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Shri Swaminarayan Mandir,London named one of the wonders of the 20th Century by the Reader's DigestShri Swaminarayan Mandir in London has been named one of the wonders of the 20th century by the Reader's Digest, after carefully considering and evaluating thousands of buildings and constructions in every country of the world, built since the year 1900. While the Sultan of Brunei's 300m palace has been included for its wealth of 1,788 rooms in 297 acres, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur as the tallest building at 452m, the 37.5km Channel Tunnel as the longest undersea tunnel, the Sydney Opera House in Australia as a visionary building, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for its awe, the Millennium Dome for its ebullience and ambitiousness - the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir has qualified for its magnificence, beauty, intricacy and the story of how it was built.

 

 

The Book

Reader's Digest's recent book The Eventful 20th Century - 70 Wonders of the Modern World, has included the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir, built by Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj, in Neasden, London - devoting two full pages (124-125) to the beauty and story of the mandir with colour photographs. The Endpapers, front and back, feature a newspaper headline 'Temple takes Neasden to new heights', and the Timechart which categorises the list of 70 wonders, highlights only one single global event in the year 1995 - it is the making of the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir! The 160-page first edition in English has 100,000 copies in circulation and reprints are expected with translated versions in other major languages of the world.

Why 70, and not 7
Around the 2nd century BC, the ancient Greeks had drawn up the first list of 7 man-made marvels of their time. These were the Pyramids of Giza, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Colossus of Rhodes. Of these, two were destroyed by invasions, three were levelled by earthquakes, and one consumed by fire. Only the Pyramids have survived the tortures and trials of time. Emphasizing this, the book clarifies that in every century thinkers have made their lists of wonders, but no other century has been as powerful as the 20th century. Technology available is the chief difference. Modern designers, architects and engineers have an unimaginable power of machineries and materialsat their disposal - ranging from cranes and concrete to tunnel-borers and fibreglass. So many ideas have been given shape at such a fast rate; from huge bridges, dams and tunnels to skyscrapers, powerstations and monuments. No century has seen the erection of so many creative constructions. And hence, selecting only seven wonders would not do justice. Therefore seventy wonders of the world of the 20th century were selected, keeping the criteria very much the same as the ancient world. Call it awe, wonder or amazement - whether it was inspired by the sheer scale like in the Aswan Dam, outstanding achievement as is the case of the Humber Bridge or the grandeur and creativity found in Disneyland.

Why the Mandir was Selected
The Mandir was selected because it made a global impact when inaugurated in 1995 and since then, there has been a continued global interest. The Mandir and its news were carried in almost all of the leading newspapers and TV channels of the world. And it still continues to hold its unique status as a powerful centre of attraction. Describing 'What Makes A Wonder,' the editor mentions the mandir with these words: "The Shree Swaminarayan temple deserves a place...because of its intricate detail and the extraordinary story of how it was built."

Extracts from the Article
"Like the Colossus of Rhodes, some 20th century structures qualify on account of the extraordinary scale of their artistic ambition - such as Mount Rushmore, the statue of Christ at Rio de Janeiro, the Moscow Rocket Monument.... Others earn our wonderment for their luxurious grandeur and extraordinarily lavish decoration, testament to the ambition of the individuals who built them. Hearst Castle, dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, was a rich man's fantasy estate, a place of spectacular opulence and bountiful entertainment that took over 18 years to build....the Great Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco, is probably the most sumptuous religious building created in the 20th century. The Shri Swaminarayan temple in Neasden, north London, in contrast, deserves a place not only because of its scale, but because of its intricate detail, and the extraordinary story of how it was built." (Pages 13-14)

"Neasden is famous for its ordinariness, a north London suburb of small industrial estates, tower blocks and residential streets lined with red-brick terrace houses. It makes an incongruous setting for one of Britain's most extraordinary 20th century buildings, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a Hindu temple - 'an abode of peace, love and harmony' - built to the meticulous standards of ancient religious tradition.... The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir complex represents an act of faith. Over 1000 volunteers worked on the building, and many more contributed and solicited donation, or organised sponsored walks and other activities; children raised money by collecting aluminium cans and foil for recycling.

"The temple complex was completed in just three years, at a cost of about 5 million, over half of which went on materials. The cost would have been incalculably higher without the efforts of the volunteers. As a result, when the temple was opened in August 1995, the ceremonies were greeted with great excitement and a deep sense of achievement by those who had contributed." (Pages 124-125)

Interesting Comparisons
Analysing the seventy wonders, one realises a subtle fact. Almost all the buildings - whether they are extraordinary dwellings, commercial ventures, funlands, power structures, tunnels, bridges, monuments, memorials or futuristic complexes - are either government financed and supported, or backed by a king or a millionaire - except one. The exact statistics are eye-opening - 44 have been constructed by government funds, 12 have been built by wealthy individuals, 11 were financed by mega-corporations, wealthy foundations or a group of rich people, 2 have been created by kings! But only one - Shree Swaminarayan Mandir - is a marvel of voluntary effort, made by common working class people and built by their devotion and donations. It is an act of faith and dedication. And it stands amongst the few that were completed within 3 years! However, the most interesting feature is the last question the editor asks, "We live too close to the wonders of the 20th century to know which will stand the test of time over another 50 years, let alone 2000 years." Of the 7 ancient wonders, the Pyramids is the only wonder that has stood the test of 2000 years. Of these 70 which wonders would be standing after a 1000 years? Not commenting on the others, the Mandir is made to last a thousand years. As one of the leading British Newspapers titled its article in 1995: "When was the last time a building was built in Britain to last a thousand years?" The Shree Swaminarayan Mandir is geared to remain a wonder for millennia to come!

(Extracts printed by courtesy of The Reader's Digest)

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