It was the summer of the Vikrama Era 1886. Shriji Maharaj fell sick. He was completely reduced physically. At that time, Shriji Maharaj got all his followers, saints and Sadhus seated before him and addressed them, “O my beloved devotees, you regard me as your God. If you want to please me, please heed to what I say. I am born as I wished. I have done my deeds. Now I wish to go to my way to Akshardham. Follow and act according to Gopalanand's advice.”
On hearing these words of Maharaj, everyone took to fright as if the bolt from the blue. All lost their sense and fell down on the ground. Tears rolled down their cheeks. Their bodies began to a shiver. Some of them fell down so unconscious that it seemed they were dead. On seeing this pitiable condition of his devotees, Maharaj took mercy on them. He said to them, “I will go to Akshardham only when you allow me to go.” Saying these words of consolation, Maharaj silenced them. But the illness persisted. At that time a letter from Raja was received. It was written by a certain devotee. It said, “I am on a death bed and yearn for your Darshana.”
“When my devotee remembers me, I shall have to go,” said Maharaj. Maharaj set in a carriage known as `Mena' along with saints and devotees and went to Raja. Maharaj stayed there for two days at his devotee's place and returned. During this time, no one knew when illness had gone. Once again the illness re-occurred at Ghadhada.
Once more Maharaj called for Gopalanand, Brahmanand, other saints, devotees and followers. Maharaj said to them, “I heartily believe that you are the pillars of Satsanga. Be patient and guard well the Satsanga.” Everyone guessed and concluded that Maharaj had then firmly decided to go to Akshardham. The news spread in every corner. Various group of worshippers and the Vaishnavas from distant places like Baroda, Surat and Buranpur thronged together in line to have Maharaj's Darshana. Everyday new groups could come and return after having Maharaj's Darshan. One day, again Maharaj called for saints and Vaishnavas. He said to them, “Listen! I have determined to go to Akshardham. Allow me to proceed and please don't disobey my willingness. I have installed the idols of Shri Laxshminarayan and Shri NarNarayan Dev, and the idols which are likely to be installed by the Aacharyas, I will live in those idols worshipped by you. I will accept, through those idols your prayers and Pooja. The Satsanga is my indivisible part. Consider Acharya as my two eyes. The Shikshapatri is my own form. Obey those incomparable commands. Worship me daily and I guarantee your protection. I am not going away anywhere I am there in Satsang. One who betrays Satsang betrays me. Nine hours at night passed by Maharaj preached till late at night.
All distressed. Morning was at hand. Mukund Varnee bathed Maharaj. Maharaj had not dined lately. He, at that day, it was the day of Jyastha, 10th day of the bright half of the lunar month, Tuesday. The hearts of saints and Vaishnavas were uneasy today. Their minds were disturbed. It seemed to them that the whole universe was up side down. Describing this episode, the poet, in HARI LEELA MRIT, says, “This day, the 10th day of the bright half of the lunar of Jyastha, appeared ghastly. The sun seemed dim in the sky. The whole atmosphere wore a look of ghastly appearance. There were no stars in the sky. The earth was shivering. All directions were deserted. Jackals were howling. Air was warmer. Trees began to fall. There was full of thunder and lightening. People's mind turned dismal. Beasts were terrified. People were now sceptical list Maharaj should pass away that day. It was mid-day. God, Shriji Maharaj was seated on a wooden block. He meditated on self-realised form. He appeared both live and in trance as well.” Maharaj passed away in that posture. Gopalanand Swami, Nityanand Swami, Shookanand Swami and other saints, both the Aacharyas, Dada Khachar etc. were present there.
“Gone to the Akshardham Shrirangapani
None knew his movements
He came and eloped like a bolt from the blue, and passed away like the flash in the sky”. Who knows where the light is buried when a lamp is extinguished? Then in a loud voice a recitation of the name of SWAMINARAYAN was raised. Hearing this, all devotees assembled there knowing that Shriji passed away.
Nishkulanand prepared the PALKHI Mukundanand Varnee gave a holy bath with the evatars of river Ghela to Shriji Maharaj and dressed him. Then Shriji's body was placed in the PALKHI. Pooja - Archana was made. The PALKHI, with the musical sound of conch, Kirtan and drums, was carried to Lakshmiwadi. Here Shriji's mortal remains were consigned to fire. Shriji Maharaj had given a clear-cut instruction that “Never die or never leave food after my death. Obey, moreover, my command that nobody shall commit suicide after me. If you disobey my command, we shall never meet hereafter.”
Maharaj had also disallowed to weep after him. All controlled themselves some of how. But when the funeral pyre was lit, even the bold people failed to control their tears. Among them all the condition of Dada Khachar turned pitiable. Dada Khachar are not required here. Go to the place where Shriji use to sit”. Maharaj's seat was in Lakshmiwadi. When Maharaj visited the Lakshmiwadi, he used to sit there. Dada Khachar went there. But Lo! He was surprised to see Maharaj himself seated there. Dada Khachar thought that it was his dream. He rubbed his eyes and saw that really Maharaj was sitting there, Maharaj spoke to him. “When I pass away (take my way to Akshardham), feel no sorrow. Follow the meaning and have patience. I have told you many things which you should never forget. I shall always be in Satsanga. I promise I will never be away from it. Whenever people will lovingly remember me, I will give them Darshan”.
Saying this much, Maharaj took off a garland from his neck and put it on round Dada Khachar's neck. Shriji, then, disappeared. Dada Khachar's gloom also disappeared. He returned to the place where all were sitting. He began to console others saying,” Maharaj is omnipresence”. After taking bath, all came to the temple of Gopinath. Everyone saw Maharaj in the idol of Gopinath. People who doubted about his presence there even after Shriji's passing away will always doubt. We should say that such people do not understand and recognise the form of God, because God is Omnipresence, Omnipotent and Omniscient. He appears in the form he likes.
After Maharaj's passing away, not only the chosen few like Dada Khachar and other saints had Maharaj's Darshan but many others also were blessed by his Darshan. Ramachandra Vaidya of Baroda used to come along with other devotees to Ghadhada for Maharaj's Darshan. On the tenth day of the bright half of lunar month of Jyastha, Ramchandra was near a village called Ughamedi very near to Ghadhada, all of a sudden, Shriji Maharaj arrived there. About ten to twelve kathi horseman were also with Maharaj. Maharaj asked Ramanchandra, “ Where are you going?” “On hearing the news of your sickness, I am going to Ghadhada,” said Ramachandra. Maharaj smiled. He stretched out his hand and said, “See am I sick in any part of my body ?” Vaidya took Maharaj's pulse and diagnosed, “You have no sickness whatsoever”. “I am going to Sarangpur,” said Maharaj, and walked away. Ramachandra Vaidya's group come to Ghadhada. There he came to know that Maharaj had already passed away. Dholera's devotees Ajuba and Phuliba were on their way to Ghadhada. They were resting a while on the banks of a river near a village Ningala of Ghadhada. There appeared Maharaj accompanied by eight to ten horsemen. “I am going to a village to see my devotee. I will have a night halt there and will return to Ghadhada tomorrow,” said Maharaj. These ladies arrived in Ghadhada and came to know about Maharaj's passing away on the same day when Maharaj met them on the river banks! On the same day, the same tenth day of Jyastha, Maharaj encamped at a certain devotee's house in Pipalana village! He got the dish prepared and had his lunch! Thus, he had given Darshan to many in different forms and yet he was the same GHANSHYAM.
This lesson has been based on the episode cited in the SHRI HARI LEELAMRIT written by Acharya Shri Viharilalji Maharaj. Nishkulanand Swami was present at the time when Maharaj passed away. Nishkulanand Swami has also written such an incident.