Mandirs are a longstanding Hindu tradition. A mandir is a place of worship for Hindus. A mandir is a place where the mind becomes still and man experiences inner peace. For centuries, the mandir has remained a hub for life, a community forum where people forget their differences and voluntarily unite to serve society. It functions as a center for learning about man, nature, and Bhagwan. A mandir is where ethics and values are reinforced into the lives of children and adults. It is where people celebrate festivals and seek refuge during difficult times. It cultivates talents in various arts, music, and literature that are offered in the service of Bhagwan and the community.
Devotees visit mandirs to offer worship and devotion to the murti of Bhagwan, which is installed within the inner sanctum. The murti is consecrated by reciting Vedic mantras after which it becomes the manifest form of Bhagwan, not just a statue sculpted from stone or metal. Devotees revere and worship the murti as a living form of Bhagwan; they bathe it, adorn it in exquisite garments and ornaments, feed it, and put it to sleep. Furthermore, devotees come into contact with sadhus who reside at the mandir. The sadhus hold spiritual discourses to impart knowledge to the devotees and explain the philosophical doctrines of Hindu Dharma. The sadhus help transform hundreds of lives by leading people on the path of spirituality and morality. Moreover, the sadhus help console and free people from their addictions and bad habits.
In the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha there are two types of mandirs. The first type is known as the shikharbaddha mandir. These mandirs are built according to the principles of ancient Hindu Shilpa Shastras in the north Indian Nãgara style in which there are three shikhars and domes. Mandirs also represent a living form of Bhagwan, which is why devotees lovingly build such grand and majestic mandirs with intricate carvings. Footwear is removed upon entering a mandir because it is not only a place of worship but an object of worship as well; every part of a mandir is sacred. In the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, shikharbaddha mandirs usually have the following features:
  1. Aarti – performed five times a day.
  2. Mahapuja – performed every morning between the two morning aartis.
  3. Katha – performed 3 to 5 times a day.
  4. Sadhus – the only individuals allowed to care for the murtis, such as adorning the murtis with clothes and ornaments, and live within the mandir complex.
  5. Murtis – made of either stone or metal; in the first shrine are Shri Harikrishna Maharaj and Shri Rãdhã-Krishna Dev; in the center shrine is Shri Akshar Purushottam Maharaj – Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami; in the last shrine is Shri Ghanshyam Maharaj – Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s childhood form.
The second type of mandir found in the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is known as the hari mandir. Hari mandirs are generally built of cement, concrete, and steel and serve as a place of worship. They mainly have stone murtis of Shri Akshar-Purushottam Mahãrãj, Shri Rãdhã-Krishna Dev, and the BAPS guru paramparã. The pujari of a hari mandir is generally a householder devotee who performs ãarti twice a day. He is also responsible for adorning the murtis with clothes and ornaments and looks after the upkeep of the entire mandir. He holds katha twice a day. BAPS sadhus regularly visit the hari mandirs to deliver discourses and for home visits in the neighboring cities and villages.

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