I had the rare opportunity of visiting the BAPS Shri Swaminaragan Mandir in Toronto with a friend from India.
Situated on an expansive ground off the highway was this white marble building with the most intricate carvings on its pillars and domes. It was hard to believe that I could see such architectural splendour of a Hindu Temple without setting foot on India!
We were greeted by a very enthusiastic guide, who told us that he was a volunteer and did the presentation for us as a service to the community. We learned that just as there were different denominations in Christianity, there were also different branches of Hinduism. BAPS is the organization promoting spirituality of the individual with prayers and promoting harmony among individuals. The design and the construction of the temple were the efforts of innumerable volunteers. Marble was imported from Italy, limestone from Turkey and sandstone from India. True to the Vedic architectural tradition, there was not a single steel structure to support the building, nor a single nail to secure the joints.
After we had removed our shoes, we were shown into a big hall with ornamental wooden pillars and ceiling. Photography was forbidden inside the building, but the website of the temple had some pictures to offer. We went on a Sunday and the place was alive with activities. In another hall, worshipers were watching a video of a religious gathering taped earlier in the day in India.
The guide took us upstairs to the main worship area. Before entering he told us to close our eyes, jokingly saying that he was expecting a “wow” reaction from us. Indeed, when we opened our eyes, the beauty and serenity of this great hall took our breath away. Wow!
(Photo from BAPS Shri Swaminaragan Mandir website)
The splendour of this hall was beyond belief. The lighting changed colours continuously projecting an ethereal sense of mystery and awe. At the far end on both sides of the room were shrines revering the many Hindu deities and early spiritual leaders of the religion. They were dressed in ornate clothing that were changed three times a day, following their “meals”.
There was a museum that we could not visit because we were running out of time, but it would be an excellent reason to revisit the temple on another occasion.