All welcome here...

by - Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Looking at this picture I captured, where do you think I am? Perhaps you might say a temple in India or an island of Indonesia. What if I told you this intricate example of architecture can be found less than a two-hour car ride in Mercer County?

Welcome to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

Clipping an article from The Record newspaper months ago, the intention was a future visit. With so many obligations tugging from all directions of late, both personal and professional, I was in dire need of a mental break, even if for a few hours. A change of scenery can not only refresh but uplift and assuage. My decision was made.

I skimmed the website before embarking on the road, noting hours and respectable requests for a visit to the Hindu temple. Even though I had seen a few pictures, I really wasn't sure what to expect. 

After an hour and a half, at the entrance gate I was greeted by a gracious man, delighted to welcome my first visit. Eagerly directing me around the circle to the right, he hoped I would enjoy enough to return again soon. Teeming within me was this great feeling to know this was the perfect place to be for the moment.

My stride was slow and deliberate for there was so much to see! It is absolutely exquisite, a true masterpiece of Indian design and workmanship. All in Italian Carrara marble, the intricate carvings have so much depth and detail, it takes time to digest. Whether visitors participate in Hindu rituals or learn about the world’s oldest living faith, all are welcome to experience personal pursuit for their own purpose at their own pace.

Construction of this Mandir began in 2010 and was completed in 2014, with much more in the works for a Visitor's Center to house a small exhibition on Indian culture and history.

Inside the temple visitors are required to remove their shoes. There are separate cubicles for storing them during your stay as well as scarves should one need to cover bare shoulders or midriffs. In Sanskrit, Mandir means "a place where the mind becomes still and experiences inner peace". Once my bare feet touched the floor, I felt immediate comfort for the marble was not cold as expected but smooth and warm, inviting me to step in and explore the divine shrines and majestic intricacies ahead.

Photographs are strictly prohibited inside the Mandir, but we were allowed the opportunity to capture images in the spaces around and outside. Every surface heralded beauty. I kept looking up!

All individual pieces were carved at the workshops in India, then assembled to ensure a proper and accurate fit. Using a system developed by on-site engineers, they were all subsequently numbered, disassembled and carefully packed before being shipped to New Jersey. Each stone traveled a distance of 21,500 miles.

A Mandir is a place of paramount peace…to realize God. - H.H. Pramukh Swami Maharaj

I loved the mosaic floor and mural stations inside the Mandir. Since I was unable to photograph them, here is a sampling from the Creative Edge Master Shop.

photos above in collage from Creative Edge Master Shop

The beautiful carvings and images are not only aesthetically appealing, but also significant. The ninety eight pillars depict the lives of the great spiritual aspirants. Their inspiring stories, as well as Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s key messages are incorporated throughout the Mandir.

Amid such majesty, I felt awe, joy, hope, peace. Renewal of spirit can absolutely be experienced in a place here where all are welcome... xoxo-Sonya

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