User:Harish/sandbox/BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London

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Harish/sandbox/BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London
Neasden Temple - Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir - Power Plant.jpg
Proper name BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Location London Borough of Brent in north-west London
Primary deity Bhagwan Swaminarayan
Architectural styles North Indian
History and governance
Date built 20 August 1995
Creator Pramukh Swami Maharaj / BAPS

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London (also commonly know as Neasden Temple) was inaugurated on 20 August, 1995 by his holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir of Neasden is a Hindu temple in the London Borough of Brent in north-west London. Built entirely using traditional methods and materials, it was the UK’s first traditional Hindu temple, as distinct from converted secular buildings. It is a part of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) organization. The temple was awarded a certificate for being the largest Hindu temple outside of India in 2000, by the Guinness Book of Records.

Money for the temple was raised by Hindu communities after space for congregations became limited. The construction first began in August 1992, and the temple required the largest UK concrete-pour for the foundations at that time. Workshops were set up in India where 1,500 carvers worked on each block of stone and wood, before having them shipped to England for the final piecing together of the temple complex. The first stone was laid in 1993, and took a further two years to complete thereafter.

The Hindu temple complex consists of a traditional Hindu temple (mandir), constructed mainly from hand carved Italian Carrara marble and Bulgarian limestone, and is the temple is the focal point of the complex, a permanent exhibition entitled ‘Understanding Hinduism', a cultural centre, known as the Haveli, designed in traditional Gujarati style housing an assembly hall, gymnasium, and bookshop. Nearby, the temple is also partnered with a vegetarian Indian-based supermarket and restaurant, that also has an IT learning centre above it, and also The Swaminarayan School, Europe's first Hindu high school.


  • June 1970 – The first BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in the UK was opened in a converted disused church in Islington, North London by Yogiji Maharaj[1]
  • 1982 – Having outgrown the temple, the congregation sold the Islington temple and moved to a small ex-warehouse in Neasden.
  • 1990 – The congregation was again in search of a building that could cope with the growing congregation, and plans for the present temple were made.
  • 1995 – They moved to their present temple, built on the site of a disused truck warehouse opposite the previous temple. The old temple building was retained and converted into Shayona – an Indian grocery shop and vegetarian restaurant.

The Mandir[edit]

[[Image:Neasden Temple - Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir - Gate.jpg|left|200px|thumb|Front view of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir]] The Mandir is the focal point of the complex. Designed according to the Shilpa-Shastras,[2] a Vedic text that develops Hindu architecture to represent metaphorically, the different attributes of God, it is constructed almost entirely from Indian marble, Italian marble, Sardinian granite and Bulgarian limestone.

From the design concept 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 or pinnacled mandir: seven tiered pinnacles topped by golden spires crowd the roofline, complemented by five ribbed domes. Inside, serpentine ribbons of stone link the columns into arches, creating a sense of levitation.[3]

Light cream Vartza limestone from Bulgaria was chosen for the exterior, and for the interior, Italian Carrara marble, supplemented by a certain amount of Indian Ambaji marble.[4] The Bulgarian and Italian stone were shipped to the port of Kandla in Gujarat. It was there that most of the carving was eventually completed, by 1,500 craftsmen in a workshop specially set up for the occasion.[5] There were 26,300 individually numbered stones, which were shipped back to London,[6] 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. A feature the temple is noted for is its profusely carved cantilevered dome, believed to be the only one in Britain that does not use steel or lead. The Mandir was built and funded entirely by the Hindu Community and the entire project spanned 5 years although the Mandir construction itself was completed in two and a half years. Building work began in August 1992. On 24 November, the temple recorded the biggest-ever concrete-pour in the UK, when 4,500 tons was put down in 24 hours to create a foundation mat 6ft (1.8m) thick. The first stone was laid in June 1993; two years later, the building was complete.[7] The Mandir was inaugurated on 20 August 1995 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj,[8] the spiritual leader of BAPS – the organisation behind the temple.

