In 1972, a small group of devotees based in and around Wellingborough began to meet to conduct spiritual discourses at one another’s homes. Wellingborough’s Hindu community at this time was growing gradually and these devotees would celebrate festivals in the local Baptist Church and other community venues.
In 1974, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj graced Wellingborough. He was pleased with the progress that had been made from such humble beginnings and encouraged the devotees to find a place where a mandir could be established. At the time, Pramukh Swami Maharaj formed a small management committee who soon located a modest terraced house – 16 Mill Road – in November 1974. Despite its small size and impaired condition, the first footings were in place for a mandir in Wellingborough. Pictorial murtis (sacred images) of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Gunatitanand Swami, Gopalanand Swami, Hanuman, Ganesh, and the Guru Parampara (lineage of successive gurus) were placed.
Expansion Along Mill Road
The house next to the mandir, number 18, was acquired in 1976. The two houses were combined, providing a small hall and a kitchen area.
In 1977, Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited London. A small group of devotees from Wellingborough met him and received his blessings to hold a four-day festival for the murti pratishtha (ceremonial dedication) of the new murtis in Wellingborough. On 30 July 1977, the auspicious day of Raksha Bandhan, Pramukh Swami Maharaj consecrated the murtis with a Vedic ceremony.
In 1978 and 1979, two more adjoining properties were acquired, extending the size of the Mandir to the equivalent of four houses.
In 1980, Pramukh Swami Maharaj consecrated the concrete pillar (with five chandlas of kumkum) that housed the murtis of Bhagatji Maharaj, Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj, and declared it as symbolic of the Akshar Deri in Gondal, India, thus establishing it as sacred and a place of pilgrimage. (The Akshar Deri is a holy shrine in Gondal, Gujarat, that commemorates the cremation spot of Gunatitanand Swami, the first spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The Akshar Deri in Gondal is visited by the faithful throughout the world, who offer their prayers and perform circumambulations for spiritual elevation and fulfilment. The Akshar Deri at Wellingborough was thus inaugurated by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 1980, and since then has become a place of pilgrimage, especially for those unable to travel to India.)
In 1982, Pramukh Swami Maharaj instructed that all major festivals be celebrated at the Mandir, and since that day, important Hindu festivals such as Vasant Panchami, Holi, Ramnavami, Guru Purnima, and Diwali, amongst others, have been devoutly celebrated.
On 1 January 1984, the first ‘Akhand Dhun’ (collective chanting of spiritual prayers) was organised with Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s blessings. The ‘Swaminarayan’ mahamantra was recited for 12 hours continuously, from 7.00am to 7.00pm. This soon became an annual event attended by devotees from all over the country.
Nourished by Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s visits in 1980, 1982, 1984, 1988, and 1990, the fellowship in Wellingborough continued to grow steadily. In 1990, Pramukh Swami Maharaj suggested that the devotees secure the two remaining properties adjacent to the existing location. These were acquired and resulted in further expansion of the Mandir along Mill Road, helping provide better kitchen facilities and rooms for separate assemblies for children and teenagers.
New Mandir Project
Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited Wellingborough again in 1994 and 2000. It soon became apparent that the Mandir was becoming too small to cater for the growing congregation. In due course, plans were drawn up and approved to construct a new purpose-built facility. And so, all six houses were knocked down in 2008 and the ground consecration ceremony was held in May 2008 in the presence of Narendraprasad Swami (Acharya Swami). Construction duly began and a comprehensive building was soon ready to meet the needs of the congregation and the community.
Situated on the corner of Mill Road and Victoria Road, the new Mandir truly lies at the heart of the community it aims to serve. Warm, friendly and inviting, this home of worship and charity will bring fresh vitality to the community through its various spiritual, cultural and social activities. With much consultation and thought throughout the planning stages, the Mandir has been designed to be equipped with adequate facilities to cater for the needs of all community members – young and old alike.
Hindu scriptures implicitly state that while it is important that the murtis be consecrated by performing the correct rituals, it is fundamentally necessary that they are consecrated by a person who is himself the receptacle for God's unlimited grace. Such a God-realised guru is to be asked to perform the rituals and it is on his calling that God is invoked within the murtis. In accordance with these principles, Pramukh Swami Maharaj performed the relevant rituals of the murtis at Bochasan, in India, on the auspicious day of Guru Purnima on 7 July 2009.
Meanwhile in Wellingborough, the finishing touches were being added to the newly- constructed Mandir. To celebrate its inauguration, a special two-day Mandir Mahotsav festival was arranged over the weekend of 22-23 August 2009. A Vedic ceremony for peace and harmony, a grand procession of the sacred images through the town of Wellingborough, as well as an inspiring evening of cultural programmes marked the joyous occasion. The climax of the celebrations was the ceremonial dedication of the murtis at the hands of senior sadhu Swayamprakash Swami (Doctor Swami) on the morning of Sunday 23 August 2009.