- 1 Introduction
- 2 Art & Architecture of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London (Neasden)
- 3 Traditional Hindu Architecture
- 4 How It Was Made
- 5 Spiritual Significance
- 6 Visitor Guidelines
- 7 How to Reach BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London (Neasden Temple)
- 8 Timings of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London (Neasden Temple)
- 9 Festivals
- 10 Booking Information
- 11 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- 11.1 What is the history behind the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London?
- 11.2 How long did it take to construct the Neasden Temple?
- 11.3 Can non-Hindus visit the temple?
- 11.4 Are there any entry fees for visiting the temple?
- 11.5 What are the main attractions within the temple complex?
- 11.6 Are there any dress code requirements for visitors?
- 11.7 Can visitors participate in the temple’s religious ceremonies?
- 11.8 How can one volunteer or contribute to BAPS Charities?
- 11.9 Does the temple offer guided tours for visitors?
- 11.10 Are there any specific guidelines for photography within the temple?
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London, also known as Neasden Temple, is a prominent Hindu temple located in London, United Kingdom. It is one of the largest Hindu temples outside India and serves as an important cultural and religious site for the Hindu community in London. In this article, we will throw light on the rich history, architectural marvel and cultural significance of BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir.
History and Significance
The BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir was inaugurated on August 20, 1995, by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS). The construction of the temple lasted five years and involved the efforts of thousands of volunteers from all over the world. This temple is a testimony to the devotion and commitment of the BAPS community.
Art & Architecture of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London (Neasden)
Built-in an abiding spirit of reverence, adoration and gratitude, this temple is a humble tribute to the indescribable glory and infinite majesty of God. As a result, the temple is both a labour of love and a work of art.
Externally and internally, structural features such as pillars and beams are profusely carved with traditional Hindu motifs of auspiciousness, peace and purity. This is where architecture becomes art and art becomes architecture, and the two become devotional.
Above the main marble staircase, the Roopchoki (or ornate front porch) is a traditional entrance leading into the temple. Delicate figures dancing around the pillars and serving as struts welcome visitors with gifts of flowers, incense and music.
On the outside, creamy white Bulgarian limestone is worked into a frieze (intricate wall) of patterned carvings, interspersed with figures of deities and featuring decorated windows and balconies.
Above, the large fluted central dome and its accompanying domes (smaller domes) rise gracefully from the terrace.
Behind them are the shikharas, or minarets, each a complex set of sculpted towers that soar directly above the temples below them.
Each shikhara is decorated with a kalash, a set of gold urns of decreasing size symbolizing the temple’s completion.
The flag flutters next to them; Waving red and white flags signify that the sovereign deity is in residence. The temple is the house of God.
Inside on the upper storey, the maha-mandapa (‘Great Hall’, or nave) is a milky-white sanctuary of Carrara and Ambaji marble covered with carved stucco.
At its centre is the segmental cantilevered dome that is 10 meters (30 ft) high and spans 8.5 meters (28 ft), flanked by delicate floral motifs. A two-and-a-half-ton keystone descends from its centre like a stone chandelier. Encircling it, figures of divine beings fall down showering their blessings and blessings.
The dome rests on an octagonal bay, which is surrounded by windows, allowing natural light to enter through the stone latticework.
Supporting the ensuing structure is a forest of intricately sculpted pillars (or ‘pillars’). From their bases to their capitals (‘heads’), each is embellished with delicate figures and themes related to Hindu lore. Other pillars in the upper sanctum have natural and geometric motifs.
Between the columns, wavy open arches reach in a continuous stream. Together with the outer corridors, they form an arcade of arches extending to the rear of the sanctum.
Above, the ceiling is replete with deep floral and geometric patterns, each section unique in design from any other of the maha-mandapa.
On the far side and in the empty spaces around the outer wall are the sanctum sanctorums, in which sacred images of deities are enshrined in gold-studded, throne-like canopies called sinhasanas.