Neasden’s Swaminarayan Mandir is Britain’s first authentic Hindu temple,[9] and represents an act of faith and collective effort. Inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, more that 1000 volunteers worked on the building, and many more contributed and solicited donations, or organised sponsored walks and other activities; children raised money by collecting aluminium cans and foil from recycling.[10]

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 (images) within altars. Each murti is revered like God in person and therefore each deity is bathed, clothed, fed, and attended to each day by the sadhus (monks) who live in the temple.

Beneath the Mandir, is the permanent exhibition ‘Understanding Hinduism’. Spread over 3,000 square feet (300m²), the exhibition details the origin, beliefs, glory and contribution of Hindu seers and scholars in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, education, and religion. The messages and information are presented through visual effects, paintings, tableaux, traditional craftwork, and miniature 3-D dioramas.

The Haveli[edit]

[[Image:Neasden Temple - Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir.jpg|right|200px|thumb|Carvings on the Haveli]]

Adjoining the Mandir is BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Haveli, a cultural complex. Whereas the mandir is carved from stone, the haveli uses wood: English Oak and Burmese Teak have been fashioned into panels, arches and screens, all carved by craftsmen in India with a cornucopia of geometric patterns, stylised animal heads and flower garlands.[11] [12]

Richly carved haveli (courtyard house)-style woodwork from Gujarat is the most striking characteristic of the cultural complex[13]. 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 required over 150 craftsmen from all over India 3 years to carve 17,000 square feet (1,600m²) of wood. Behind the traditional wooden facade, the cultural centre houses a vast pillarless prayer hall with space for 3,000 people, a gymnasium, medical centre, dining facilities, bookstall, conference facilities and offices.

Akshar IT Centre[edit]

Adjacent to Saya is the Akshar IT Centre, an adult learning centre that is open to the public and provides IT courses.

The Swaminarayan School[edit]

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.

The 2007 GCSE results placed the school amongst the top ten independent schools in the country.[14][15]

Daily rituals[edit]

The murti of Shri Swaminarayan is housed in the central shrine, flanked by Shri Gunatitanand Swami and Shri Gopalanand Swami[16].

In the morning before sunrise, the murtis that are adorned in their night attire are woken by the sadhus and the shrine doors are opened for the Mangala Arti, which is the first of five ‘aarti’ 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 (prayers), serve the deities, offer them food and bathe them, and close the shrine doors.

The shrines are opened again for the second aarti (Shangar Arti). The shrines remain open from 9am to approximately 11am when the shrines are closed and offered thal [food for lunch].

At 11.45am, the shrines are opened for the midday arti (Rajbhog Arti) and the reciting of the thal [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 to allow the deities to rest during the afternoon.

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

The Sandhya [sunset] Arti follows at 7pm. Following this, a selection of prayers are recited by the devotees including dhun (a repetitive chant where the names of God are chanted and verses of praise are sung). 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 music lowered. The devotees recite a few hymns, gently sending the deities to sleep, before the shrines are finally closed for the night.

Awards and recognition[edit]

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 an overwhelming 81% of votes from the London Borough of Brent.[17]

Natural Stone Award

The Stone Federation issued a special award to the Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir in 1995 as part of its Natural Stone Awards.[18]

Most Enterprising Building Award

The Most Enterprising Building Award, 1996 was awarded by the Royal Fine Art Commission & British Sky Broadcasting for the Swaminarayan Mandir in London on 5 June 1996

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England

In the 1997/8 Annual Report 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."[19]

The Eventful 20th Century – 70 Wonders of the Modern World

This prestigious Reader’s Digest publication (1998) prominently mentions the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, lauding its scale, intricate detail and the extraordinary story of how it was built and inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

Guinness World Records

"The Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden, London, UK, is the largest Hindu temple outside India. It was built by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, a 79-year-old Indian sadhu (holy man), and is made of 2,828 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone and 2,000 tonnes of Italian marble, which was first shipped to India to be carved by a team of 1,526 sculptors. The temple cost £12 million to build."

