1. Shri Gunatitanand Swami
Known as Akshar Brahm, was a prominent Saint, who has given the most valuable contribution for spreading of the Swaminarayan Sampraday (Holy Fellowship).
He was born at ‘Bhadara’ in Saurashtra on the full moon day of the month of Aasoin the S.Y. 1841. His name was Muljibhai. From the childhood he had a divine vision and he could see with his inner eyes, what Ghanshyam (Bhagwan Swaminarayan) was doing in his childhood at Chhapaiya, far away in U.P.
By this divya Drashthi, he could see the Thread-Ceremony of Ghanshyam on the very day and he described the same to his family. Thus he had Divine Vision and he could have the holy glimpse of sight of Bhagwan Swaminarayan Occasionally.
Once after getting divine holy sight of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and inspiration, he left worldly attachments and renounced home in the S.Y. 1865 and he was given initiation as a Saint by Bhagwan Shri Swaminarayan in the S.Y.1866. He was possessing all saintly virtues. He was living very simple but highly spiritual and serviceful life. Bhagwan Swamianrayan was very happy with on him on the account of his ever readiness to serve the sick Saints and thus setting up an ideal example for the same.
He spent about 40 years in Junagadh, as the Mahant(Head) of the Swaminarayan- temple. On this status also, he used to render services even cleaning and assisting construction work in the temple. Though he was uneducated he used to give preaching for hours on high philosophy in a very simple, practical and impressive way, spellbound the mass. By his talks, there was a change of heart even of wicked persons and they were inspired to lead noble life. The book ‘Swami ni Vato’ regarding his preachings is an everlasttime memory of Swamiji, which is inspiring and guiding many on the path of salvation.
By his blessings, disturbing worldly desires were subjugated. Even the sense of taste and passions were controlled under immediately. He left his physical body at Gondal in the S.Y.1923. independently, sitting in ‘Padmasan’ pose ,after announcing in advance.
2. Shri Muktanand Swami – Mother of Sampraday
Muktanand Swami was born as Mukunddas in VS 1814 in Amreli town (Saurastra) to parents Anandram and Radhadevi.
He obtained diksha from Ramanand Swami on Vasant Panchmi VS 1842 at Bandhiya and was named Muktanand. He was one of the five Sadgurus who compiled the memorable words of Shree Hari in Vachnamrut. Muktanand Swami was known for his caring demeanor, similar to love of a mother, as he was willing to accept, accommodate, and forgive the flaws of younger sadhus and devotees.
When Muktanand Swami met NeelkanthVarni, he was the first person to satisfactorily answer His inquiries regarding the true nature of jiva, ishwar, maya, Brahma, and Parabrahma. It was this interaction that sparked NeelkanthVarni’s interest in Ramanand Swami and his sampraday..
When Ramanand Swami eventually gave ‘gadi’ to Nilkanthvarni, Muktanand Swami accepted the decision graciously and served Lord Swaminarayan throughout his life although He was 17 years older than Lord Swaminarayan.
He composed the Aarti ‘jai sadguru swami’. This Aarti is being sung today in each and every Mandir. . Muktanand Swami died in VS 1889 in Gadhda.
3. Shri Gopalanand Swami – Yogi Raj
Gopalanand Swami was born as Khushal bhatt in VS 1837 in Todla town near Idar. He was an Audichiya Brahmin, his father was Motiram Sharma and his mother was called Kushladevi. Khushal Bhatt was married, but was not attached. He met Lord Swaminarayan. He immediately decided to serve Him. At Gadhpur, Khushal Bhatt was given Bhagwati Diksha on Samvat 1864 Kartik Vad 8 and was given the name of Gopalanand Swami.
When the Lord left His mortal body and returned to Akshardham He left responsibility for the Sampraday and the Acharyas in his hands.
In Sarangpur, the installation of Hanumanji was taking place on Samvat 1905 AsoVad 5. Gopalanand Swami did the Aarti to Hanumanji. Gopalanand Swami stood infront of Hanumanji and concentrated his powers into the murti and suddenly Hanumanji began to move. Gopalanand Swami also had a stick which has immense powers to ward off evil. This stick is still being used and is kept in Sarangpur Temple. Gopalanand Swami died in VS 1908 Vaishakh Sud 5 at Vadtal.
