The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto is Canada’s first hand-carved stone and marble Hindu temple built according to ancient Indian principles, in a tradition that dates back many millennia. It’s a stunning structure that evokes the mystical beauty and spiritual essence of India.
Carved entirely of white marble and limestone, the mandir (a Hindu place of worship) was designed using traditional engineering principles without the use of steel or nails, or reinforcement from ferrous material, even in the foundations.
The temple was made by about 1,800 craftsmen in Rajasthan, India, and then shipped to Canada. The 24,000 hand-carved stone pieces were reassembled by 101 volunteer artisans from India, who lived on the construction site for two years.
Using building techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation by craftsmen in India, they assembled more than 95,000 cubic feet of stone that included 2,638 tonnes of Turkish limestone, 2,260 tonnes of Carrara marble, and 1,484 tonnes of Indian pink sandstone. The stone was shipped to Canada in containers weighing up to 5.6 tonnes.
Among the many impressive features of the mandir are the 340 pillars, out of which 112 are intricately carved; 132 archways; and a series of domes, pinnacles, and stone crowns. The temple is a meditation zone, requiring visitors to maintain silence. Several daily rituals take place in the mandir, which visitors can attend, such as the Aarti and the Abhishek ritual.
The complex includes a Haveli intricately hand-carved in Burmese teak. The Haveli is a welcome courtyard with an entrance lobby that features hundreds of carved figures of musicians, poets and dancers. Wooden columns and panels depict hundreds of dancing peacocks, lotus flowers, and royal elephants. There’s also an ongoing exhibition on Understanding Hindu Dharma, which showcases the rich heritage of India.
The Toronto mandir is part of a network of traditional Hindu temples built across the world, such as the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Atlanta and BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Sanstha Mandir outside Chicago.