Acharya Shree Purushottam Priyadasji Swamishree, head of Swaminarayan Sanstha - a spiritual, cultural, and social welfare centre headquartered in Ahmedabad, died of COVID-19. The spiritual leader was suffering from severe health complications following coronavirus infection. He was the fifth heir in the lineage of ascetic Acharyas, which descends directly from Lord Shree Swaminarayan.
Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj was admitted to a private hospital on June 26 due to his critical health condition following COVID-19. Besides the head priest, eleven other priests were admitted to various private hospitals in Ahmedabad. Due to the head priest's illness, a successor was also appointed recently.
On July 9, the Maharaj was on dialysis to support His kidney function and he was also receiving plasma therapy.
'I will never forget my many interactions with him. Om Shanti': PM Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the sad demise of the spiritual leader, he wrote, "Acharya Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj was blessed with immense wisdom. His emphasis on community service, education and women empowerment will always be remembered. I will never forget my many interactions with him. Om Shanti."
"We will always remember Acharya Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj for his noble service to society. He worked hard to alleviate human suffering and further compassion. He will be remembered by countless people, not only in India but globally."
Who was Acharya Shree Purushottam Priyadasji Swamishree?
Acharya Shree Purushottam Priyadasji Swamishree was born on May 28, 1942, in Kutch Gujarat. In 1962, he was appointed as a "sant" at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir, Maninagar. Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa nominated Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree as His divine successor and spiritual heir.
Purushottam Priyadasji Swamishree has followers not only in India but across the world and he has provided spiritual guidance to thousands of people throughout his life. He has also established schools, colleges, hostels, hospitals, clinics and drug rehabilitation centers and offered free medical assistance, educated the poor and helped thousands in any way.
The leader has also received many honorary titles including, Sad-dharma-Ratnakar, Ved-Ratna, Sanskar-Bhaskar and more.
Who will head the Swaminarayan Sanstha now? Succession Explored
On July 12, the Swaminarayan Gadi announced on its Twitter handle about the succession.
"Gurudev Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa appointed Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree to be His spiritual heir, and subsequent Acharya of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, prior to His departure from this mortal world. However, due to His long-term illness and poor health condition, Acharya Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj has not appointed His successor," the press release had said.
The process of choosing a spiritual successor is stated in the Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Sant-Parshad Mandal Bandharan (Constitution) if the situation arises where an heir has not been appointed.
Following the process stated in this Sant-Parshad Mandal Bandharan, the Senior Sants with the unanimous support of all the other Sants, have appointed Sadguru Shastri Shree Jitendriyapriyadasji Swami to be the spiritual heir of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi and successor to Acharya Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj.
Contact tracing challenges
The maharaja's followers are devastated by the loss of their spiritual leader. However, the current situation of COVID-19 has created a sense of panic. Swamiji's way of offering prasad has drawn attention. A video showing the Maharaj distributing blessed sweet after placing it his mouth before passing it along to the devotees.
Acharya Purushottampriyadasji Maharaj, the head of Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan, COVID-19 diagnosis and the fact that the virus spreads through droplets, it could present a tough challenge for the authorities to effectively execute contact tracing if the unique prasad distribution was followed during the pandemic.