No, we’re not at the Angkor Wat (although just a short time previously we were – see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/the-city-of-temples/ ) We’re on the Ealing Road, West London and this is the superb temple which took fourteen years to build and was inaugurated in 2010.
These pictures snapped on a bright winter’s morning last December show at its best the wonderful golden limestone from Jaisalmer (Rajasthan) of a truly crunchy-bar honeyness which was mainly used for the temple’s creation. Marble from Bansipahad and Makrana (in Rajasthan too) was also used. According to strict Hindu religious building canons, no steel girders were employed for its construction.
The statues were carved by craftsmen from Sola in Gujarat and shipped across with the same sculptors to assemble them on the temple. The artists, who were apparently well-paid in India, received the same wages for their work in London, only to find that they were getting well-below the UK minimum wage legislation. This created some not inconsiderable controversy which fortunately was resolved as one can see from this gorgeously completed building.
The temple is known as the Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir which means that it is an all-inclusive temple ecumenically catering for all Hindu sects without discrimination. Sanātanī temples believe in the Sanatana dharma (or Hindu religious law). In accordance with his belief in equality between castes Mahatma Ghandi promoted this dharma in 1921.
The temple has forty-one marble statues representing not only gods like Shri Radha Krishna, Vishnu, Shri Hanuman and Ganesh but also spiritual leaders such as Sikh Guru Nanak and Mother Teresa. See how many you can spot here:
The interior has a marvellous circular roof which reminds me somewhat of the Jain temples I once visited on Mount Abu (also in Rajasthan)..
The Mandir (temple) was built using funds raised by the Shri Vallabh Nidhi charity and is also known by that name. Shri Vallabh Nidhi (1479-1531) was a religious philosopher and founder of the Pushti sect which follows the belief in non-dualism (i.e. the concept that the universe and all its diversity are expressions of one crucial reality.
(Shri Vallabh Nidhi)
One of the pleasures in life is coming across beautiful buildings by chance. In Italy, for example, narrow streets can suddenly open out onto a magnificent cathedral in a quite unexpected manner. In Rome little alleys would suddenly open out onto the basilica of Saint Peter and its Bernini colonnade. This element of surprise was, regrettably, removed when the present wide Via della Conciliazione was completed in the 1950’s. Happily it still remains in most Italian towns and cities.
The surprise element of the Wembley temple is that it suddenly appears in the middle of typical nineteen thirties suburban buildings. The local underground station is a good example of interwar modernism by William Holden:
Opposite the temple is another good example of thirties modernism, the Baptist church.
The adjoining streets have the characteristic rows of mock-Tudor semi-detached houses typical of much of London:
The Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir is not the only remarkable Hindu temple in north–west London. The older Shri Swaminarayan Mandir at Neasden is actually built with marble from our own local mountains; the Apuan Alps (see my post on that marble at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/losing-ones-marbles/ ) :
Whether you are a believer in non-dualism, or are just waiting to catch the bus to Wembley, the Ealing Road temple is a remarkable vision!