BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir often referred to as the “Neasden Temple,” located amid London’s renowned skyline, is a masterpiece of ancient Hindu architecture and beautiful workmanship. It was hand-carved in India before being put together in London using 5,000 tons of Carrara marble from Italy, Ambaji marble from India, and the best Bulgarian limestone. Its mansion-style building makes it one of the earliest and largest Hindu temples built outside of India.
Since its establishment in 1995, the Temple has attracted more than 10.5 million worshipers and tourists from over 120 countries of many religions and ethnicities. It has become a globally renowned center of prayer, study, and celebration, as well as a vital component of Britain’s religious landscape and the local community.
Yogiji Maharaj opened the first Swaminarayan Mandir BAPS in the UK in June 1970. It was in an old church in Islington, North London, that had been renovated.
The Hindu community provided all of the labor and financial support necessary for the construction of the Mandir and Haveli. Although the construction of the structures took a total of five years, the buildings themselves were finished in little over two and a half years. In August of 1992, construction work got underway. On November 24, 1992, the temple claimed the biggest concrete-pour in the United Kingdom. In just one day, 4,500 tons of concrete were poured to form a foundation pad that was 6 feet (1.8 meters) thick. In June of 1993, the foundation stone was placed, and the construction of the structure was finished in 1995.
It is part of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) group, and Pramukh Swami Maharaj opened it in 1995. The temple complex also has a permanent exhibit called “Understanding Hinduism,” as well as a cultural center with a meeting room, gym, bookshop, and offices.
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The Temple is dedicated to Swaminarayan Hinduism, one of the fastest-growing and most prominent forms of modern Hinduism that can be traced back to the Indian state of Gujarat in the first part of the 19th century, as well as the life and teachings of its founding guru, Swaminarayan. People worship Bhagwan Swaminarayan as the highest God. BAPS Hinduism is also different from other kinds of Hinduism because it focuses on helping the poor and restoring moral and spiritual values in society. Followers don’t drink alcohol, eat meat, steal, or have sexual relations outside of marriage. They also act in a pure way.
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The Mandir is the core of the compound. It was constructed nearly completely of Indian marble, Italian marble, Sardinian granite, and Bulgarian limestone, in accordance with the Shilpa-Shastras, a Vedic scripture that develops Hindu architecture to figuratively mirror God’s numerous attributes. Unusually for a contemporary structure in the United Kingdom, no iron or steel was utilized in its construction.
The architect C. B. Sompura and his crew solely utilized stone for its construction based on Pramukh Swami’s conceptual design and vision. It is a shikharbaddha mandir, with seven tiered pinnacles capped with golden spires crowding the roofline and five ribbed domes complementing it. The temple is notable for its ornately carved cantilevered central dome, which is said to be the only one in Britain that is not made of steel or lead. Inside, serpentine stone ribbons connect the columns into arches, producing a feeling of levity.
The mandir is the place of worship. A shrine may be found just under each of the seven pinnacles visible from the outside. Murtis (holy images of the Deities) is housed inside altars at each of these seven sanctuaries. Each murti is adored as if it were God and is meticulously cared for by the swamis (monks) who reside in the Temple Ashram.
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Haveli, a cultural center with many uses, is next to the Mandir. Unlike the Mandir, which is carved from stone, the Haveli is constructed from wood. Over 150 Indian craftsmen used English Oak and Burmese Teak to make panels, arches, and screens with geometric patterns of peacocks, elephants, and lotus flowers. The cultural center has a big prayer hall with capacity for 3,000 people, a gymnasium, a medical center, cafeteria facilities, a bookstall, meeting rooms, and offices.
Understanding Hinduism Exhibition
The lowest level of the Mandir has a permanent display. It is spread over 3,000 square feet and gives an educational glimpse into Hindu principles and knowledge via 3D dioramas, paintings, tableaux, and traditional craftwork.
Through customs like the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, people may learn about Hinduism’s history, core principles, and seers’ contributions to the religion as well as how it is still relevant today.
The museum also includes an 11-minute video that describes the Mandir’s religious importance and its development – from its conception to its formal dedication.
Awards and Acknowledgements
Brent Green Leaf Award, 1995. The local Brent Council recognized the Mandir with this environmental award for “using ecologically friendly products and procedures,” such as collecting over seven million aluminum cans in less than three years. This was part of the fundraising and environmental awareness effort during the construction of the Mandir.
The Eventful 20th Century – 70 Wonders of the Modern World. This acclaimed Reader’s Digest article from 1998 prominently features the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, praising its size, detailed workmanship, and the incredible tale of how it was constructed and inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Guinness World Records. In 2000, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London was recognized as the biggest traditionally constructed Hindu temple outside India and as the site where the highest number of vegetarian meals in one sitting was served (1,247) during the annual Annakut Festival.
Pride of Place Award. The Mandir was granted the “UK Pride of Place” award by government officials in December 2007 after a countrywide online vote.
Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, 2009. The Children’s Forum of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, UK (BAPS), headquartered in the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London, was one of 95 organizations throughout the nation to receive the 2009 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service on June 2. The Award is given to organizations whose members selflessly give of their time and talents for the betterment of their communities.
Things You Need to Know Upon Visiting the Temple:
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The Mandir is a place of daily worship and a holy dwelling for God. The following rules, which apply to all parts of the Mandir complex, are required of all visitors in order to maintain its sacredness and guarantee that worshipers may take in the spiritual ambiance.
- Except for the museum, which costs £2, admission to the Neasden Temple is free.
- The Temple has a dress code that must be adhered to at all times. Clothes must be worn such that they completely hide the wearer’s shoulders, chest, abdomen, and upper arms. Legwear must extend at least below the knee.
- When entering the Haveli compound, it is traditional to remove your shoes. There are shoe racks available in the facility.
- It is not allowed to take photos or record videos within the Temple.
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a breathtaking location that is open to the public and does not charge admission fees. It is an excellent opportunity to get away from the bustle of London. This London destination may be the most significant Indian museum in the city due to its collection of ancient Indian art and traditions, as well as deities and motifs expressing the holy religion and beliefs of a people stretching back more than 8,500 years.