|February 13, 2005 |
Des Plaines Mandir
The people of Kathiawad, and Gujarat/Saurashtra/Kutch in general, faced much political turmoil in the late 1700s and early 1800s. As the British began exercising increasing control, those officers interested in positive humanitarian movements and peace in the region, greatly appreciated the work of Lord Swaminarayan. The Governor of Bombay, Sir John Malcolm,* visited Rajkot in February 1830 and asked David Anderson Blane, Acting Political Agent of Rajkot from 1828-1830, to write three consecutive letters to Lord Swaminarayan. At first, Lord Swaminarayan said He would not be able to come to Rajkot because He was ill. Upon Sir Malcolm's humble insistence, Lord Swaminarayan accepted the invitation, and traveled to Rajkot.** On February 26, 1830, Sir Malcolm sent a military band and troops to escort Lord Swaminarayan to Mr. Blane's bungalow. At the conclusion of the meeting, when Dada Khachar respectfully offered a fine Kathi horse, Sir Malcolm asked instead for blessings and a written form of Lord Swaminarayan's teachings. Lord Swaminarayan thus presented Sir Malcolm with a copy of the Shikshapatri.
The copy of the Shikshapatri that was presented to Sir Malcolm is preserved in the Indian Institute Library of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, which was founded by Professor Monier-Williams.*** The copy was made by a scribe named Nilkanthanand Muni in 1830. After David Anderson Blane passed away in 1879, his younger brother, Thomas Law Blane, donated the manuscript to the Library. Thomas Law Blane was a member of the Madras Civil Service in the 1820s and 1830s.
Yogiji Maharaj visited London for the first time in 1970. When he was asked why he had made the effort to visit England, he replied, "Lord Swaminarayan promised that for those that came in His contact, at the time of their deaths, He would come to take them to Akshardham. Thus, since Sir John Malcolm passed away in London, Lord Swaminarayan had come here as well. So, this land is blessed and we have come here on a pilgrimage."
*Born in Burnfoot (UK) on May 2, 1769, Sir John Malcolm was the fourth of seventeen children in a poor family. He was placed in the East India Company's service, receiving military commission at a young age, and attained the rank of Major-General in the military. In September 1798 he moved into diplomatic service as assistant to the resident of Hyderabad. His diplomatic skills were recognized by his final diplomatic appointment as Governor of Bombay from 1827 until his return to England in December 1830. As Governor of Bombay, Sir Malcolm had political responsibility for Gujarat, including Saurashtra and Kutch. Sincere in his effort for positive change, he wrote, "The chief obstruction we shall meet in the pursuit of the improvement and reform of the natives of India will be caused by our own passions and prejudices...We should be humbled to think in how many points, in how many duties of life, great classes of this sober, honest, kind, and inoffensive people excel us." He heard many good reports about the effect of Lord Swaminarayan's teachings. He also understood "Hindustani" language.
**Lord Swaminarayan traveled from Gadhada to Rajkot on a miano (a meno or palanquin with curtains, carried by bearers) that was earlier gifted by Mir Saheb, the Muslim Gaekwad Suba of Vadodara. He then went to Mr. Blane's bungalow in a golden palkhi (or meno), which was a gift from Surajiraj, the Naresh of Rajkot. Menos gave fewer jolts than ox-drawn carts known as vel, rath, sigaram, and mafo. The menos are preserved at the Gadhada and Rajkot Swaminarayan temples, respectively.
***Sir Monier-Williams was born in Bombay in 1819, the third of four sons of Colonel Monier-Williams, R.E., surveyor-general of the Bombay Presidency. In 1841 he joined Oxford University where he studied Sanskrit under Prof. Horace Haymen Wilson. After he graduated in 1844, he was appointed as professor of Sanskrit, Persian, and Hindustani at Haileybury. In 1860 he became the Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford (being elected over the scholar Max Muller). The Indian Institute Library, a dependent library of Bodleian, was opened in 1886, specializing in the history and culture of South Asia, Tibet and the Himalayas. Sir Monier-Williams wrote books on Hinduism and religion in India, and was the first European to make an English translation of the Shikshapatri. (When Sir Monier-Williams visited the Vadtal temple in 1875, he received a text from the Acharya that had been lithographed in 1872, but it was found to be full of errors. In 1876, he received a second text from the Acharya with a commentary by Shatanand Muni, which he found to be far more accurate. This text was used as the basis for his edition and translation, published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of 1882.)