Dignitaries from various fields offer tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj for his unprecedented work in enriching countless tribal communities
Despite his advancing age and health conditions, Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited tribal villages regularly. In 1977, he visited 91 tribal villages of the Sabarkantha region amid the sweltering summer heat.
Today, on the seventh day of the month-long centenary celebrations of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, thousands gathered at Pramukh Swami Maharaj Nagar in Ahmedabad to celebrate “Glorious Tribal Traditions: Celebrating Humanity”, marking Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s relentless efforts in uplifting tribal communities.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s impartial and genuine love led him to provide many tribal villages with schools, hostels, mobile hospitals, temples as well as regular contact of BAPS swamis. His work reflected his passion to ensure the continuity of tribal traditions while helping to provide resources for individuals’ social and economic uplift. Pramukh Swami Maharaj particularly emphasised the importance of appreciating the presence of God within all, thus inspiring unity between people of all backgrounds.
Despite his advancing age and health conditions, Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited tribal villages regularly. In 1977, he visited 91 tribal villages of the Sabarkantha region amid the sweltering summer heat. In 1979, he toured 95 tribal villages within the Panchmahal and Bharuch regions. He travelled in the tribal villages surrounding Bodeli in 1979, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1992, and 1998. His visits elevated the remote villagers from poverty, illiteracy and addictions and inspired them to progress socially, educationally and spiritually.
In the evening assembly, BAPS scholar Adarshjivandas Swami narrated Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s herculean efforts in connecting with people. He said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj wrote over 750,000 letters, never neglecting a single individual’s letter, as he believed service to humans was service to God. He personally met hundreds of thousands, listened to them, solved their problems and guided them towards a better life. Just as yogis practice hath yoga in the forest, Pramukh Swami Maharaj practiced ‘hita’ (welfare) yoga, as he lived for others, prayed for others and guided others his entire life.”
Thereafter, BAPS members from the Sabarkantha region performed a traditional tribal dance named ‘Timbali’.
BAPS scholar Gnannayandas Swami said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj transformed the lives of countless tribal communities through his unconditional love. Today, in Gujarat’s Bodeli district alone, 30,000 tribals are living a spiritual life free of addictions. Travelling in tribal areas, Pramukh Swami Maharaj would stay in tribals’ homes, sleep in the open in the winter cold, walk for kilometres to their villages, resolve their problems, sanctify their homes, and eat the food offered by them. Countless tribals have provided testimonials that Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s unconditional love has transformed their lifestyles and improved their socio-economic condition. Tribal children graduating from BAPS schools are now doctors, engineers and professionals who have gone on to prestigious universities like IIT Mumbai. Books and chronicles can be written on Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s work for tribal upliftment.”
The subsequent video presentation of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s work with the tribal communities demonstrated various facets of his work in tribal areas.
Some of the male and female tribals who have accomplished a variety of educational achievements were honoured on stage, including an orthopaedic surgeon, PhD scientist, MD paediatrics, school principal, winner of the President’s Best Teacher Award, town planner, marine engineers, dentists, physiotherapists, a national-level sprinter, and a hockey player.
During the programme, many dignitaries spoke of India’s glorious tribal culture and honoured Pramukh Swami Maharaj for his efforts in tribal upliftment.
Ramchandra Kharadi, National President of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, said, “From the time of the Ramayan to the bhakti of Shabari, tribals have been pivotal in Indian history. Tribals have been exploited by foreign invaders since long. Tribals helped defeat Mahmud Ghazni and have remained instrumental in saving our Indian tradition even today.”
Harsh Chouhan, Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, said, “I was elated that an entire day was dedicated to celebrate tribal culture in Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s centenary celebrations. Our community has a silent sorrow that no one understands us, but Pramukh Swami Maharaj was able to understand us and inspire others to do so. This is because he did not employ the standards of others to understand us, but listened with his heart. For Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the tribal folk and city-dwellers were the same. We should endeavour to spread the same feelings and messages Pramukh Swami Maharaj fostered in every village to be successful in tribal upliftment.”
Tarun Vijay, Former Member of the Rajya Sabha, said, “We should not forget that not only were tribals a part of the armies of Shri Rama or Shivaji and Ranapratap, but today they are the first protectors of every boundary. They are the heart of India. When introduced to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, I realised his tremendous, extraordinary work for tribal communities. Our tribal culture is alive today only because of the efforts of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”
Richard Hawkes OBE, Chief Executive of the British Asian Trust, said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life was one lived in the joy of others. It is truly incredible to see him build a global organization while retaining the ability to be with people from all walks of life – from world leaders to the average person in the streets and villages of India. I have been impressed with BAPS’s social work through schools and hospitals in India. BAPS is also doing amazing work in the UK, supporting COVID vaccine efforts, providing oxygen concentrators in India, serving Ukrainian refugees, and helping address the cost-of-living crisis in the UK. For 30 years, I have worked in the charitable sector in the UK and globally, and for 7 years, I have been the Chief Executive of the British Asian Trust, an organization started by King Charles, who met Pramukh Swami Maharaj, but the size and scale of this festival, with more than 80,000 volunteers, is truly remarkable. I could never have imagined the scale on which BAPS has grown.”
Dr. Chidanand Maharaj said, “This festival is a unique opportunity for us to awaken our inner conscious. Pramukh Swami Maharaj reminded us through his works that no matter what our background, we are all ultimately the children of one God, and hence our caste, family, heritage, culture is one. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was inherently one with each individual in society. His letters, house visits and works are testament to this. I am fortunate to have been in his company. Today, I am enjoying the same spiritual experience in Mahant Swami Maharaj. I am fortunate to be standing in front of him as a sevak today.”
Chittranjan Maharaj of Shanti Kali Ashram in Tripura, said, “I received the blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 1989, and 34 years later, all his blessings have come true. It is due to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s blessings that I am able to educate the underprivileged in Tripura.”
Honourable Mangubhai Patel, Governor of Madhya Pradesh, said, “As a guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj did not just give blessings and preach; he believed himself to be the servant of God and therefore the servant of all humanity. As an ideal servant, he worked relentlessly in tribal areas, going from hut to hut, promoting de-addiction and uplifting them socially and economically. By freeing 4 million people from addictions, Pramukh Swami Maharaj actually freed 20 million people from misery when counting all their family members as well. Pramukh Swami Maharaj has been there during the highs and lows for all of Gujarat and all its people. He created 110 mandirs and 6 shikharbaddh mandirs in tribal areas. His life has become a glorious chapter in human history.”
In his concluding blessings, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj provided a distinctive definition of Adivasis. He said, ‘The oldest, ‘adi’, is God, and those in whose hearts God resides ‘vasi’ are Adivasis.’ This was not just wordplay, but Pramukh Swami Maharaj truly believed and lived this. Pramukh Swami Maharaj often said, ‘Although others may consider tribals backward, I see God in them.’ This sentiment propelled him to travel from hut to hut in tribal areas, considering them his family. He stayed at their homes and ate their food without distinction. Through his selfless love, he transformed the lives of thousands of tribals, freeing them from addictions and bad habits and inspiring them to lead virtuous lives. Today, these same tribals have progressed academically, professionally and spiritually, teaching their children to also walk on the path. In fact, many males and females from the tribal communities are joyously serving as volunteers in this festival. Whatever he did, Pramukh Swami Maharaj did with his heart, and his heart was so pure, it touched everyone.”