Swaminarayan Sampradaya claims itself to be a Vaishnava association. But unlike other Vaishnavas it prefers a rather Smartha way of worshipping all deities equally. So my question is who is the supreme deity of Swaminarayan Sampradaya. Is it Vishnu or Shiva ? Was Swaminarayan a avatar or a saint? If Avatar, an avatar of Vishnu or Shiva?
Their Supreme God is Krishna, but
shows great respect for Siva:
21 None shall ever speak or hear ill of deities, places of pilgrimage, Brahmins, chaste women, Sadhus and the Vedas.
23 When (my followers) on their way, come across temples of Shiv, and other deities, they shall bow down to them and have their darshan respectfully.
- All shall realize that Narayan and the Mahesh are one, for as Brahman they have been described as one in the Vedas.
79 All shall observe devoutly and with proper festivities, the Vratas of all Ekadashi days of every month as well as the birth day of Shri Krishna and Shiv.
84 My followers shall regard the five deities named here with reverence - Vishnu, Shiva, Ganpati, Parvati and the Sun.
- They themselves or through someone else shall perform or get performed with love the worship (puja) of Shri Mahadev with leaves of Bilva tree (Angle marmaloss) in the month of Shravan.
the local Swaminarayan temple where I live had a complete pravachan on Siva Purana last year.
They seem to be only mildly Vaishnavite and are largely Smartist.
Citing my answer from what I read and understood in an article that can be read here:
Who is the supreme deity of Swaminarayan Sampradaya?
Considered a Vaishnava Bhakti sect following philosophical teachings of Uddhava as per Ramanujacharya. Since its origin, Swaminarayan Sampradaya has been noted by its preservation of Gujarati cultural and linguistic traditions, devotion to the personality of Swaminarayan as supreme deity and the reason of all avtārs, dedication to social service and a strict ethical code including uncompromising segregation of the genders. Monier Williams, on at least one of his visits, had long discussions with Swaminarayan and his followers and did his best to ascertain the way Swaminarayan's principles were preached.He visited the temple in Vadtal in the company of the Collector of Karira during a popular Kartik Purnima festival that took place there and recorded the basics. Those who are initiated into proper worship of Krishna deity are instructed to wear a Tulasi kanti or rosary beads in two rows around their necks, one for Krishna and one for Radha. Followers are also instructed to chant the mantra of śrī-kṛṣṇa sharaṇaṁ mama (great Krishna is my soul's refuge) and wear Urdhva Pundra Tilak markings on their forehead. Daily worship of Krishna in the temple was instructed and the Krishna mantra was central to the Swaminarayan's initiation (diksa). Supreme Being is believed to be referred by various names: Para Brahman, Bhagavan and Purushottama. While no detailed statistical information is available, most of the followers of Swaminarayan share a belief that Swaminarayan is the complete manifestation of Narayana or the supreme person and more superior to other avatars.
From the above para we can conclude that their main deity is Krishna (avatars of Vishnu), so basically Vishnu.
Was Swaminarayan a avatar or a saint? If Avatar, an avatar of Vishnu or Shiva?
Manifestation of Narayana
Followers of Swaminarayan believe that it was events that took place at Badarikashram, the abode of Nara Narayana, that led to the incarnation of Swaminarayan. It is believed that Narayana took birth as Swaminarayan due to a curse of sage Durvasa Muni which he accepted at his own will. The curse led to Narayana taking the form of an avatar on Earth to destroy evil and establish ekantik-dharma, religion based on morality, knowledge, detachment and devotion. Important Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana confirm that Narayana descends in human form to destroy evil though there is no direct reference to Swaminarayan. He was a human & then a sage or philosopher. Only the Swaminarayan followers specifically interpret the Visvaksena Samhita, 11th part of the Brahma Purana, as well as the Skanda Purana as giving a direct reference to Narayana taking birth in the form of Swaminarayan. None of the Puranas even mention "Swaminarayan". In the liturgy of the sect, the story of the announcement of the coming birth of Krishna in the Bhagavata Purana is similar to the story of the birth of Swaminarayan, and merging of the images and stories of Swaminarayan and Krishna has occurred. Some people believe him to be reincarnation of lord Krishna. Krishna promised to come back in Govardhans & he did in form of Shreenathji. In Vaishnava theology Uddhava, who is considered to be the chief disciple of Krishna, was ordained to spread his message in a future birth, and some groups of Swaminarayan Faith believe that he reappeared as Ramananda Swami to prepare the way for another manifestation of Krishna. Swaminarayan is said to have intimated that he was a manifestation of God Supreme in a meeting with the Reginald Heber, the Lord Bishop of Calcutta, in 1825.
So from the above para we can conclude him to be an avataar of Vishnu/Narayan/Krishna and not Shiva as has been interpreted/believed by his followers.