The doors close and the metro takes off. Signs of Piccadilly Circus, Westminster and Baker Street passes. Slowly we’re leaving the centre of London. This is not a mistake. We didn’t choose the wrong metro line. Consciously we were going to visit the suburbs of London. Neasden to be more precise. A neighbourhood which isn’t that special. You can come here for the Wembley stadium or to do some shopping at IKEA. But if you’re not interested in some new Swedish house furniture, then you might skip this area of London. That’s a shame, because it’s also the place of one of the biggest Hindu temples outside of India, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandi. The white marmer of the exterior of this temple is a sharp contrast to the dark and grey surroundings of the parking lots. This makes this temple a great sight. And add the Indian vibe to this, and you’ll think you’re on the other side of the world.
The location of this temple might seem a bit strange, but it actually isn’t. A big part of the community of Neasden has a Hindu background. So when the plans for this temple started, the local community raised a lot of money to make the construction possible. The total costs were about 12 million pounds. But the result is striking. The exterior consists of 2.000 tons of Italian marble which is polished by 1.500 sculptors in India. A huge task! Another striking fact is that this temple is built in only two and a half years (the original plan was for 5 years!).
After we passed the security checks we put our shoes in the cloak room and shuffled our way through the temple. The white color of the outside changed into a brown color of some amazing Burmese and English wood carving. The seiling is made out of domes of which the light beautifully lights up the room. I would have loved to take a photo of this, but cameras are not allowed inside the temple. A shame, but also understandable. It’s still a holy place.
We shuffled our way to the main mandir and passed some beautiful gardens. Apparently we chose the right time, because when we got to the mandir the whole room was filled with people and children on their knees. We were kindly asked to take a seat on the floor, because the ceremony was about to start. Men in the front and the women in the back. And so we did. Soon the golden doors opened and the pandits came out to bless the people. A great thing to see, but I was more struck by the room I was in. I sat on a colorful carpet alternated with a dozen of marble pillars. Each decorated with the most beautiful figures. The top of the room was dominated by a marble dome. While I was taking in the amazing details, the doors were about to close. I missed the ceremony, but that was okay. I still enjoyed myself. We made our way to the exit and took one last look at the temple. What an amazing piece of India in London.
Are you as surprised as I was?