4. Shri Brahmanand Swami – A Jocular born Poet
Ladudanji was born in VS 1828 in Khan, a town in Rajasthan on Vasant Panchmi. His father was called Shambhudan Barot (Charan) and his mother was called Laluba.
Ladudanji remained at Gadhada for a while, where he met Jeevuba, Laduba who didn’t want to get married. Lord Swaminarayan asked Ladudanji to persuade the girls to get married. He thought he could convince Laduba to get married but the reverse happened. Ladudanji decided to become a saint all by the teaching of Laduba.
He took Diksha in 1861 in Gerita town, near Siddhapur and was named Shrirangdasji. One morning Shrirangdasji used to sing devotional songs but Shrirangdasji does not suit to the poems.” Lord Swaminarayan approved the name and renamed Shrirangdasji as Brahmanand Swami. Brahmanand Swami was a saint that could make Lord Swaminarayan laugh even if He was in a bad mood. He supervised the building of 3 magnificent temples. These were Muli, Vadtal and Junagadh.
The Lord had high respect for Brahmanand Swami and said anybody who sings 100 of his verses everyday would receive darshan of Almighty God Supreme. Brahmanand Swami died in Muli VS 1888.
5. Shri Nityanand Swami – The ever victorious Pandit
Nityanand Swami was born as Dinmani Sharma in Dantia, a town near Lucknow in VS 1812. He was born into a Gaoud (Yajurvedi) Brahmin family. His father was called Vishnu Sharma and his mother was Virjadevi. He also had a brother called Govind Sharma. Dinmani Sharma’s family were very rich. He went Kashi to learn and acquire knowledge from JagjitPandit
Nityanand Swami would always be consulted by Lord Swaminarayan when letters to government officials (British Empire) were written. Lord Swaminarayan also consulted Nityanand Swami when the DeshVibhag Lekh was written.
Nityanand Swami would attend the discourses arranged by other sampraday. He debated with other saints and was always the winner. No one could put a constructive argument against him. He was one of the saints to write Vachanamrut and he translated the Shikshapatri in Gujarati which was authenticated by Lord Swaminarayan. Nityanand Swami died in Vadtal VS 1909.
6. Shri Premanand Swami (Premsakhi) – An idol of Love
Premanand Swami was born as Hathiram in the town of Dora Bharuch in VS 1840. Premanand Swami was born to Hindu parents who abandoned him at a young age. A Muslim family raised him, his foster father was called Dosatai.
Dosatai was a good father and wanted Hathiram to learn the art of music. For this reason Dosatai sent Hathiram to Vadodara to learn music. After he completed his studies, he met to Lord Swaminarayan and was soon initiated as a sadhu.
Lord Swaminarayan gave Hathiram diksha and named him Nijbodhanand Swami. His name was later changed to Premanand Swami, due to his extreme love for Lord. He was a born poet, many of his hymns are sung daily by devotees. Premanand Swami composed the words of the Chesta Pad, which is sung and recited daily at all Swaminarayan temples. He also wrote the PremanandKavya.
Premanand Swami left a legacy of over four thousand kirtans. His composition remains unmatched among Indian music composition, and within the sampraday. He is regarded as one of the greatest literary poets of India.
7. Shri Nishkulanand Swami – Vairagya Murti
Nishkulanand Swami was born as Lalji Suthar in VS 1822 in the town of Shekhpat, near Jamnagar. He came from a Gurjar Suthar family. His father was Rambhai and his mother was called Amrutbai. Lalji’s family were very religious. They were the devotees of Atmanand Swami, Guru of Ramanand Swami.
He helped in the building of Dholera Temple as a good sculptor. In Vadtal, he built a 12 door Hindola. He was a strong renunciate and known for his intense vairagya, or detachment from worldly objects and relationships. His poetic creations displayed this intense sense of detachment. He authored NishkulanandKavya, a book that is famous within the sampraday. He also knew about music, as he was a renowned poet a wrote numerous poems. He kept on writing scriptures until his death. He died in VS 1904 in Dholera.
