Devotees pay tributes to Swaminarayan sect’s spiritual head Pramukh Swami Maharaj during his funeral at a temple in Sarangpur, Gujarat, Aug. 17. (Press Trust of India)

Top U.S. lawmakers and political leaders have paid glowing tributes to Pramukh Swami, the spiritual head of the Swaminarayan sect, who passed away last week, saying his service touched the lives of millions around the world, writes Lalit K. Jha. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Indian leaders also paid their respects to the depart soul of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #narendramodi #PramukhSwamiMaharaj #Swaminarayan #BAPS #Gujarat

Several lawmakers said Swami, the creator of Akshardham and spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, was a man of character and commitment whose spiritual personality and humanitarian services profoundly touched society.

“My condolences to the BAPS (Bochasanvasi Akshar Purushottam Sansthan) community on the passing of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj who inspired us with his life of selfless service,” said Senator Mark Kirk.

“Saddened to hear of the passing of HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj whose service touched the lives of millions around the world,” said Delaware Senator Christophe Coons.

In a separate statement, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offered his deepest condolences over his demise.

“New Jersey had a special connection with Pramukh Swamiji, who visited the state during every U.S. tour, spreading a message of unity and uplifting countless lives. He will be remembered by all for his selflessness and service to others,” he said.

Offering heartfelt condolences to Swami’s disciples, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said he reminded people that a life dedicated to service of God and the spiritual upliftment of humanity is a life that can be considered truly successful and forever remembered.

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick in a statement said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a man of character and commitment.

He led campaigns against addictions, inspiring many to seek an addiction-free life. His spiritual personality and humanitarian services profoundly touched society.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays homage to Pramukh Swami Maharaj. (BAPS)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays homage to Pramukh Swami Maharaj. (BAPS)

Congresspersons Grace Meng and Chris Van Hollen said Swami was an inspiration to millions of people around the world and spread peace throughout his long and inspiring life.

Swami also consistently emphasized inter-faith harmony and the collective uplifting of the moral and religious life of mankind. His life, devotion and teachings will grace our world for centuries to come, said Pramila Jayapal, who is running for U.S. House of Representative seat from Washington State.

“We cherish Pramukh Swami Maharaj and his devotees in our thoughts and prayers, and we hope that now, more than ever, we can continue to live by the profound principles of love, faith, and service that he represented,” said Congressional candidate from Illinois Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Ro Khanna, who is looking to enter the U.S. House of Representative from California, said after terrorists attacked Swaminarayan Akshardham in Gandhinagar, Gujarat killing numerous visitors and saints in their path Swami had advocated for love and compassion to prevail, not bigotry or hatred.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley paying homage to Swaminarayan sect's spiritual head Pramukh Swami Maharaj at a temple in Sarangpur, Aug. 17. (Press Trust of India)

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley paying homage to Swaminarayan sect’s spiritual head Pramukh Swami Maharaj at a temple in Sarangpur, Aug. 17. (Press Trust of India)

On 15 August 2016, after presiding over the Independence Day celebrations in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Sarangpur to pay homage to his ‘mentor’ HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj. With folded hands and a melancholy face, the PM bowed before the mortal body of Pramukh Swami and offered flowers in obeisance. He also met HH Mahant Swami Maharaj, the new spiritual head of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, and other senior swamis and expressed his condolences.

Modi performed arti and circumambulations in homage to Pramukh Swami. Speaking on the occasion, Modi mourned the demise of Pramukh Swami as ‘many have lost a Guru and I, a father.’ Taking pride in his long-standing association with Pramukh Swami, he said that Swamiji has nurtured and nourished him since the time when nobody knew him in public life. As a fatherly figure, Pramukh Swami would often point out to him his mistakes and molded him.

The Prime Minister applauded Pramukh Swami’s devotion and his unswerving commitment towards every word that his guru Yogiji Maharaj had uttered. He has set before us an example of how a true shishya should be. “Swamiji, he said, “has brought about a reformation not only in the Swaminarayan Sampradaya but among all sadhus. Though he is not physically with us now, but we all feel his presence through his life, teachings and works.”

Modi recalled an incident that occurred way back during the Shilanyas Vidhi of Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi.  Swamiji insisted that he be present in the holy ritual. Big names in the social and political spheres were in attendance to participate. He was a relatively unknown face at that time. While the puja was in progress, Pramukh Swami requested a volunteer to provide him with some coins saying, “He must not be having any money to offer during the ritual. Pramukh Swami knew that my pockets were empty. Such was his oneness with me.”

Reminiscing about another incident, the PM said, “Once when Pramukh Swamiji had stopped eating for some time and would not listen to anyone, I had requested him to eat on the phone like a son. An hour later when I enquired, I was greatly pleased to know that such a great sadhu had paid heed to my request and had eaten something.” The Prime Minister commended Pramukh Swami’s great life, morality and saintliness.

He concluded his hour-long visit after paying his respects to Pramukh Swami Maharaj and seeking blessings from the new spiritual Head of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, HH Mahant Swami Maharaj, for the progress and prosperity of the nation.