The historic shilanyas mahotsav (foundation stone-laying ceremony) of a new BAPS Hindu mandir being constructed in France took place in Bussy-Saint-Georges, an eastern suburb of Paris, in the presence of Anandswarupdas Swami over the weekend of 3-4 September 2022.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Paris, being described as an “architectural masterpiece”, will be Europe’s first traditional purpose-built temple and a fitting addition to the capital of France, one of the most beautiful and artistic cities in the world.
The mandir is being constructed at the Esplanade des religions et des cultures, the multifaith and multicultural heartland of Paris, alongside a mosque, synagogue, churches, Buddhist temples, and other places of worship. It was chosen by local authorities as an ambassador of Hindu culture and wisdom and for BAPS’s commitment to promoting integrity, peace and harmony around the world.
Several dignitaries attended the festivities, including His Excellency Jawed Ashraf, Ambassador of India to France and Monaco, His Excellency Vishal Sharma, Ambassador of India to UNESCO, Yann Dubosc, Mayor of Bussy-Saint-Georges, and Ylias Akbaraly, Chairman and CEO of Sipromad Group. They were joined by hundreds of devotees and guests from various parts of France, other European countries, and India.
The ancient Vedic ceremony signified the start of the temple’s construction. It was accompanied by a vibrant cultural programme of dance, videos and presentations delivered in French and Hindi that described the positive and uplifting contribution that the mandir will make to France.
In the assembly, Brahmaviharidas Swami drew up universal Hindu values from the Vedas and Upanishads, such as the world as one global family, as well as the interfaith harmony and collaboration that the mandir will foster, while Anandswarupdas Swami explained how the mandir will empower future generations of the region with practical spirituality.
Ambassador Ashraf said, “This magnificent temple will not only serve as a place of worship but will be a living centre of learning, humanity, culture, and a centre that provides refuge to all. The temple will shape a future of peace, harmony, co-existence – not just of tolerance, but the embrace of diversity and pluralism that makes this world so beautiful.”
Ambassador Sharma added, “Swaminarayan temples are built not only for today with the glory of the past, but built with a futuristic vision – the vision of Pramukh Swami Maharaj – to serve children, mothers and fathers, because this is not just devotion, but devotion with a social message, a great mixture of technology with spirituality.”
Ylias Akbaraly thanked the French administration for supporting the temple and shared that he felt “happiness and peace in my heart on this special day in France”. He also spoke of the values of peace, respect, love and humility that the temple will nurture and how its activities, such as education and de-addiction, will inspire upright, purposeful lives.
Mahant Swami Maharaj had sent his personal blessings for the occasion in which he recalled fond memories of Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj at Le Bourget Airport in Paris in 1970, which had sown the vision of the mandir more than 50 years ago. He also blessed that the new mandir will bring the millennia-old legacy of Hindu temples to the beautiful city of Paris, inspiring intercultural respect, community service and global harmony.
Following the assembly, devotees and guests participated in the concluding portion of the shilanyas ceremony by placing a brick in the foundation pit.
Earlier, on Friday 2 September, Brahmaviharidas Swami and Yogvivekdas Swami met with several leading figures of French society, kindly convened by Ylias Akabaraly, to discuss the mandir project. The delegates included The Honourable Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former Prime Minister of France and current advisor to President Macron, Yonathan Arfi, President of CRIF, the umbrella organisation of French Jewish associations, Vincent Niore, President of the Paris Bar Association of lawyers, and Renaud Girard, Editor in Chief of Le Figaro, a leading French newspaper. They were intrigued to learn of the work of BAPS France for families and communities, including during the covid pandemic and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine