Neasden Temple

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BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Image:Neasden Temple - Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir - Power Plant.jpg
Name: BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Architecture: North Indian
Location: London Borough of Brent in north-west London

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a Hindu temple in Neasden, in the London Borough of Brent in north-west London. It was Europe's first traditional Hindu temple (as distinct from converted secular buildings), and according to Guinness Book of World Records it is believed to be the largest outside India, although this distinction may now be taken by the Balaji Temple in Tividale, West Midlands.


The Neasden Temple contains:-

  • An elaborately carved temple in a traditional Indian style, constructed mainly from Italian Carrara marble and Bulgarian limestone
  • A Haveli (assembly hall) able to accommodate three thousand people.
  • Public facility rooms and offices.

The complex is open to non-Hindus. There is a 3000 square foot exhibition giving an introduction to the BAPS sect of Hinduism.

[edit] The Mandir

The Mandir is the focal point of the complex. Designed according to the ancient Indian Stapatya-Shastra, it is made from Indian marble, Italian marble and Bulgarian limestone. The stone was shipped to India where it was hand-carved by over 1,500 craftsmen. Each individually numbered piece was then shipped back to London and the building was assembled like a giant three dimensional jigsaw. The Mandir facility contains no iron or steel, a unique feature for a modern building in the UK. The Mandir was inaugurated on 20 August 1995 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS - the organisation behind the temple.

The Mandir serves as the centre of worship. Directly beneath each of the seven pinnacles seen from the outside is a shrine. Each of these seven shrines houses murtis within golden sihasans (altars). Each murti is treated like the incarnation of Godhead and therefore each deity is bathed, clothed, fed, and attended to each day by the sadhus (monks) who live in the temple. See this link for more details on the daily rituals. For this reason, a traditional Hindu Temple like this is called a shikharbaddha Mandir. It is important to note that temple architecture for most North Indian mandirs follow the details of the Stapatya-shastra, a Vedic text that develops Hindu architecture to metaphorically represent the different attributes of Godhead.

[edit] The Haveli

The Haveli

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Adjoining the Mandir is BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Haveli, a cultural complex. It has been designed according to traditional Indian Haveli architecture - an architectural style fashioned from wood, involving intricate carving. The building was designed to evoke feelings of being in Gujarat, India, where such architecture is commonplace. It took over 150 craftsmen from all over India 3 years to carve 17,000 square feet of wood. Behind the traditional wooden facade, the cultural centre houses a vast pillarless prayer hall with space for 4000 people, gymnasium, marriage hall, medical centre, dining facilities, bookstall, conference facilities, and offices.

[edit] Saya

Across from the Mandir complex is Saya. Saya is made up of a shop that sells Indian groceries, and also as a restaurant that serves vegetarian food. The building that Saya occupies is a former warehouse and served as the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir from 1982 until 1995.

[edit] Akshar IT Centre

Next to Saya is the Akshar IT Centre, an adult learning centre that provides IT courses.

[edit] The Swaminarayan School

On the opposite side of the Mandir is The Swaminarayan School, Europe's first independent Hindu school. Opened in 1991 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, it follows the National Curriculum whilst promoting aspects of Hindu culture such as dance, music, and language.

[edit] Daily ritual

In the morning before sunrise, the murtis that are adorned in their nightwear are woken up by the sadhus and the shrine doors are opened for the Mangla arti, which is the first of five 'artis' prayers during that day. Arti is a ritual wherein a specific prayer is recited to a poetic format with music while the sadhus wave a lighted lamp in front of the murti to give devotees better darshan [view] of God's image. The sadhus recite a few shlokas [paragraphs], serve the deities, offer them food and bathe them, and close the shrine doors.

The shrines are opened again for the second 'shangar' arti. The shrines are then left open from 9am to around 11am when the shrines are closed and offered thaal [food for lunch].

At 11.45am the shrines are opened for the Rajbhog midday arti and the reciting of the thaal [offering hymn] and an offering of paan [triangular folded leaves containing a mixture of seeds] is made to God. The shrines are closed after this so the murtis can have an afternoon rest.

The shrines re-open at around 4pm until 6pm for darshan and are then closed again for an hour so they can be offered their final meal by the sadhus [saints].

The sandhya [sunset] arti is performed. After this, a selection of prayers are recited by the devotees including dhun (a repetitive chant where the names of God and their praise are sung), and the name of God is repeated for a few minutes. The shrines are then closed and the deities are prepared for the night and adorned in their evening attire by the sadhus.

The shrines are opened a final time for the shayan arti, with the lights dimmed and lower music, the devotees recite a few hymns, gently sending the deities to sleep through devotional hymns, and the shrines are then closed for the night.

[edit] History

The temple site was previously occupied by a large warehouse.

The temple's congregation first had their temple in a disused chapel, then in a warehouse, and then they built this temple.

[edit] Security

These security measures are visible:-

  • There is a sliding iron security screen in front of the murtis.
  • Otherwise, representative images seem to be largely high up on the walls.
  • Some of the ornamental pillars have transparent polycarbonate casings (same material as police riotshields).

[edit] Other BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandirs

Since the Neasden Temple was opened, other Mandirs and Haveli's have opened across the world:

In 2007, BAPS will open a Mandir in Toronto, Canada (Toronto currently has a Haveli but no Mandir) and a Mandir and Haveli complex in Atlanta, USA. A Haveli will also open in Los Angeles, USA with plans for a Mandir in the future.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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Neasden Temple

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