TUESDAY, APRIL 12: Much of India is alive with excitement over Rama Navami today, but global followers of the Swaminarayan Hindu tradition also will be celebrating the jayanti, or birth anniversary, of Lord Swaminarayan. Lord Swaminarayan founded his popular sect in the early 19th century at age 21, and he went on to initiate 3,000 monks. Although just one sect of Hinduism, Swaminarayans are growing in number and even have consultative status with the United Nations. (Learn more about these Hindus at Swaminarayan.org. And, learn about their contribution to International Women’s Day at IndiaPost.) Swaminarayan.org estimates current followers to be more than 1 million.
Lord Swaminarayan was born in northern India and became known as a social and moral reformer. Morality and spiritual character were of central importance to Lord Swaminarayan, and his followers today abide by these same rules of purity. Devotees mark his birthday with fasting, the offering of food, songs and reenactments of events from his life. (The BBC has more.) Lord Swaminarayan wasn’t born until 10:10 p.m., and his followers continue today’s festivities long in the night.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.