Britain’s Prince Charles has issued a special video message to mark the 25th anniversary of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in north London, which prides itself as a “made in India, built in London” grand monument and among the largest temples outside India.
The heir to the British throne, who has made four visits to what is commonly known as Neasden Temple to mark Holi and Diwali over the years, reflected on its role as a place of worship, learning, celebration, peace and community service.
“It has given me immense pride to learn of the way in which the Hindu community, including such a large number of BAPS volunteers, have been so active in their support for those in need – providing thousands of hot meals and assistance for the elderly and most vulnerable,” said the Prince of Wales in his video message on Thursday.
“I have also been struck by the very special beauty and craftsmanship of the building,” added the 71-year-old royal.
The temple, as a vision of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, began taking shape in July 1991 and opened its doors to visitors 25 years ago in August.
Over the years, it has welcomed several dignitaries from around the world, including most recently UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of his election in December 2019 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.
Modi recalled his visit in a Twitter message: “Neasden Temple marks its silver jubilee. The Temple has been at the forefront of many community service initiatives. It has brought people together and inspired them to work for humanity.
“When I was Gujarat CM, I had the honour of visiting the Temple.” The silver jubilee celebrations at the temple, being held remotely due to the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, involve musical tributes and prayers set to conclude this weekend with a Vishwa Shanti Mahapuja to be webcast live on Sunday.
“The millennia-old Vedic prayers and mantras chanted during the mahapuja bestow purity, peace and harmony in the world,” a temple spokesperson said.
“The mahapuja can also bring peace of mind, righteous prosperity and family harmony to the participants. The mahapuja will also provide an opportunity for thousands across the UK, Europe and the rest of the world to pray for those affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic,” the spokesperson said.
The temple describes itself as a “humble tribute to the inexpressible beauty, majesty and glory of the Divine” and involved over 3,000 volunteers in its creation.
It is made up of 5,000 tonnes of Italian Carrara, Indian Ambaji marble and fine Bulgarian limestone and was hand-carved in India before being assembled in London.
Around 169 craftsmen working across eight workshops in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Bengal were involved in the intricate hand-carvings that make up the haveli-style structure.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a worldwide Hindu organisation rooted in the Vedas and dedicated to the service of society, said the temple in London is based on the ancient, exact and religious discipline or Vastu Shastra, or Sthapatya Veda, the “Discipline of Sacred Architecture” and also satisfies modern British building regulations.