Built according to ancient Hindu texts, yet meeting modern British building regulations, the temple also includes features such as under-floor heating, a lift for the nulliparous and disabled, and two (marble staircase) fire exits.
- 7 shikhars (spires)
- 6 ghummats (domes)
- 193 sthambhas (columns)
- 32 gavakshas (windows)
- 4 jharukhas (balconies)
- 500 different designs
- 55 different ceiling designs
- 26,300 carved stone pieces
- Height: 21 metres (70 feet)
- Width: 22.5 metres (75 feet)
- Length: 60 metres (195 feet)
Traditional Hindu Architecture
The shikhara is the massive shikhara that crowns the main sanctum sanctorum of the temple. It represents the ascension towards the divine and symbolizes the abode of the gods. The shikhara of the Neasden temple is adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures, showcasing the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans.
The mandapa is a pillared hall that serves as a gateway or assembly place before entering the main temple. Nestaden Temple has a grand pavilion with intricately carved pillars and a stunning ceiling. It provides a transitional space where devotees can prepare themselves for worship.
The sanctum sanctorum is the innermost sanctum sanctorum of the temple, also known as the womb chamber. It houses the main deity and is considered the holiest place. In BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir, the sanctum sanctorum is elaborately carved and decorated with precious metals and gems.
Gopurams are monumental gateways that mark the entrance to the temple complex. Although not as prominent in the Neasden temple as in traditional South Indian temples, the concept of the welcome entrance is still present. The entrance to the temple has beautifully carved arches and intricate designs.
The layout of BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Temple follows the mandala principle, which represents the universe. The temple complex is organized around a central courtyard, around which are various smaller shrines and subsidiary structures. This layout creates a sense of harmony and balance.
How It Was Made
No traditional stone temple of this scale and complexity had been built outside India in modern times. This was a first in the Western world.
The Multi-Fold Challenge
Firstly, the temple had to conform to India’s ancient architectural texts, the Vastu Shastras, and yet also meet the requirements of Britain’s stringent building codes.
Secondly, which stone would be durable enough to withstand the harsh British weather, strong enough to be self-load-bearing without any steel reinforcement or support (as prescribed by Vastushastra), and strong enough for intricate carvings Will it be soft?
Third, how would this stone with the finest Hindu craftsmanship found only in India be brought to North-West London?
After much research, deliberation and innovative engineering, as well as the much-needed guidance and blessings of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj and the tireless efforts of thousands of volunteers, the pieces of this huge puzzle began to fall into place – to a large extent.
About 3,000 tons of Bulgarian limestone were shipped 3,900 miles to India, along with 1,200 tons of Italian Carrara marble, which made its journey of 4,800 miles.
Over 5,000 tons of stone were hand-carved into 26,300 pieces by more than 1,500 skilled craftsmen at 14 different locations across India, with an additional 900 tons of Indian Ambaji marble. These were then coded, packed and sent on their final 6,300-mile journey to London, where each piece – the largest weighing 5.6 tonnes and the smallest only 50 grams – was assembled like a giant 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, all within 2.5 years.
BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir continues the millennia-old Hindu tradition of worshipping God through idols installed in temples.
Within the Swaminarayan sect, the temples have a history of nearly 200 years, which was started by Lord Swaminarayan himself. In a sermon delivered on 25 November 1822, Lord Swaminarayan revealed the reasoning behind these temples. He explained: “For the maintenance of Upasana [right religious worship] I have built such temples” (Vachnamrita, Gadhada-II.27).
This theology is embodied in the idols installed inside the temple.
Gunatitananda Swami, the first spiritual successor of Lord Swaminarayan, explained in detail the spiritual significance and role of the temple, also using it as an analogy. Just as one needs a temple to install an idol, he explained, similarly, one needs a pure soul to keep the Lord in it (Svamini Vato 3.13).
