Celebrating the Silver Jubilee of Neasden Temple
People say that Hinduism is more than a religion, it is a way of life. This certainly is true of one of its greatest symbols in the UK. That is the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in the London borough of Brent which has been the centre of faith, seva, education, culture and community harmony for a generation.
Popularly known as the Neasden Temple, the iconic building was inaugurated on 20th August 1995. Its magnificent architecture in the middle of North Circular traffic urban jungle was a surreal sensation at the time. But now it is a sigh of peace and tranquillity attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world.
A whole host of dignitaries have sent messages including India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prince Charles.
PM Modi who had visited the temple when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat tweeted: “Neasden Temple marks its silver jubilee. The Temple has been at the forefront of many community service initiatives. It has brought people together and inspired them to work for humanity.”
Prince Charles issued a video message, recalling visiting the temple with his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, during festivals. He said: “The first of its kind outside India, Neasden Temple serves the local community as a place of worship, learning, celebration, peace and community service".
He was particularly impressed by the volunteerism that defines the Swaminarayan community saying: “It has given me immense pride to learn of the way in which the Hindu community, including such a large number of BAPS volunteers, have been so active in their support for those in need – providing thousands of hot meals and assistance for the elderly and most vulnerable.”
At the time of the pandemic, the temple has provided much aid to the needy through their outreach programmes. The volunteers even laid on lunch for Grenadier Guards during a break at Covid-19 mobile testing units in Harrow and Barnet.
To commemorate the special occasion, a series of events have been organised including special programmes for women, children and a tribute to the life of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who inaugurated the mandir in 1995. A very special religious ceremony ‘Vishwa Shanti Mahapuja’ is the central showpiece to symbolise community harmony and world peace conducted by the resident Swamis.
Since its opening, it has attracted numerous world leaders including US President Jimmy Carter and numerous British Prime Ministers.
The temple was the largest and the first of its kind at the time. It was named as the biggest Hindu temple outside India in the Guinness World Records 2000 but since then has been replaced by other BAPS mandirs over the years. The building works started in July 1991 when almost 3,000 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone was shipped to India along with 1,200 tonnes of Italian Carrara marble.
The stones were then coded, packed, and sent off on their final 6,300 journey to London. The largest piece weighed 5.6 tonnes, and the smallest weighed 50 grams. Assembled like a 3D puzzle, the stones were assembled in two and a half years. No iron or steel was used in constructing the London temple, it is purely made out of stone, particularly Indian marble, Italian marble, Sardinian granite and Bulgarian limestone.
Please see Prince Charles message at https://youtu.be/kYTH1vhQCuw