BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Atlanta
|BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Atlanta|
|Architecture||North Indian / Shilpa Shastras|
|Date built||September 2005 (groundbreaking) to August 2007|
|Creator||Pramukh Swami Maharaj / BAPS|
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Atlanta, Georgia is a traditional Hindu mandir, or place of worship, inaugurated on 26 August 2007 by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a denomination of the Swaminarayan branch of Hinduism headed by Mahant Swami Maharaj. The mandir located in the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn, was constructed in accordance with ancient Hindu architectural scriptures, and is the largest mandir of its kind outside of India. The mandir is made of 34,450 pieces of hand-carved Italian marble, Turkish Limestone and Indian pink sandstone, situated on landscaped grounds spread over 30 acres. The mandir complex also includes a large assembly hall, family activity center, classrooms, and an exhibition on the key tenets of Hinduism. The mandir is open daily for worship and to visitors of any faith.
Mandir and Daily Rituals
The mandir is a type of ‘Shikarbaddha’ mandir, built according to principles laid out in the Shilpa Shastras, Hindu texts prescribing standards of sacred architecture. Within the mandir, murtis (sacred images of the deities) have been ritually installed. The central shrine holds the murti of Swaminarayan, with Gunatitanand Swami to his left, together worshipped as Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj. Similarly, different shrines hold murtis of other Hindu deities, such as Radha Krishna, Shiva Parvati, Sita Ram, Hanuman, Ganapati and the lineage of BAPS gurus, who are Swaminarayan’s spiritual successors.
The BAPS congregation in the greater Atlanta area first started meeting in the 1980s at various devotees’ houses. In 1988, the congregation purchased a skating rink in Clarkston, Georgia and renovated it into a mandir. The twenty-nine acre plot of the current mandir was purchased in February 2000 in Lilburn, Georgia. Pramukh Swami Maharaj performed religious rites to sanctify the land. He visited the site again in 2004 and performed the foundation stone-laying ceremony, and inaugurated the mandir upon completion of construction in 2007. Its tenth anniversary was celebrated on July 1, 2017.
Construction and Opening
Commencement of Construction and First Stone-Laying Ceremony
In February 2000, with the blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, a 29-acre plot of land was purchased in the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn. The Shilanyas Vidhi, a Vedic ceremony that dates approximately 8,000 years, was performed on June 13, 2004, where stones were placed in the foundation of the future temple. Led by Pramukh Swami and senior BAPS sadhus, several thousand people participated in the ceremony. The spiritual significance of the Shilanyas Vidhi is to purify the land and bless those working on the temple’s construction.
The shilanyas, or first stone laying, ceremony was commemorated by four days of celebrations and special events, including spiritual programs conducted for senior citizens, children, and youth. Each day, a yajman pujan was performed and discourses on the Taitreya Upanishad were held.
Construction began in September 2005, and the concrete for the foundation was poured in January 2006. In March 2006, a specialty crane was assembled to install the 106,000 cubic feet of Italian carrara marble. Over 34,000 hand carved pieces of stone were shipped from India to be finished and assembled at the site. The construction of the mandir was completed in just under two years, with the inauguration done by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in August 2007.
In the days preceding the mandir inauguration, large scale festivals were held for devotees and the broader community to participate in the opening of the complex. On 24 August 2007, the congregation held a Vishvashanti Mahayagna for world peace and family unity in the presence of over ten thousand people. A festival to mark the centenary anniversary of BAPS’ establishment as a formal organization was also celebrated on 25 August 2007.
On 26 August 2007, Pramukh Swami Maharaj inaugurated the mandir through a traditional Vedic ritual called the murti pratishtha, wherein divinity is infused into the idols inside the mandir. On this occasion, Pramukh Swami Maharaj noted that “this mandir is open to all. Whoever sincerely offers his prayers will attain happiness and peace.” Dignitaries present at this event included Congressman Henry Johnson Jr., Lilburn’s mayor, Jack Bolton, and Commissioner of Gwinnett County, Charles Bannister. This was the second opening of a traditional Hindu mandir by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in North America in the same year. The other mandir was the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto, which was inaugurated on 22 July 2007.
The ten-year anniversary of the mandir was celebrated on 1 July 2017 in the presence of Mahant Swami Maharaj and Lilburn Mayor Johnny Crist.
Activities and Schedule
Similar to other BAPS Swaminarayan mandirs, the Atlanta mandir offers daily darshan worship and Aarti, and is open to visitors of all faiths and backgrounds. In addition, the facility holds weekly satsang sabhas on Sundays serving all age groups. The weekly sabha includes the singing of devotional hymns and spiritual discourses on Hindu scriptures and their teachings.
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