A physical temple helps the person to internalize the purity, peace and presence of God all around. Describing the temple, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj also explains: “The temple is above all a place of peace…for the realization of God.”
Based on these and other guidelines from Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the temple in London has been built as a place to:
- WORSHIP – where a consistent pattern of devotional rituals, ceremonies and practices is observed throughout the day, every day
- LEARNING – Where young and old can engage with and learn from Hindu beliefs, values and practices to lead a spiritually uplifting and satisfying lifestyle.
- CELEBRATION – where year-round Hindu festivals allow for vibrant and joyous celebrations for the entire community
- Beauty – where exquisite art and architecture are presented as a humble tribute to the indescribable majesty and limitless majesty of the Divine
- Community – where dialogue and understanding help to foster greater respect, harmony and co-operation between people of different religions, races, ethnicities and cultures
- Charity – where the selfless spirit of volunteerism reaches out to serve the wider community and make a meaningful contribution to our country
Main Image: The temple is a holy house of God and a place of daily worship. In the interest of maintaining its sanctity and ensuring that worshipers can enjoy the spiritual ambience, all visitors are requested to adhere to the following guidelines applicable to all areas of the temple complex.
Dress Code: Please note that a strict dress code applies to the premises. Specifically, tops should cover the shoulders, chest, navel, and upper arms. Leg wear should be at least below knee length.
Shoes: It is customary to remove shoes upon entering any part of the Haveli complex. Shoe racks are provided within the premises.
Security: Please respect the security procedures in place for the safety of all visitors. Sharp, dangerous, and inflammable objects and substances (such as knives, matches, lighters, etc.) are not allowed inside the premises.
Bags & Cameras: Small (palm-sized) purses and wallets are allowed in the building. There are no cameras. Please deposit all large bags and cameras in the baggage cabin in the car park before entering the premises. Please remember to collect your belongings when you leave.
Filming & Photography: Videos and photographs using mobile phones – for personal use only – may be taken from ground level outside the temple and haveli, but no photography or filming is permitted inside. Postcards and photographs depicting the interior of the temple and haveli can be purchased from the souvenir shop.
Mobile Phones: Please switch off the mobile phone or put it on silent mode before entering the premises. Mobile phones should not be used for taking photographs or video footage inside the premises.
Smoking: Smoking is not permitted on the premises including the car parks. Please dispose of cigarettes in the dustbin placed before entering the gate.
Food & Drink: No food or drink of any kind is allowed on the premises. Please discard chewing gum prior to entry.
Conduct: Please avoid touching the delicate carving. The marble areas in the temple are quiet areas.
Seating Arrangements During Arti Ceremony: All the visitors are requested to follow the separate seating arrangement during the Aarti ceremony.
Children: Children are welcome. However, visitors 16 years of age or younger must be accompanied by a responsible adult at all times.
Parking: Free parking is available for cars. Passengers of the coach are requested to get down outside the temple. Parking for coaches is very limited.
Disabled Access: There is a ramp available for wheelchair access and a lift inside the temple. Wheelchairs will be provided subject to availability. Please see here for more information on accessibility.
Pets: No pets are allowed on the premises. Assistance dogs accompanying visitors with disabilities will be looked after by a volunteer at a quiet location, while visitors will be provided with a personal mentor/guide to enjoy their visit to the temple. Please see here for more details.
Copyright: Management may conduct photography, video recording and/or other surveillance that may involve visitors. Copyright and all other intellectual property rights in these materials are owned by Management or such authorized third party.
Please note: Due to the many special services held throughout the year, timings and access to the temple are subject to change, sometimes unavoidably without prior notice. While all reasonable measures will be taken to avoid any inconvenience, the management apologizes for any inconvenience caused inadvertently. Management also reserves the right to refuse entry to those who do not follow the guidelines and who may be wearing inappropriate clothing.
