In 1826 at Vadtal on Prabodhini Ekadashi of Vikram Samvat 1882 , Swaminarayan established the dual Acharyaship in Dharmavanshi Acharyas, whom he intended as his successor. "Dharmavanshi" means "belonging to the lineage of Dharmadev" – the father of Swaminarayan.
Swaminarayan enthroned his two adopted sons, Acharya Maharajshree Ayodhyaprasad Pande and Acharya Maharajshree Raghuvir Pande, who were the sons of his brothers Rampratapji and Ichcharamji, as the spiritual leaders of the Nar Narayan Dev Gadi headquartered at Ahmedabad and the Laxmi Narayan Dev Gadi headquartered at Vadtal respectively. He installed them as the Acharyas for all followers, including householders and ascetics. Swaminarayan gave sole authority to these two individuals to install murtis in temples and to initiate sadhus and householders into the Sampraday. He did this using a legal document known as "Desh Vibhag no Lekh", which he dictated and was written by Shukanand Swami. Learned saints and elder satsangis witnessed this document.
The Acharyas of the Sampraday are administrative heads, spiritual leaders and the gurus of their followers. Since the acharyas are supposed to refrain from contact with the opposite sex, except close relations, the acharyas' wives are the gurus for female members of the sect, and must avoid contact with unfamiliar men.
The Acharyas are responsible for:
- Initiating followers into the organisation with a Samanya Diksha by giving the guru-mantra
- Initiating monks-sadhus by giving them the Maha-Bhagwadi Diksha
- Perform murti-pratishtha, installing deities in the temples
- Authenticating scriptures of the Sampraday
- Acting as the Guru and leader of the entire Sampraday