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Published November 14th 2012
Biggest Hindu Temple in London
In all my time in UK, I had never visited a Temple before. However, driven by the urge to celebrate with others the biggest and the most anticipated Hindu festival of the year, Diwali (or Deepavali - meaning: a row of lights), I ended up in BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple of London.
The Temple is situated in the London Borough of Brent in north-west London. The easiest way to reach the Temple is to take a bus from one of the nearest tube stations (the website has a link to help you find your way).
I have been to many temples all over India and have admired the unique architecture styles ever since I read about all the different ones from various dynasties and eras, ranging from the Golden Age of Guptas to Chalukyas and Cholas! So, needless to say, I was a bit curious to look at the insides of this popular Temple.
The Temple was inaugurated in 1995 and was then the biggest Hindu Temple outside India. It was also Europe's first traditional Hindu stone Temple, as others have been converted from secular buildings.
The (big) Hindu temples are usually built on astrologically significant spots and a lot of planning goes into deciding the spot. Once the idol is established in a temple, it is not to be moved into a different spot.
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple is built in a contemporary style and seems to be inspired from the Maha-maru style of temple architecture (in regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat). The temple walls are adorned in carvings and a flight of steps leads up to the Garbha Griha (Sanctum Sanctorum), which is more wide and open (than a closed chamber, which devotees could circle around), owing to the contemporary architecture.
The Temple is effectively run by BAPS organization and is supported by volunteers. It is open to people from all walks of life and religion. There are five regular Aartis (prayers) everyday, which signify the waking up of Gods and bathing Them, adorning Them in fresh clothes, offering Them lunch, the sunset worship prayer and finally They are adorned in Their night attire and the doors are closed for Them to rest.
When I visited the Temple, there were strict security checks at the entrance and bags or cameras were not allowed inside the Temple. However, there was a free cloakroom facility to deposit the bags/cameras, which you can collect on your way out.