privilege of conversations with both Mota Maharajshri (Bapji Tejendraprasadji) and Acharya Maharajshri Koshalendraprasadji Pande. In advance of the formal opening when I was also afforded an opportunity to do some photography of the Museum. I will be compiling a further report of the museum with photographs shortly but in the meantime here are glimpses of what I’ve seen and learnt:

 

The museum has collection of the old antiques and memorabilia associated with the Swaminarayan Sampraday. It was the vision of the Mota Maharajshri to have a ‘central  collection and display place’ for a range of historic memorabilia / old historic items currently scattered throughout Gujarat and other areas of India, often neglected and requiring restoration and lacking in access to community. The concept for this Museum was first thought of by Mota Maharajshri about 7 to 8 year ago around the time when he came across a handwritten document on one rupee stamp paper dated 20th March 1825 witnessed by Sahjanand Swami himself giving power of attorney to Kuberdas. This historic document gradually started the process gradually collecting important historic items belonging to Swami Sahjanand Maharaj and other significant people plus marking key historic and important events. Acquisition of collection itself then started the process of authentification and restoration of articles. Restoration issue being a big problem it was felt at the very early stage that the Museum should have its own dedicated restoration laboratory.  

 

One might consider the process of collection of articles for Museum a mere mechanical / technical exercise but for Mota Maharajshri every article in the Museum is a ‘Prasadi’ (a divine offering) to be shared by everyone. The Museum according to Acharyashri is evolved with the idea of bringing awareness to the masses. He does not want the religion itself to be ‘cocooned’; he wants the Museum to be a focal point for humanity and be inclusive attracting the wider community. The Museum is also evolved as a ‘green project’ including measures such as rainwater-harvesting, solar energy and energy from wind turbines.

 

A brief site visit accompanied by Karsanbhai of Laxcon Construction (Builders of the project) gave the following account of the facilities and key displays:

  • Seven Halls comprising the Main Hall, an Auditorium seating 100 people, Space for Projects/Events allowing use by outside organisations and  Exhibition Halls for displays.
  • Laboratory for Restoration work.
  •  The main hall – central feature of the museum has the 5 most significant displays of items belonging to Sahjanand Swami e.g. a tooth, hair and nails.

 

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The key motto of the Museum is ‘Preserve PLUS’ which sums up the ethos behind this innovative project aimed at being inclusive and reaching out to the wider section of the community.

You can find out more about the new museum here.