Guinness World Records 2000's "Biggest Hindu Temple outside India" certificate[20]

The Mandir was mentioned in the 1998 edition of the Guinness Book of Records in the Religious Architecture section, as the "Largest Hindu Temple outside India".[21]

In 2000, Guinness World Records presented two certificates to recognise the world record of offering 1247 vegetarian dishes during the Annakut Festival held at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on 27 October 2000 and to recognise the largest traditionally built Hindu temple outside India.

Despite Cambodia's Angkor Wat being larger, it was no longer being used as a Hindu temple so it would not have been considered.

Seven wonders of London

Time Out, the highly respected international city-guide publishers, declared the Mandir as one of the "Seven Wonders of London"[22]. In an "epic series… to pay tribute to… the capital’s seven most iconic buildings and landmarks", they embarked upon an ambitious search of London’s best. The Mandir featured among the choice seven.

Safeway Magazine

The October 2003 issue of the Safeway magazine, highlights the mandir in its write-up, "A spicy feast for the Festival of Light". It remarks, "Celebrating Diwali in grand style at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple in North London, where over 1,000 vegetarian dishes are offered to the Gods, and prayers are said for world peace and prosperity." It has also included photographs of Neasden Temple with the splendour of its lights and fireworks in the backdrop, with the sacred murtis of Ghanshyam Maharaj and of the Central Shrine.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica – Book of the year 1971.
  2. ^ Hindu Temple (Shri Swaminarayan Mandir) - Places to Go in London - Visit London
  3. ^ The Eventful 20th Century – 70 Wonders of the Modern World by The Reader’s Digest Association Limited – p. 124 to p. 125
  4. ^ Spirit of suburbia by Adam Hardy in Perspectives on Architecture – November 1995 Issue 19, Vol. 2 – p. 42 to p. 47
  5. ^ Spirit of suburbia by Adam Hardy in Perspectives on Architecture – November 1995 Issue 19, Vol. 2 – p. 42 to p. 47
  6. ^ Reader’s Digest – November 1996 edition – Neasden’s Eighth Wonder of the World – Ian Pindar
  7. ^ The Eventful 20th Century – 70 Wonders of the Modern World by The Reader’s Digest Association Limited – p. 124 to p. 125
  8. ^!OpenDocument
  9. ^ Spirit of suburbia by Adam Hardy in Perspectives on Architecture – November 1995 Issue 19, Vol. 2 – p. 42 to p. 47
  10. ^ Eventful 20th Century – 70 Wonders of the Modern World by The Reader’s Digest Association Limited – p. 124 to p. 125
  11. ^ The Eventful 20th Century – 70 Wonders of the Modern World by The Reader’s Digest Association Limited – p. 124 to p. 125
  12. ^ BBC - h2g2 - Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and Haveli, Neasden, London, UK - A458976
  13. ^ Spirit of suburbia by Adam Hardy in Perspectives on Architecture – November 1995 Issue 19, Vol. 2 – p. 42 to p. 47
  14. ^ UK top 10 schools across the sectors - Telegraph
  15. ^ The Swaminarayan School - Home
  16. ^ Spirit of suburbia by Adam Hardy in Perspectives on Architecture – November 1995 Issue 19, Vol. 2 – p. 42 to p. 47
  17. ^ "Temple wins national pride poll". BBC News. 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  18. ^ The Natural Stone Awards 1995 –p.18 & p. 19; see also
  19. ^ Page 22, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Annual Report 1998/1998
  20. ^ ""Biggest Hindu Temple outside India"". Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  21. ^ Guinness Book of Records, 1998 edition, page 172 in the Religious Architecture section
  22. ^ Visit the BAPS Shri Swaninarayan Hindu Mandir - Neasden's Famous Temple with Time Out London

51°32′51.23″N 00°15′38.99″W / 51.5475639°N 0.2608306°W / 51.5475639; -0.2608306