How to Reach BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London (Neasden Temple)
Plan your journey to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir with up-to-the-minute travel information using Transport for London’s Journey Planner, or call London Travel Information on 020 7222 1234.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Pramukh Swami Road, Neasden, London NW10 8HW, UK
Timings of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London (Neasden Temple)
The Mandir and Haveli are usually open to the public from 9.00am to 6.00pm throughout the year, including Bank Holidays. However, please note the specific timings below:
MURTI DARSHAN TIMINGS
From 9.00 am To 11.00 am
From 11.45 am To 12.15 pm
From 4.00 pm To 6.00 pm*
- Except Saturdays, when it closes at 5.00 pm
11.45 am Rajbhog Arti
From 9.30 am To 12 noon
From 4.00 pm To 6.00 pm*
Except Saturdays, when it ends at 5.30 pm
From 9.00 am To 6.00 pm
Please Note: Due to the many special services throughout the year, timings and access to any part of the Mandir are subject to change, sometimes unavoidably without notice. While all reasonable measures will be taken to avoid any inconvenience, the Management apologises if any is inadvertently incurred.
BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir is a place of quiet individual contemplation as well as a joyous community celebration.
The Hindu calendar year is filled with festivals and days of special rituals, most of which are celebrated in the temple. Be it the anniversaries of the Swaminarayan tradition or other festivals like Holi, Shivratri, Ram Navami, Rath Yatra, Krishna Janmashtami, Diwali and Annakoot, the Hindu new year, each is celebrated with great devotion and joy.
Festivities vary according to each particular event, but all involve special offerings to the deities. Some include fasting for the devotees as well as special ceremonies such as the Panchamrit Abhishekam. Major festivals are accompanied by evening gatherings – on the actual day of the observance and sometimes on the nearest Saturday or Sunday. These include a collection of singing, dancing and drama performances, along with discourses highlighting the historical and spiritual significance of the event. Everyone is encouraged to participate, with the festivities providing an opportunity for both the young and the elderly to offer their skills and talents in devotional service.
Hindu festivals follow the Hindu lunar calendar, and hence the dates vary slightly throughout the year. Some of the festivals included in the calendar include the following:
|Makar Sankranti||Marks the transition of the sun into the Makara (Capricorn) constellation on its celestial path northwards. A time considered especially auspicious for donation.||14 January|
|Shastriji Maharaj Jayanti||Birth anniversary of His Holiness Shastriji Maharaj (1865-1951), founder of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and third spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan||February/March|
|Maha Shivaratri||Birth anniversary of Shivaji||February/March|
|Holi||Welcomes the onset of spring and celebrates the new life and vitality of all that follows||March|
|Bhagatji Maharaj Jayanti||Birth anniversary of His Holiness Bhagatji Maharaj (1829-1897), second spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan||March|
|Swaminarayan Jayanti & Ramanavmi||Birth anniversary of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Shri Rama||March/April|
|Yogiji Maharaj Jayanti||Birth anniversary of His Holiness Yogiji Maharaj (1892-1971), fourth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan||May/June|
|Rath Yatra||Festival of chariots||July|
|Guru Purnima||The day devotees honour and offer their gratitude to the guru for his spiritual guidance and support.||July|
|Raksha Bandhan||Sisters tie a ‘rakhi’ (sacred thread) around their brothers’ wrists affirming their sibling bond and praying for the brothers’ protection||August|
|Krishna Janmashtami||Birth anniversary of Shri Krishna||August/September|
|Mahant Swami Maharaj Jayanti||Birth anniversary of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj (b. 1933), sixth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and current leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha||September|
|Gunatitanand Swami Maharaj Jayanti||Birth anniversary of Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami Maharaj (1785-1867), the first spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan||October|
|Diwali||Festival of Light, one of the most important and popular Hindu festivals in the calendar||October/November|
|Annakut||Hindu New Year, celebrated with the Annakut, a grand offering of food to the Deities made in thanksgiving||October/November|
|Pramukh Swami Maharaj Jayanti||Birth anniversary of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj (1921-2016), fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and previous leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha||December|
For Individuals & Families
Individuals and families do not need to book in advance for their travel. On arrival, please inquire at the reception desk for guide availability. If one is not available, an audio tour guide should always be available for your visit.
