ROBBINSVILLE — What some are dubbing the largest Hindu Temple complex in the country will open its doors to everyone in the community, next week as the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha Temple kicks off phase two of its $18 million religious complex on Aug. 9 and 10.
“I always say that this was thanks to small hands and big hearts,” said BAPS Swaminarayan Temple volunteer spokesperson Yogi Trivedi who said that the funds were raised through the constant contributions of the less than 1000 member congregation. “It is through each volunteer’s ‘bhagti’ (personal devotion), that we have this beautiful mandir (temple).”
The 134 feet long and 87 foot wide marble structure was built according to the Hindu Shilpa Shastras or ancient architectural texts. Trade volunteers such as HVAC specialists, engineers and contractors gave their time and expertise to complete construction, according to Trivedi. “The temple was built from Italian marble which was sculpted in Rajistan, India. It was shipped here in pieces and then, like a jigsaw puzzle, it was put together here,” he said.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who inspired the building of the temple, holds the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the largest traditional Hindu Mandir outside India. An intricately designed structure, the building is comprised of 108 pillars and three garbha gruhs (inner sanctums) — the hand-carved mandir is built to last thousands of years and is protected under a shaded area, to help the marble withstand harsh winters and smoldering summers.
“This is one of the most beautiful constructions I have ever seen and the people have been just wonderful to work with, said Mayor David Fried . “They truly are an extremely good group to work with and great corporate citizens,” he continued.
The mayor applauded the members of the congregation and those who ran the large non-temple portion of the facility when they opened up their doors during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. “They had generators and they were kind enough to house all the truckers who came up from Louisiana to help us out after the storm,” recalled Fried.
“These poor truckers came up here to help keep the generators running at the hospitals and at the sewage plants and they didn’t have a place to sleep because all the hotels were filled. I was really impressed to see how open the temple was to these truckers, giving them a place to sleep and food to eat,” he continued.
The mayor was so impressed by the development of phase one and by the hyper-organization of the facility managers, that he appointed a member of the temple, Niel Sierkerka, as a four-year board member to the township planning board.
Keeping in the deep-seeded traditions of the Hindu Shastras, the facility and its plethora of extracurricular offerings, including culturally based classes such as Hindi and Gujrati language instruction, culinary arts classes and traditional music classes, are open to anyone in the community who is willing to learn.
During the inaugural ceremonies on Friday, Aug. 9 and Saturday, Aug. 10, Vedic Yagna or sacrificial ritual for world peace and will be followed by a Shobha Yatra or celebratory procession of the deities.
“We will also have the Murti Pratishta ceremony, this is where the priests evoke the power of the god into the standing deity,” said Trivedi.
Additionally, the community is encouraged to come out and enjoy special cultural performances and His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj will be in attendance as part of the inauguration ceremonies and festivities. He will be joined by a delegation of 40 sadhus and priests from India to officiate the rituals of the installation.
Thousands of devotees are expected to attend what is considered to be a highly religious event and mandir leaders encourage non-Hindus to also attend.
“It is like Swami Maharaj says, that ‘in the joy of others lies our own,’” quoted Trivedi.