Neasden Temple: Exploring Religion in London

Namaste, Jai Swaminarayan
Welcome to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London. Popularly known as the ‘Neasden
Temple’, a sanctuary of vibrant Hindu worship in North West London. When devotees settled here in the UK, they
looked for a place to worship. And as the number of devotees got more and
more, we moved to Neasden, which is the warehouse, which is now converted into the Shayona Shop. From there, the number of devotees grew even
more. Then, in the early 90s, this site was purchased and this magnificent mandir was
built. The construction of the mandir is in true
Hindu style. You should have no steel or metal in the construction. So that mandir is built
out of pure stone. The stone was carved in India, then shipped
to London where each piece was assembled like a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle, all within two and
a half years. Not in modern times had a traditional stone
mandir of this scale and intricacy been created outside of India. His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who inspired
this mandir, has always had the opinion that such mandirs maintain culture and bring peace
of mind. Hinduism is just about worshipping God, and
people do it through different traditions. The Swaminarayan Sampradaya, or the Swaminarayan
tradition, follows a particular path in that we worship Bhagwan Swaminarayan and we follow
His teachings. The sanctum is the heart of the mandir, and
the murtis – or sacred images – are its very soul. All activities of the mandir revolve
around murtis. These deities are the focus of all forms of
worship – from the daily arti, thal and abhishek, as well as darshan and other devotional
acts of individual worshippers. Darshan refers to the act of beholding the
deities with reverence and adoration. It’s a time for personal worship, so you
take in the energies of the murtis, and you bring them into your heart. And you pray that
may you remain in my heart and cleanse my soul. When doing darshan, devotees join their palms,
and bow their heads in reverence and with respect to God. Some devotees will also chant
the holy name of God, often using a mala. To further absorb the divine atmosphere of
the mandir, devotees can be seen walking clockwise around the shrines. This is called performing
pradakshina, and consolidates the realisation that God is the centre of the universe and
our lives. Deities are served and looked after like a
living sovereign. This includes their ceremonial wakening, bathing, dressing and adorning,
offering of food, and resting. Trained sadhus, or Hindu monks, attend to the deities with
a deep sense of reverence and meditative awareness. Adjacent to the stone mandir is the Haveli,
a unique cultural centre exquisitely crafted from wood. It is a hub of activity for all
who come to learn, worship and celebrate at the mandir. Hindu worship is primarily an individual act,
as it involves making personal offerings to the deity. However, here in the Haveli, which can house
thousands of people, weekly assemblies are held in the main hall where sadhus and experts
deliver discourses on the history, theology and practical aspects of the Swaminarayan
Sampradaya and Hindu faith. I feel proud to see my heritage, here at my
doorstep. And it’s great to see Indian culture, and Hindu culture, here in North West London.

  1. It took me a while to work out that this was 360° photography — because it doesn't work in Chrome.

    It does work in Firefox so I've now managed to see all the films in the series (published to date at least). The relatively low resolution of the 360° doesn't do justice to the buildings which are being showcased. A conventional HD camera would have served the purpose far better.

  2. I went to this Temple yesterday,no I am not a muslim,I am English. We went there for a school trip. It really is beautiful there. All the floors are marble or carpet. I could definitely go there again!

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