BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a marvel of classical Hindu architecture and exquisite craftsmanship that stands serenely in the iconic skyline of London. It was hand-carved in India before being assembled in London using 5,000 tons of Italian Carrara and Indian Ambaji marble and the finest Bulgarian limestone.
The Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden, London, United Kingdom, is the largest Hindu temple outside India. Built by Pramukh Swami, a 92-year-old Indian sadhu (holy man), it consists of 2,828 tons of Bulgarian calcareous and 2,000 tons of Italian marble, first shipped to India to be carved by a group of 1,526 sculptors. The building of the temple cost £ 12 million.
June 1970: Yogiji Maharaj opened the first Swaminarayan Mandir BAPS in the United Kingdom in a converted disused church in Islington, North London.
The Mandir and Haveli were entirely built and funded by the Hindu Community, and the entire project spanned five years, although the building itself was completed in two and a half years. Construction work began in August 1992. The temple reported the largest concrete-pour in the UK on 24 November 1992, when 4,500 tons were poured in 24 hours to create a 6 ft (1.8 m) thick foundation pad. The first stone was laid in June 1993; the building was completed two years later.
The Mandir is the complex’s center. Designed according to the Shilpa-Shastras, a Vedic text that develops Hindu architecture to reflect God’s various qualities metaphorically, it was built almost entirely from Indian marble, Italian marble, Sardinian granite and Bulgarian calcareous. In the construction, no iron or steel was used, a unique feature of a modern building in the UK.
From Pramukh Swami’s conceptual design and vision, the architect C. The Mandirentirely built from stone by B. Sompura and his team. It is a Shikharbaddha (or pinnacled) mandir: the roofline is filled with seven-tiered pinnacles topped by golden spires, supported by five ribbed domes. The temple is noted for its profusely carved central dome, which is claimed to be the only one in Britain not using iron or lead. Inside, serpentine stone ribbons link the columns to arches, creating a levitation effect.
Light cream Vartza calcareous from Bulgaria was picked for the exterior and Italian Carrara marbles augmented by Indian Ambaji marble for the interior. The Bulgarian and Italian stone was transported by more than 1,500 craftsmen in a workshop specifically set up for the venture to the port of Kandla in Gujarat, where most of the carving was finally completed. The tower was built like a massive three-dimensional jigsaw, and more than 26,300 individually numbered pieces of stones were shipped back to London.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS–the group behind the temple–inaugurated the Mandir on August 20, 1995.
The permanent display ‘ Learning Hinduism’ is housed under the Mandir. This offers an insight into the philosophy and ideals of Hinduism through 3-D dioramas, sculptures, paintings, and traditional crafts. Through rituals such as the BAPS Swaminarayan Sampraday, tourists will learn about the origin, beliefs, and contribution of Hindu seers and how this ancient religion is practiced today.
Daily poojas and Festivals
Before sunrise, the Murtis are woken by the sadhus and the shrine doors are opened for the Mangala Aarti, the first of five Aarti rituals provided during the day. Aarti is a ritual in which a particular prayer is recited with music in a poetic format while the sadhus wave a lighted lamp in front of the murtis. The sadhus recite some shlokas, serve the deities, give them water, bathe them, and close the doors of the shrine.
The shrines for the second Arti (Shangar Arti) were opened again. The shrines remain open from 9:00 a.m. until about 11:00 a.m. when the shrines are closed and provided for lunch. The shrines for the midday Arti (Rajbhog Arti) are opened at 11.45 am, and the thal (offering hymn) is recited before the Deities. After this, the shrines are closed to allow the Deities to sleep in the afternoon.
The shrines are reopening for darshan at 4:00 pm (weekends at 3:30 pm) until 6:30 pm. The following is the Sandhya Arti (sunset Arti) at 7:00 pm. The devotees then recite a selection of prayers including Dhun (where God’s names are sung and praise verses are sung). The shrines are closed again for about an hour so that the sadhus (monks) can give them their final meal.
The Deities are then dressed for the night and embellished by the sadhus in their evening attire. For the Shayan Arti (nighttime Arti), the shrines are opened a final time with the lights dimmed and music lowered. The devotees sing a few hymns before the shrines are eventually closed for the night, putting the Deities gently to bed.
Ram Navmi, Janmashtami, Shivratri, Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi, and Diwali are some of the major festivals observed annually. Diwali is one of the largest Hindu festivals marking the Hindu New Year and attracts a lot of tourists and devotees to the mandir.