One day no too long ago, we went out to shop for groceries. Then, there was an unexpected detour – for which I am grateful, because Shri Swaminarayan was definitely worth seeing.
Originally, we’d wanted to go shopping for groceries. We went to Tesco Express, however, discouraged by a huge line of people in front of the store (there are limits on numbers of people who can enter the store during the lockdown), we decided to go to the big Tesco.
We didn’t plan to go anywhere else – I left the house mainly to buy coffee – large amounts, cheaply. I drink plenty of coffee, and every week or two I need to get a new jar (instant coffee – I prefer Italian-style made in a moka, however, it doesn’t work on the induction stove that my flat is equipped with).
Anyways, when we were close to Tesco, we decided to take a detour – my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to see a nearby Hindu temple he had seen before. I agreed and we walked a bit.
The temple, as could be seen from outside of the fence, was actually quite nice – albeit closed. In the UK, places of worship can remain open even with the restrictions – but this one wasn’t. According to what they wrote in India Times, the Swaminarayan sect decided to close all the mandirs (temples) globally in March, when the pandemic was starting. They wanted to protect the visitors, volunteers and local communities by preventing them from gathering in temples.
And what is the Swaminaryan sect, you might ask. Well, it’s a sect in the religion of hinduism, founded by Sahajanand Swami in the beginning of 19th century. It seems That Sahajand Swami was very progressive for his times – he wanted to reform Hinduism and advocated against violence, animal sacrifices, caste discrimination, and he preached against unfair practices directed at women – such female infanticide and sati – a in which a woman whose husband died, sacrifices herself by sitting on her husband’s funeral pyre.
The temple was completed in 1995 and in the nineties, it was the biggest Hinduist temple outside of India. It required X pieces of X – the stone (marble and limestone) was sourced from Italy and Bulgaria, then shipped to India, where numerous carvers in different locations worked on carving the elements. “At peak, a total of 1,526 stone-carvers were involved at 14 different sites in Gujarat and Rajasthan.” Then, it was transported to the UK. 26,300 pieces in total!
What is particularly amazing is that it was designed and constructed in the traditional way, according to ancient Vedic architectural texts – and it means there was no structural steel used at all.
In London, over a hundred full-time volunteers and a thousand part-time volunteers worked to finish it. Here, it mentions that it required £12,000,000 to build it; you can also see how it looks inside. As they wrote, it’s free of charge to enter so I hope to go back there once the restrictions are lifted! I’ll share it with you if that happens.
It was nice to see the temple since the part of London I live in isn’t filled with places like that on every corner. So I definitely appreciated that.
And then we headed back to do our groceries. I enjoyed that walk quite a bit – even though it was a bit demanding on the body, to walk out in the cold, but I’m glad I did my 10k steps that day. I want to start walking and ideally go on more regular walks from now on. And hopefully discover more surprises in the area!