BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (also commonly known as the Neasden Temple) is a Hindu temple in Neasden, London. Built entirely using traditional methods and materials, the Swaminarayan Mandir has been described as being Britain’s first authentic Hindu temple. It was also Europe’s first traditional Hindu stone temple, as distinct from converted secular buildings. It is a part of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) organisation and was inaugurated in 1995 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
The Mandir is the focal point of the complex. Designed according to the Shilpa-Shastras, a Vedic text that develops Hindu architecture to metaphorically represent the different attributes of God, it was constructed almost entirely from Indian marble, Italian marble, Sardinian granite and Bulgarian limestone. No iron or steel was used in the construction, a unique feature for a modern building in the UK. From the conceptual design and vision of Pramukh Swami, 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. The temple is noted for its profusely carved cantilevered central dome, believed to be the only one in Britain that does not use steel or lead. Inside, serpentine ribbons of stone link the columns into arches, creating a sense of levitation.
Light cream Vartza limestone from Bulgaria was chosen for the exterior, and for the interior, Italian Carrara marble supplemented by Indian Ambaji marble. The Bulgarian and Italian stone were shipped to the port of Kandla in Gujarat, where most of the carving was eventually completed, by over 1,500 craftsmen in a workshop specially set up for the project. More than 26,300 individually numbered stones pieces which were shipped back to London, and the building was assembled like a giant three-dimensional jigsaw. The Mandir was inaugurated on 20 August 1995 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS – the organisation behind the temple.
The entire Mandir complex represents an act of faith and collective effort. Inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, more than 1,000 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 for recycling. 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 (sacred images of the Deities) within altars. Each murti is revered like God in person and devoutly attended to each day by the sadhus (monks) who live in the temple ashram.
Beneath the Mandir is the permanent exhibition ‘Understanding Hinduism’. Through 3-D dioramas, paintings, tableaux and traditional craftwork, it provides an insight into the wisdom and values of Hinduism. Visitors can learn about the origin, beliefs and contribution of Hindu seers, and how this ancient religion is being practised today through traditions such as the BAPS Swaminarayan Sampraday. The Mandir is open to people of all faiths and none. Entrance is free, except to the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition where there is a £2 fee.
Adjoining the Mandir is BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Haveli, a multi-function cultural centre. 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.The Burmese teak used was harvested from sustainable forests. To compensate for the 226 English oak trees used, over 2,300 English oak saplings were planted in Devon. The Haveli also incorporates energy-saving features such as light-wells.
Richly carved haveli (courtyard house)-style woodwork from Gujarat is the most striking characteristic of the building’s façade and foyer. It has been designed according to traditional Indian haveli architecture, to evoke feelings of being in Gujarat, India, where such havelis were once commonplace. It required over 150 craftsmen from all over India three years to carve 17,000 square feet (1,600 m2) of wood. Behind the traditional wooden façade, 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.
The Mandir is a sacred house of God and a place of daily worship. In the interest of preserving its sanctity and ensuring worshippers can enjoy the spiritual ambience, all visitors are requested to abide by the following guidelines applicable in all areas of the Mandir complex. Please note that a strict dress code operates within the complex. Specifically, tops must cover the shoulders, chest, navel, and upper arms. Leg-wear must be at least below knee-length. It is customary to remove footwear upon entering any part of the Haveli complex. Shoe racks are provided within the complex.
Please respect the security procedures in place for the safety of all visitors. Sharp, dangerous and incendiary objects and substances (e.g. knives, matches, lighters, etc.) are not allowed inside the complex. Small (palm-sized) purses and wallets are allowed into the building. Cameras are not. Please deposit all large bags and cameras in the Baggage Cabin in the car park prior to entering the complex. Please remember to collect your belongings when you leave. Videos and photos using a mobile phone – for personal use only – may be taken from ground level outside the Mandir and Haveli only, but no photography or filming is allowed inside. Postcards and photographs showing the interior of the Mandir and Haveli can be purchased from the Souvenir Shop. Please switch off or place mobile phones on silent mode prior to entering the premises. Mobile phones must not be used to take photos or video footage inside the complex.
Smoking is not allowed on the premises, including in the car parks. Please dispose of cigarettes in the bin provided prior to entering the gates. No food or drink is allowed on the premises. Please discard chewing gum prior to entering. Please refrain from touching the delicate carvings. The marbled areas in the Mandir are quiet zones. All visitors are requested to adhere to the separate seating arrangements during the arti ceremony. Children are welcome. However, visitors aged 16 or under must be accompanied by a responsible adult at all times. Free parking available for cars. Coach passengers are requested to alight outside the Mandir. Parking for coaches is very limited.
Disabled visitors are welcome at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, where they strive to provide a pleasant and enriching experience for everyone. Bays for disabled drivers are located in the car park at the gate closest to and directly opposite the Mandir entrance. A ramp for wheelchair users can be found to the left of the Haveli‘s wooden portico (entrance) after arriving through the main gate, with a lift to the upper floor sanctum situated next to the marble staircase. The exhibition and all other facilities are on the ground floor with level flooring. Extra wheelchairs can also be provided, subject to availability. The toilets on the left and right sides as one enters the Haveli also have facilities for the disabled. The Haveli Assembly Hall is equipped with an induction loop for the hard of hearing. Assistance dogs accompanying disabled visitors will be looked after in a quiet place by one of our volunteers, with a drinking bowl of water if required, while visitors will be provided a personal chaperon/guide to enjoy their visit of the Mandir. Within the complex generally, volunteers are on hand if any assistance is required.
You can take a fully guided tour of the Mandir using the free Audio Tour Guide. Using the simple audio system, you can listen to detailed information about the various features of the Haveli and Mandir found throughout the complex. At your own pace, learn about the importance of a Hindu mandir, the fascinating story of how the Mandir was built, the Hindu sentiments for each of the sacred images, the significance of Hindu rituals such as the arti, the meaning behind certain architectural designs, and much more. Please request the Audio Tour Guide at the Information Desk. A £5 deposit will be required when you pick it up, which will be refunded when you return the device.
Location : 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, London NW10 8LD
Opening Times: Daily 09:00 to 18:00.
Tickets : Free.
Tel: 020 8965 2651