Year 4 Girl's Prep Pupils Visit to the Hindu BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir | Surbiton High School |
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Year 4 Girl’s Prep Pupils Visit to the Hindu BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Posted: 18th March 2024

On Friday 1 March, Year 4 enjoyed a great day out, visiting the Hindu BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, in Neasden, North London. This is undoubtedly one of the best Hindu temples in the UK. The best thing about this temple is its architecture. The amount of work that’s gone into sculpting this temple is enormous, and it matches some of the biggest temples in India. Made from 5000 tonnes of Italian and Indian marble, this Hindu temple dominates the local area, a spectacular building in a pretty nondescript area of London. Opened in 1995, it was funded entirely through donations from local worshippers and is the first traditional Hindu temple built outside India in modern times. The vision was to provide a place for peace of mind and comfort for the soul. A place to symbolise beauty, to add a touch of divinity in a very tranquil atmosphere. A place to promote noble thoughts, whilst understanding Hindu life.

The temple welcomes half a million visitors each year; friendly volunteers and explanatory signs help those unfamiliar with Hindu beliefs. We entered via the haveli, a cultural centre, whose facade and courtyard are carved from teak and oak. After leaving our shoes behind, we were directed to watch a short film in the prayer hall which taught us about the temple’s history and its role in society today. This was followed by a question-and-answer session.

After this, we visited the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition. This is a permanent feature spread over 3000 sq. ft on the ground floor, covering the origin and beliefs of Hinduism through visual effects, paintings, tableaux, and traditional craftwork. This is where the girls learned a great deal about the values of Hinduism and Indian culture.

We headed up the carved white marble staircase to the Mandir. Here, intricate carvings of Hindu figures adorned every column, punctuated by patterns and friezes. Inside, it was calm and peaceful, allowing us all some time to reflect. We learned that all the carvings were carried out in India and shipped over to the UK to be assembled like a giant 3D puzzle. There were many murtis (idols) in the temple, and they were made so beautifully by the sculptors and decorated exquisitely in Indian clothes and jewellery.

We were honoured to be allowed to take part in Arti, which is a very special prayer ceremony. The ceremony involved monks waving lighted wicks in front of the sacred images, to the sound of music and prayer. It was a joyous and happy occasion, that we were able to share with many worshippers praying and clapping along to the music.

The story of the Neasden Mandir could have come from scripture, illustrating the triumph of the human spirit. It is humbling and inspiring that a group of ordinary Londoners could volunteer and join forces to pull together the money, land, materials, and skills to build something so spectacular. When the current Swamiji proclaimed his vision in 1972, he said that “the stones will inspire divinity in people”. We were all certainly inspired by the visit, evidenced by some of the comments from the girls.

Abi wrote that she felt that the visit was a good time to relax and be mindful. Ellie found the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition “fascinating”. Nora wrote that it was an amazing visit which she will never forget. Stefania’s favourite part was the prayer hall because of the “wonderful designs and carvings”. Claudia wrote, “when I walked into the exhibition it was like walking into a nighttime wonderland”. A great day was had by all.

Finally, a big thank you to the volunteers at the Shri Swaminarayan temple who were, as always, absolutely delightful.

 

Learn more about Surbiton High Girls’ Preparatory School here.

Categories: Girls' Prep School
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