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Dharma Initiative
July 21, 2007 5:53 AM   Subscribe

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a masterpiece of exotic design and workmanship that rises above the grey commuterland of north-west London. Made out of 5,000 tonnes of Italian marble and Bulgarian limestone and hand-carved, Europe's first traditional Hindu temple represents the ancient Indian traditions, arts and philosophies. It may not be the largest traditional temple outside India, but it certainly is the most beautiful. Deities and motifs spring from the walls, ceilings and windows, representing the faith and beliefs of a people that date back over 8,500 years.
posted by chuckdarwin (23 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
From one of the links: "The temple is open to everyone. You do, however, need to take off your shoes before entering the prayer area."
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:55 AM on July 21, 2007


Ugh, there's nothing worse then crap HDR shots like this one
posted by delmoi at 7:10 AM on July 21, 2007


Heh:
The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and Haveli is in Neasden, north-west London - an area which is most famous for its roundabout and large Ikea home furnishings store than anything else.
I think it's pretty cool that they actually shipped the blocks to india to be carved, and sent back. [NOT OUTSOURCEIST!]
posted by delmoi at 7:13 AM on July 21, 2007


Ugh, there's nothing worse then crap HDR shots
Especially when it isn't really an HDR shot.
posted by medium format at 7:25 AM on July 21, 2007


Funny, I don't know that I've seen this. And I used to shop the Ikea near there. Maybe I confused it with a carpet store (if I only saw a small part of it, from the road)
posted by Goofyy at 7:42 AM on July 21, 2007


I am always amazed at the intricacy in the traditional Indian Temple carvings, as well as that of the South American Indian temple carvings.
posted by lonemantis at 7:43 AM on July 21, 2007


How embarrassing. For years I've been mixing the Neasden temple up with this one, which is also just round the corner from me. So thanks for this.

I think Mark Twain was the last person to say anything nice about Neasden, and even then he meant Dollis Hill instead...
posted by motty at 7:52 AM on July 21, 2007


What's wrong with that photo, delmoi?
posted by arcticwoman at 7:56 AM on July 21, 2007


I don't know about delmoi but my 0.02 is that HDR makes photos look like something from the uncanny valley's neighbor, the pukey photoshopped valley.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:47 AM on July 21, 2007


Interesting post. Something I never knew about. Nice to learn something new.

As far as the HDR shot, I'm not impressed with 99.9% of HDR, mainly because most people don't show any restraint with it. The photo delmoi links to is not bad as far as that goes, but it's just not a very interesting photo in general.
posted by Eekacat at 9:47 AM on July 21, 2007


Psst, look closely, it's all Lego bricks...

A little more serious nitpicking: "a people that date back over 8,500 years" is not the best way to put it, even if I understand what you mean. That sounds like peoples pop out of the ground fully formed at certain dates, most of them after the Indians.
posted by Termite at 10:16 AM on July 21, 2007


Thanks for the links chuckdarwin. It really is a beautiful structure.

arcticwoman : What's wrong with that photo, delmoi?

At a guess, I'd say it's that the arch in the front should not be exposed the same as the building behind it. At least, that's the part that immediately looked wrong to me.

representing the faith and beliefs of a people that date back over 8,500 years

I didn't dig really deeply into that link, but the only reference to a date I saw was 3000 years, am I missing something obvious?
posted by quin at 10:27 AM on July 21, 2007


They also built one of these in a suburb of Houston. It's an impressive $20 mil structure, but there is something really not right about the whole operation. I've felt more spirituality at a ramshackle roadside church than this ornate temple. The idea of worshipping the creator rather than the creation comes in to play here.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:39 AM on July 21, 2007


It is beautiful, but the actual temple (the wedding cake bit) was a lot smaller in real life than I expected. The attached prayer hall is huge though. There is a museum, which is an interesting insight into Hinduism, and about the building of the mandir.

Anyone can visit, you can just turn up, the temple is closed for prayer at certain times, but they warn you about that, and you can do other stuff like the museum whilst you're waiting.

It is just across the North Circular from Ikea, but you can't see it from there. If you are going on a Sunday (good time to go because there are lots of community activities on so there is a buzz too it) get there before Ikea opens, park in Ikea's carpark and walk from there. Parking near the mandir is crazy, and their car park is often full.

They have lots of good stuff in their shop too.

Other non-Christian places of worship in London that I've visited and recommend are: The Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha (their official site seems down at the moment) in Southall - now that is huge; Bhaktivedanta Manor hone of the Hari Krishna's in the UK which is also farm and a monastery. I really want to go to is the Wat Buddhapadipa.

I realise there's a lack of mosques in this list, I've been to several in London, but they've mostly been small local ones, which have been wonderful, but not really set up for random visits (although I'm sure they would welcome you with open arms if you did)
posted by Helga-woo at 11:16 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Insert missing words here:

farm and a monastery. The place I really want to go to
posted by Helga-woo at 11:18 AM on July 21, 2007


It's clunky, but what it says is actually: representing the faith and beliefs of a people that date back over 8,500 years.

The faith is old, not the people...
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:30 AM on July 21, 2007


As far as photos go, I was hard up... you can't photograph inside, and the ones I found of the outside were not as good as I'd hoped.

Here are the ones I found on flickr.
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:51 AM on July 21, 2007


chuckdarwin : The faith is old, not the people...

Actually, that's where my question comes from, 8500 years old puts their origins at 6500 BC, and I'm not finding a lot in terms of anything relating to Hinduism from that far back. Most accounts seem to be putting it at about 1000 BC.
posted by quin at 12:00 PM on July 21, 2007


you can't photograph inside

I've seen that come up more than once lately. Were I rich and eccentric, I would love to start an organization that employs really detail oriented artists, whom I could send in and have them be able to produce photo-realistic drawings and paintings.

I would then send them into all sorts of places like this. It would allow the building to maintain their rules, while providing some of us who can't easily get there an idea of what's inside.
posted by quin at 12:08 PM on July 21, 2007


The earliest evidence for elements of Hinduism date back to the late neolithic to the early Harappan period (5500–2600 BCE).
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:36 PM on July 21, 2007


What's wrong with that photo, delmoi?

It's hard to describe in text, but look at the color of the sky a few pixels around the building. Then, look at the sky right next to the arch. You can see there is a 'halo' of brightness in the sky around the arches. Why? It wasn't in the photo naturally, rather it's a weird artifact caused by the crappy HDR process he used. You can also see anomalies on the path, it's brighter at the left and right corners then it is in the middle. it's just wrong and the sky is such an awful color, looks like mud.

The picture would have looked fine normally, as well.
posted by delmoi at 12:57 PM on July 21, 2007


There's a similar one opening in the west side of Toronto tomorrow.
posted by scruss at 2:33 PM on July 21, 2007


The picture would have looked fine normally, as well.

Seems like a great HDR to me. And as for the question that it would have looked better without HDR: aside from that being mere opinion, it's really hard to say from this shot.

You'd need a meter measurement off of the darkest and lightest parts of the scenes, and you'd need to know the dynamic range of the sensor, and the artist's intention as well. I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if the foreground, shadowed stone would have been much darker than the photog would have liked without HDR (or the sky totally blown out). Since I don't like the cartoonish HDR, this one suits my fancy. But to each their own.

I really want to see one of these temples up close. Fascinating. Like holy, stone legos!
posted by teece at 5:42 PM on July 23, 2007


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