Largest Hindu temple in the world
Come July 22 Canada will boast of having one of the largest Hindu temples in the world, when Swaminarayan temple will be opened for worship.
Sitting like a snow-capped Himalayan mountain in north east part of the city, home to over 200,000 Hindus, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (temple) will be opened for worship in the presence of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto Mayor David Miller and other dignitaries.
The exterior is a confection of creamy hand-carved limestone and sparkling Italian Carrara marble. Pink sandstone decorates the interior spaces.
When this building, topped with red-and-white flags to ward off evil, opens for worship, it will officially be one of the largest Hindu temples in the world. The residents of Toronto see it as a priceless asset for Canadians.
"It comes from your inner heart", said a woman who insisted on being identified only as Sakshi.
"The temple has inspired my 4-year-old son to get up from his computer, and nothing can do that," she said. Every evening we are going to go down there to see its spiritual beauty, and it's going to make a tremendous difference on our kids.
"Mostly people are proud to have it here," Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said, adding it is the pride of Toronto and will help Canadians discover India in Canada.
The local Hindu community which paid for the USD40 million building without any public funding and provided 400 volunteer workers, wants the world to know it has arrived.
Temple's walls and ceilings are embellished with carved figures, both human and animal, everything from dancing women to elephants and peacocks. These are images of divinity, sensuality and serenity.
Indeed, the temple is a monument to skills largely lost in our mechanised age. Marble from India and Italy and limestone from Turkey were shipped first to a series of villages in India where they were sculpted into their final form. The pieces were then transported to Toronto to be assembled.
As project manager, engineer Naren Sachdev, one of many who have donated their time and expertise to the building of the temple, explained, each piece was marked with a bar code to facilitate construction. This unique combination of ancient techniques and modern technology, allowed the complex to be finished in record time.
"The project started in 2005 and despite the use of computers and high-tech equipment, it took almost two years to complete the project," he said.
Even the delicately carved interiors of the domes are sculpted from marble and held in place with stone keys. The building, Sachdev pointed out, will last a thousand years; but the mechanical systems, all as contemporary as can be, will need replacing within 25 years.
"Beneath the mandir, is the Indo-Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage. This will be the specifically Canadian addition to what is otherwise a traditional complex, a nod to multiculturalism. This is a place open to all," says community leader Suresh Thakrar.