Open House Festival

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

religious, online

C. B. Sompura, 1995

1 Pramukh Swami Road, Neasden, NW10 8HW

Europe’s first traditional Hindu temple is a masterpiece of exquisite Indian craftsmanship. Using 5,000 tonnes of Italian and Indian marble and the finest Bulgarian limestone, it was hand-carved in India before being assembled in London.

Getting there


Harlesden, Wembley Park, Stonebridge Park


224, 206




Use and preparation of wood

The wood used for the Haveli is Burmese Teak and English Oak. The Burmese Teak was chosen because it was traditionally used in Havelis in India.

All the carved wood is left in its natural colour and coated with a clear varnish to maintain the beauty and depth of the wood. Internal carved timber ‘members’ had to be treated with coating to achieve a ‘Class “O” spread of flame’ for fire prevention.

Wood members used
The wood carvings are in 70 different types of members, each having a specific function. The main foyer is a work of art with two high level lentel roof lights that are kept two storeys high, and with fully clad Haveli style timber work to create a shaft of natural daylight. The lightwell cladding also features “stucco” balcony (Zaruka) with an Akshar Deri profile carved on a balustrade panel.

Fabrics and carpets
The internal finish of the complex includes a unique purpose-designed carpet that reflects some of the carvings from the Haveli work and has been designed depicting traditional Gujarati fabrics as the basis.

The lighting is designed in traditional Haveli light fitting which are glass yarn/goblets. The hanging Haveli glass goblets are suspended with brass chains and hooks and illumination will create a candle light effect.

The landscape consists of both soft and hard landscaping including a water moat which garlands the Mandir. The soft landscaping has been spread around the main temple. There are various sorts of evergreen plants and seasonal flowers carefully planted to create a serene and ‘pleasing to the eye’ environment around the sacred Mandir.

The Mandir

Opened in August 1995 – five ornate shrines, which are the focal point of the Mandir, house the sacred deities, replete with lavish thrones and royal attire.

Prayer Hall – the uniquely designed pillar-less hall spans 50 metres in width. The carpets are lavishly designed and patterned in symbolic emblems, colours and designs.

Foyer – with soaring wooden columns and panels. Dancing peacocks, delicate lotus flowers and royal elephants beckon in greeting.

The Mandir complex is built in a Haveli style, but what does it mean?

Haveli traditionally means courtyard architecture. It is an architectural style made from wood and involves intricate carvings with various floral patterns etc. Thus the idea of using it in the Mandir complex is to create an authentic (north-western Indian appearance, especially Gujarat) atmosphere. The complex has 9,000 sq. feet of Haveli work.

Stones – various types of stone were studied to find the most suitable. These included Bansi Paharpur, Ambaji, Dholpur, Makrana, and Jesalmer stones. Of these, the Bansi Paharpur was favoured most.

Architecture – four architectural styles were studied:
- Raj: Indo-British style prevalent in Delhi, since the British Raj.
- Jaipur: Palace-style architecture
- Jesalmer: Arcade style
- Haveli: Courtyard architecture – carved Tudor style.

The designers were in favour of either the Raj or Jaipur styles, therefore their attention was focussed more on these. However, Swamishri selected the Haveli style even with less work having been done on it. Swamishri marked his approval by signing the Haveli design.

Number of Craftsmen
The carvings needed for the Haveli complex were mainly done in five key sites in India – Uttar Pradesh, Ahemdabad, Bombay, Rajasthan and Bengal. This was done using 169 craftsmen, this does not include the co-ordinators who oversee the work. Overall number of craftsmen from India working on the Mandir and Haveli sites were in the region of 60-70.

East Meets West

This building is quite unique as the architecture is a combination of East and West. The main sub-structural frame of complex has been built on Western technology using steel and concrete work, and the finish elements are of Eastern design and concepts, e.g. timber portico and Haveli work etc.

Cultural Complex
The main features of the Complex – a Sabha Hall, Sports Hall, Medical Rooms, Library, Conference Room, Administration Offices, Creche facilities, Marriage Hall, parking for 550 cars, beautiful landscape and fountains, and accommodation for Swamishri and sadhus.

The total built up area amounts to 102,018 square feet. The front entrance façade facing Meadow Garth is approximately 250 ft. in length and 35 ft high. There is an ‘open to sky’ courtyard between the Mandir and Complex. It is 132 ft long and 56 ft wide.

The Sabha Hall
The Sabha Hall has no columns and allows natural light to enter through 4 lightwells, each with 9 large windows. It has the facilities to divide it into 3 halls in order to create multi-purpose areas.

The Kitchen Facilities
Thus technology is being adapted to traditional styles of cooking. The ventilation system in the kitchen is such that initially hot air is brought in to help the cooking and, when it gets hot enough, cool air is pumped in to keep the temperature from rising.

The Basement will mostly be taken by the boiler house and storage facilities. This includes a chilling room which is twice that of one in the original complex, and also a cool room for things that require to be kept at around 4-5 degrees Celsius.

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