BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London

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 Mandir is the focal point of the complex. Designed according to the Shilpa-Shastras, a vedic text that develops Hindu architecture to metaphorical represent the different attributes of God, it was constructed almost entirely from Indian marble, Italian marble, Sardinia’s granite and Bulgarian limestone. No iron or steel was used in the construction, a unige feature for a modern building in the UK.
From the conceptual design and vision of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the architect C.B. Sompura and his team created the mandir entirely from stone. It is a shikharbaddha (pinnacled) mandir: seven tiered pinnacles topped by golden spires crowd the roof-line, complemented the five ribbed domes. The temple is noted for is its profusely carved cantilevered central dome, believed to be the only one in Britain that does not use steel or lead. Inside, serpentine ribbons of stone link to the column into arches, creating a sense of levitation.

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.

Light cream Vartza limestone from Bulgaria was chosen for the exterior, and for the interior, Italian Carrara marble supplemented by Indian Ambaji marble. The Bulgarian and Italian stone were shipped to the port of Kandla in Gujarat, where most of the carving was eventually completed, by over 1500 craftsmen in a workshop specially set up for the project. More than 26300 individually numbered stones pieces which were shipped back to London, and the building was assembled like a giant three dimensional jigsaw.
The mandir was inaugurated on 20 August 1995 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS.
The mandir is open to the people of all faiths and none. Entrance is fee, except to the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition where there is a GBP2 fee.
Awards
Pride of Place Award
The mandir was awarded the ‘UK pride of Place’ award in December 2007 by Government Authorities after a nationwide online poll. After weeks of voting, the Mandir registered the largest number of votes across the country as well as in London, with a overwhelming 81% of votes from the London Borough of Brent.
Seven wonders of London
Time out, the highly respected international city-guide publishers, declared the Mandir as one of the “Seven Wonders of London”. In an epic series…to pay to tribute to….the capital’s seven most iconic and landmarks, they embarked upon a ambitious search of London’s best. The mandir featured among the choice even.
Guinness Worlds Records
In 2000, Guinness Worlds Records presented two certificates to recognize the world record of offering 1247 vegetarian dishes during the Annakut Festival held at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on 27 October 2000, and Secondly to recognize the largest traditionally built Hindu temple outside India.
The Eventful 20th Century – 70 Wonders of the Modern World
This prestigious Reader’s Digest Publication (1998) prominently features the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, lauding its scale, intricate details and the extraordinary story of how it was built and inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England
In the 1997/98 annual reports of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, the mandir is featured, and is referred to as a “modern building of major importance in our multicultural society”
Most Enterprising Building Award
The Most Enterprising Building Award 1996 was awarded by the Royal Fine Art Commission & British Sky Broadcasting to the Swaminarayan Mandir in London on 5 June 1996.
Natural Stone Award
The Stone Federation issued a special award to the Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir in 1995 as a part of its Natural Stone Awards.
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2 thoughts on “BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London

  1. Pingback: 7 Extraordinary Places That You Won't Believe Are In London - Secret_LDN

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