One day when Bhagavan Narayan was doing katha at Badrikashram i Himalayas. Dharma, Bhakti, Udhdhavji, etc. were present in the sabha. Later, Durvasa Rishi arrived there. But all attendees were so much into katha that no one noticed Durvasha’s arrival. Due to not receiving any attention from the attendees, he got very angry and gave a curse (shraap) to everyone present there. His command was that everyone present there goes back to earth and suffer from bad people. Actually, bhagvan himself planned this drama, so he told everyone not to panic. He told Dharma and Bhakti to get ready and assured that he would take birth as their son.
Bhagavan Swaminarayan was born on Chaitra Sud 9th 1837 (or April 2, 1781) at 10:10 PM at Chhapaiya, Uttar Pradesh, India. His parents were Dharmadev and Bhaktimata. Bhagavan had two brothers, eldest brother named Rampratapbhai and youngest named Ichharamji . On 6th day after the birth, Bhagavan was given 3 names by Markandeya Rishi – Hari, Krishna, and HariKrishna. The people of Chhapaiya gave one more name, Ghanshyam. Bhagavan learned all the knowledge from his father by the time he was 7 years old! He learned everything from the different religious books, literature, etc. He also summarized all these books into one small book for himself, called Gutko. Bhagavan’s mom (Bhaktimata) passed away first followed by his dad (Dharmadev). As a son, bhagvan performed very good seva to his parents until the last moment of their lives. Only after completing the responsibilities towards his parents, he now decided to begin his real mission, for which he took this avatar.
At about age of 11 years, he left home and started his journey (Van-Vicharan) towards his mission. He took very minimal things with him, like Shaligram or Lalji (for puja), a mala, a small book (Gutko), a pot for water (Kamandal) and very minimal cloth (Kopin). He started in the direction of Himalayas, where he performed taap and gave darshan to thousands of Rishies (~900,000). Then he continued his journey to East India and then to South India. He visited many religious places, ashrams and dangerous places. There he re-established good religious and social values. All along, he searched for a real/true GURU, but he was unsuccessful. This phase of his life is referred as van-vicharan (or the journey in the forest). During the van-vicharan, he was named as Nilkanth Varni. Finally, after about 7 years of van-vicharan, bhagvan arrived at Loj in Gujarat.
In Loj, there was an ashram established by Ramanand swami (who was Udhdhavji during the Krishna-avatar). Early in the morning, at the vav (a step-well) of Loj, women of the village and Shukhanand swami saw bhagwan (Nilkanth Varni). Then Shukhanand, a follower/shishya of Ramanand swami, invited and took him to his Ashram. At this time, Ramanand swami was not there (he was in Bhuj at this time), but Muktanand swami welcomed him in the ashram. Before deciding to stay here, bhagwan asked five questions to verify his destined place and Guru. The questions were: “What is Jiv, Ishwar, Maya, Brahma and Parbrahma ?”). Muktanand swami (on behalf of his Guru Ramanand swami) answered all these questions to bhagvan’s satisfaction Thus, Bhagwan concluded to stay here. Here bhagvan was given one more name – Sarjudas. Now he was very eager to meet Ramanand swami. Eventually, Muktanand swami and Bhagwan both wrote two separate letters to Ramanand swami. Ramanand swami got excited too, because he felt that now his responsibilities will be over and bhagvan will take over from him. He replied and said we will meet in Piplana in few months. Finally, Bhagwan and Ramanand swami met in Piplana for the first time. Some months later, Ramanand swami gave diksha to Bhagwan (i.e. Ramanand swami became bhagvan’s Guru). At this time Ramanand swami gave two new names to Bhagwan, Sahjanand Swami and Narayan Muni. Later he decided to hand over all of his establishment to bhagvan. Finally, the grand ceremony is planned in Jetpur, and Bhagwan was made the head or Acharya of the Ramanand swami’s sampraday. Few months later, in Faneni, Ramanand swami left the body and returned to Akshardham. On the 14th day after Ramanand swami’s death, bhagwan called a grand sabha, and asked everybody to chant “SWAMINARAYAN”. Everybody went into samadhi, and they all were able to see their own preferred God in bhagvan (Sahajanand swami) himself ! This was just unique. Obviously, only a God can do this. Everybody got convinced that Shajanand swami is the SUPREME GOD !!
Thus, on the 14th day past Ramanand swami’s death, bhagvan named himself – “Swaminarayan”. Because bhagvan named himself as “SWAMINARAYAN“, it is a very powerful name. It is not only bhagvan’s name, but “Swaminarayan” is a “Mahamantra” !
It works with its own power !!