If you are certain of your arrival time, and would definitely like a private guide, please feel free to let us know using our booking form. We will do our best to have a guide waiting for you, or we can suggest an alternative time when a guide may be available.
For Schools & Other Groups
For schools and other groups, advanced booking is required to make your travel more organized and productive. Complete details regarding School Visit and Group Visit can be found by visiting the respective link.
The easiest way to book travel is by filling in the online booking form, which will be automatically submitted to the booking office.
Alternatively, please download a printable booking form from this website and fax or post it to the booking office.
The form allows you to suggest up to three preferred dates. Once the details of day, date and time slot are accepted by the booking office, your allotted visiting slot will be sent to you by email within 3 working days.
If, after confirming your booking, you find that you will not be able to make your journey for any reason, please let us know by email or phone as soon as possible so that your slot can be made available for another group.
BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir
105-119 Brentfield Road
Neasden, London NW10 8LD
Phone: 020 8965 2651 Extn. 2406 (Monday to Friday: 9 AM to 5 PM)
Fax: 020 8965 6313
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the history behind the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London?
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, also known as the Neasden Temple, is a Hindu temple located in Neasden, London. It was inaugurated in 1995 and is one of the largest Hindu temples outside of India. The temple was built by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a socio-spiritual organization, with the aim of preserving and promoting Hindu traditions and values.
How long did it take to construct the Neasden Temple?
The construction of the Neasden Temple spanned a period of five years, from 1992 to 1995. Skilled craftsmen and artisans from India were brought in to create the intricate carvings and sculptures that adorn the temple.
Can non-Hindus visit the temple?
Yes, non-Hindus are welcome to visit the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London. The temple promotes interfaith understanding and encourages people from all backgrounds to learn about Hinduism and experience the temple’s spiritual atmosphere.
Are there any entry fees for visiting the temple?
No, there are no entry fees for visiting the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London. The temple is open to the public, and visitors can explore the temple complex and its exhibits free of charge.
What are the main attractions within the temple complex?
The temple complex features several attractions for visitors. The main mandir (temple) is the centrepiece, showcasing stunning architectural details and intricate stone carvings. There is also an exhibition called the ‘Understanding Hinduism Exhibition,’ which provides insights into Hindu culture, values, and traditions. Additionally, there is a vegetarian restaurant, a bookshop, and a gift shop within the complex.
Are there any dress code requirements for visitors?
Yes, there are dress code requirements for visitors to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Both men and women are required to cover their shoulders and knees. Scarves or shawls are provided at the entrance for those who need them.
Can visitors participate in the temple’s religious ceremonies?
Visitors are welcome to observe the temple’s religious ceremonies, but active participation is generally reserved for practising Hindus. Visitors can witness the rituals and prayers from designated areas within the temple, maintaining a respectful distance.
How can one volunteer or contribute to BAPS Charities?
To volunteer or contribute to BAPS Charities, you can visit their official website or contact them directly. They often have volunteer programs, fundraising initiatives, and humanitarian projects where individuals can get involved and make a positive impact.
Does the temple offer guided tours for visitors?
Yes, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir offers guided tours for visitors. Trained volunteers provide informative tours that give insights into the temple’s history, architecture, and Hinduism. These tours are free of charge and can be arranged at the visitor reception area.
Are there any specific guidelines for photography within the temple?
Photography is generally not allowed inside the temple, including the main sanctum. However, photography is permitted in designated areas of the temple complex, such as the courtyard and the exhibition hall. It’s always best to check with the temple staff regarding any specific guidelines or restrictions related to photography.