8. Shri Devanand Swami
Devanand Swami was born as Devidan in VS 1859 in Balol town near Dholka. His father was called Jijibhai and his mother was called Benjiba.
Devidan become a devotee of Swaminarayan Bhagwan and joined Him. Devidan became a Parshad and was taught the art of poetry and music by Brahmanand Swami. He got Bhagwati Diksha and His initial diksha name was Abheydanand, then later changed to Devanand Swami.
Devanand Swami was respected by all followers as he observed obsolete celibacy, deep devotion to Lord Swaminarayan and saintliness towards other saints. Devanand Swami was one of the eight leading poets. After Brahmanand Swami passed away Devanand Swami stayed as Mahant of Muli Temple for 22 years until his death in VS 1910. Devanand Swami composed many kirtans which can be found in DevanandKavya.
9. Shri Shatanand Swami (Santdasji)
Santdasji was born in Meethila town in Nepal. His father was called Vishnudatt, who was a brahmin. He obtained diksha in Dabhan.
He had the gift of akhand samadhi, in which he could see Lord in divine form whatever he was doing, even during sleep. Many times he had remained in samadhi for six months at a time. Finally Lord kept him at Gadhada, gave him intuitive power and asked him to compose SatsangiJivan, a huge divine scripture describing the history of Swaminarayan Sampraday, Lord’s glory, His theory, His activities and the knowledge and sermons given by Him. He has written many other scriptures and stotras including ShikshapatriArthaDipika.
Shatanand Swami has written commentary over Shikshapatri and translation of Vachanamrut, HariVakyaSudha Sindhu and many other scriptures in Sanskrit.
10. Shri Bhumanand Swami
Bhumanand Swami was born as Rupjibhai in VS 1852 in a town called Keshiya near Jamnagar. His father was called Ramjibhai and his mother was called Kuverbai, his family name was Kadiya Rathod. Bhumanand Swami was a sincere and devoted person and composed many kirtans about bhakti. He composed the GhanshyamLeelamrutSagaar scripture.
Rupjibhai lived in Vadhvan, he was a sincere and devoted man. He was also a great poet and composed many kirtans which were full of bhakti (devotion). Once one of his friends, Dhanbhai, said “Rupji, everyone knows of your devotion and your kirtans , but you know its all worthless until you find God
I just thought that you may be interested in going to Gadhada, you may find him there.”
Rupjibhai came to Gadhada. Making his way through the crowd, Rupjibhai tried to find his way to Dada Khachar’s darbar. Alone and tired, he wondered if God was really going to be here. Just then he saw a figure on a horse, the figure was Shreeji Maharaj. Rupjibhai later wrote the following kirtan describing this scene:, ‘Sarve sakhi jeevan jova ne chalo re …’. After a four day fast he wrote the prominent ‘thal’ that is sung within the sampraday, ‘Jamothal jeevan jauvari…’. Bhumanand Swami died in VS 1924 in Manasa.
11. Shri Shukanand Swami (Shuk Muni) – Personal Secretary of the Lord
Shukanand Swami (the private secretary of Lord Swaminarayan was born as Jagannath in VS 1855 in Dabhan in Gujarat. He came from an Audichiya Brahmin family.At a very young age, Jagnath Bhatt was educated in Sanskrit and learnt other activities which were required as a Brahmin. He was obeying Naishtik Brahamchari (celibacy) rules. He regularly associated himself with holy Sadhus. One day, he came in touch with Swaminarayan Sadhus which were going to Gadhada and decided to join them.
He stayed in Gadhada for some time under the guidance of Muktanand Swami as he was a very important Sadhu. Muktanand Swami gave MahaDiksha to Jagnath Bhatt under the guidance of Lord Swaminarayan. He was given the name of Shukanand Swami (Shuk Muni in short) and Muktanand Swami always kept Shukanand Swami near him. Because Shukanand Swami was a very good writer who would not miss anything, Lord Swaminarayan appointed him to write personal and private letters. He was referred to as Lord’s right hand man.Shukanand Swami spread satsang in Umreth town and towns around it after Lord Swaminarayan left this world. He was one of the five sadhus who compiled and wrote the Vachanamrut. He died in VS 1925 in Vadtal.