BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Build the largest Hindu temple outside India, in the finest materials, using master craftsmen with ancient skills rarely found outside the diaspora. Ask unpaid, untrained members of the community to give up their time to work on the site. Raise more than 10 million british pounds to finance it, with no government aid. Finish within three years.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, is a Hindu temple in the London Borough of Brent in northwest london. Built entirely using traditional methods and materials, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is Britian’s first authentic Hindu temple. It was also Europe’s first traditional Hindu stone temple, as distinct from converted secular buildings. It is a part of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) organized and was inaggurated on August 20, 1995 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
The Mandir was cited in Guinness World Records 2000, as follows:
“ Biggest Hindu Temple outside India: The Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden, London, UK, is the largest Hindu temple outside India. It was built by His Holinesss Pramukh Swami Maharaj, a 79 year old Indian Sadhu (Holy Man), and is made of 2,828 tones of Bulgarian limestone and 2000 tonnes of italian marble, which was first shipped to India to be carved by a team of 1526 sculptors. The temple cost 12 million british pounds to build. “
The mandir was built and funded entirely by the Hindu community. The entire project spanned 5 years although the mandir construction itself was completed in two and half a years. Building work began in August 1992. On 24 November 1992, the temple recorded the biggest ever concrete pour in the UK, when 4500 tons was put down in 24 hours to create a foundation mat 6ft thick. The first stone was laid in June 1993, two years later, the building was complete.
The neasden Temple complex consists of :
- A traditional Hindu temple, constructed mainly from hand carved Italian Carrara marble and Bulgarian limestone. The temple is the focal point of the complex.
- The permanent exhibition entitled ‘Understanding Hinduism’
- A cultural center, known as the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Haveli, designed in traditional Gujarati Haveli architecture, housing an assembly hall, gymnasium, bookshop and offices.
The great Pyramid of Giza took 100000 workers 20 years to assemble its 2.3 million stones, but the Swaminarayan Hindu Temple can stand shoulders to shoulder with it. Inside, the mandir is a space of almost blinding whiteness and purity. Every vertical surface is carved with stories from the scriptures (vedas) and lacy motifs. A forest of pillars fills the floor and above them soars the central dome, stepping up in wedding-cake tiers towards the two and a half tonne keystone which drips downwards like a glorious stone chandelier. Soft lighting brings out the milkiness of the marble and the whole interior exalts in the intimate devotion that has gone into carving each tiny filigree. It is a labor of love and work of art.
The architecture of the temple is evolved from nature. A mandir is, in a very literal sense, a house of God. Statues of the sacred deities inside its shrines, ritually fd, bathed and clothed by the resident monks as if they are alive. Photographs of them are posted each day on the temples website, dressed in creamy sillks, perhaps, or resplendent in crimson robes, elaborate headdresses and garlands of flowers for Dipawali. A chamber behind the shrines house statues of the gurus of the faith crosslegged and dressed in their orange monk’s robes, with prayer beads (mala) in their right hands. These spiritual guides have successively embodied the energy and divinity of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, up to the fifth current guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj.