BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden,
London NW10 8LD, U.K.
Tel: (+44-20) 8965 2651
Fax: (+44-20) 8965 6313
BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu Mandirs
As part of His divine mission to elevate society and re-establish spirituality, Bhagwan Swaminarayan inspired the building of six magnificient mandirs throughout Gujarat in the space of seven years (1822-1829). In the tradition of the Bhakti movement, He built large three-pinnacled mandirs known as shikharbaddh mandirs. The murtis of God and His ideal devotee were installed in mandirs at Amdavad, Bhuj, Vartal, Dholera, Junagadh and Gadhada. These mandirs helped the masses offer devotion to God. These mandirs emerged as ideal models of Hindu art and architecture since they depicted Hindu thought and philosophy in the rich wall paintings and carvings.
After the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha was formally established by Shastriji Maharaj in 1907, BAPS Swaminarayan mandirs were erected to foster the worship of God with the ideal devotee in Bochasan, Sarangpur, Gondal, Atladra and Gadhada.
These Swaminarayan mandirs are a rare gift in today's age. They serve as ideal examples of spiritualism coupled with art and architecture. They are centres of peace and worship, hope and inspiration. With their inherent peace and purity, they represent abodes of love, peace and harmony for the devotees. Today, these mandirs are visited daily by thousands of people who come, pray, worship and receive divine inspiration.
Concept of Murtis
When a Hindu visits a mandir, he or she goes there for 'darshan' which loosely translated means 'seeing' of the sacred murtis (images). However, to the initiated, it has a more profound meaning and implies being in close proximity with God and beholding His divine form. Murti puja has always been synonymous with the Hindu tradition and for thousands of years, Hindus have practiced the adoration and reverence of sacred murtis as a form of devotion.
In order to appreciate this unique form of devotion, one needs to look at the philosophy and mystique pertaining to murti puja. The ancient sages, realizing the difficulties in controlling the mind sanctioned murti puja to enable devotees to focus on a murti – a medium aiding concentration. In the Bhagwad Gita (12/5), Shri Krishna strengthens this point by stating that it is difficult for those whose minds are attached only to the impersonal aspect of the Supreme to make spiritual progress.
From the brilliant mind and soul of Adi Shankaracharya to the simple village farmer, murti puja – image worship – is firmly entrenched in the daily lives of all Hindus through countless generations of fruitful worship. The hundreds of thousands of mandirs, large and small, scattered over the Indian subcontinent, are visited daily by tens of millions of the faithful.
The advent of the industrial age and the rise of science as a supposedly omniscient superpower created a parallel disregard for things spiritual. Unexplainable phenomena of supernatural implications were denounced as primitive beliefs or plain heathenism. It has been overlooked that advancement in one field of human interest does not necessarily initiate degradation or confirm the untruth of another field.
The bafflement of many who first behold the array of Hindu murtis springs from the deep-rooted Western antagonism to imaging the Divine at all.
However, worship of God through belief in His presence in an image is considered to be one of the foremost aids to spiritual realization in Hinduism.