The new BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir on Gipsy Lane in Leicester opened its doors to the public on Sunday 9 October 2011. The long awaited inauguration of the Hindu temple came after nearly three years of tireless efforts by hundreds of dedicated volunteers and devotees.
The two-day ‘Festival of Inspirations’ marking the opening of the Mandir commenced on the morning of Saturday 8 October 2011 with a Vedic ceremony. Devotees and well-wishers offered their prayers for peace and well-being to prevail throughout the local community and country.
In the afternoon, the murtis (sacred images) to be consecrated in the Mandir travelled through the heart of the city in a colourful Nagar Yatra (literally, ‘City Procession’) to bless the city and inhabitants of the Mandir’s new home. Thousands came out on to the streets to enjoy the procession of beautifully decorated floats, traditional dances and the sounds of joyous music.
Anthony Wright of Marfitt Street shared: “As soon as I saw what was going on I had to call my children. I think it is amazing to see the whole community coming together and having a good time, especially in light of the recent riots which have taken place. It’s nice to see something positive for a change.”
On the morning of Sunday 9 October, the sacred images were infused with the divine presence of the Deities in a Vedic ceremony called the Murti-Pratishtha Vidhi. It was performed by senior sadhu Ishwarcharan Swami who had arrived from India at the behest of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. The ceremony signalled the Mandir as a home of God open now to one and all.
Kirit Patel, the Mandir’s lead coordinator, explained: “A Hindu temple is primarily a place of worship but it also plays an important role in inspiring and reinforcing family values and moral living among children, youths and the elderly. It is an integral part of the local community and we look forward to working with everyone, so it was fantastic to see so many people here enjoying the festivities over the weekend. We are truly thankful for the warm welcome and support we have received from everyone.”
Project coordinator Divyesh Tailor added that the temple complex was “an innovative fusion of modern amenities and traditional concepts”, and that it had been a “labour of love for thousands of devotees and supporters.”
Among those who have eagerly welcomed the new Mandir in Leicester is the City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby. “I’m so delighted because I’ve watched the Mandir grow, and know how much it means to the community, how much energy and effort people have put in to make it happen. I think it’s a great tribute to the community and it has – and is going to be – one of the most important features of not just the physical part of the city but the spiritual part of the city in the years ahead.”
Katie Langton, a nearby resident from Catherine Street, was equally grateful for the Mandir. “The temple is beautiful!” she said. “It’s certainly better to look at than the old factory that was there. I’m really excited by it and would love to see it inside.”
The new Mandir will serve as the hub of spiritual, community and charity services for BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in Leicestershire.