Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
In August 1995 the site of an old warehouse in the south-west corner of Neasden became the unlikely home of the biggest Hindu temple outside India: the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, popularly known as the Neasden Temple.
The Mandir’s 26,300 pieces were carved in India from Bulgarian limestone and Italian marble, shipped to London and assembled in under three years by over a thousand volunteers. The materials were specifically selected to be durable enough to withstand British weather conditions. No metals were used as Hindus believe that metal interferes with the mental efforts needed for meditation and devotion. The temple has the only layered segmental dome in the UK with no steel or lead.
The temple is a popular visitor attraction, open from 9am to 6pm daily, 365 days a year. Admission is free but there’s a small fee to view an Understanding Hinduism exhibition and a video presentation explaining how the Mandir was built.
In accordance with the sacred purpose of the temple, visitors are asked to abide by various rules of dress (no skirts above knee height, removing shoes on entry) and behaviour, including the maintenance of complete silence in the holiest parts of the temple. However, the latter was more honoured in the breach than in the observance by the many schoolchildren the author observed during his visit. No photography is allowed inside the temple.