Bhagwan Swaminarayan incarnated on this earth to establish Ekantik Dharma and lead Jivas (souls) to moksha (salvation). To aid him achieve this objective, he initiated sants/sadhus (ascetics) known as Paramhansas. These sadhus were scholars, laymen, sanyasis (heads of other monasteries and/or religious orders), and men from all walks of life who were attracted by the divinity of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. These sadhus made themselves available to the mission of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan nurtured them spiritually by having them follow five life long vows very strictly. These vows known as Panch Vartman are: Nishkam – eight fold brahmacharya (keeping away from women in all forms), Nirlobh – non-greed (keeping away from wealth and greed), Nirman – to get rid of ego, pride and to become humble, Niswad – to overcome the sense of taste and Nissneh – to remain detached from family relatives and material possessions. He also had prescribed for the sadhus special short term vows known as Prakrans. There were a total of 114 such Prakrans. One of them was eating uncooked flour mixed only with water. Sadhus had to leave places where they received respect, honor and shelter. They had to sleep in the open far away from village limits such that they would never even hear the village dogs bark.
It is astounding that during His time, Bhagwan Swaminarayan had nearly 3000 such sadhus. While they lived such high ascetic lives, their love for the Lord was unparalleled and is very evident in their selfless deeds and lives.