The Billion-Dollar Temple

After our visit to Baha’i temple, our next stop was Swami Narayan Temple (BAPS). We came to know, (through Kurup uncle), that they have constructed a multi mi(bi)llion – dollar temple for Swami Narayan – Swami Narayan Sampraday of Gujarat. Kurup uncle and we thought we would go together to this temple. But we included it on our tour anyway.

We had earlier visited another Swami Narayan temple in Medinah, Illinois (where our favorite Hari OM Mandir is located). The statues were very beautiful in that temple and it was very quiet and peaceful. That itself, we thought, is very rich, with its beautiful wooden carvings and the scultptings. And when they said another Swami Narayan temple has come up (and that too close to the old one), we wondered why another one is being constructed. I did not have any idea, then, of how rich our immigrant Indians are.

We were awe-struck at the grandeur of the new temple – italian marble, rosewood carvings, briliant chandliers, marbeled pillars with intricate sculpted designs and so on. It was very calm, serene and beautiful and many people visited that temple as a tourist attraction. There was a pond in the front and a well maintained garden with paved ways. The security also was tight there. By the time we went, it was evening and they had just closed the altar doors to be re-opened for evening’s prayer in a half an hour time. So, we took a stroll around the temple and in the garden and took some wonerful photos. I was walking around the temple and was so reminded of our BITS Saraswati temple in Pilani. I love that temple. No sooner was I about to touch the outside of the temple, trying to show something to Hari than a security personnel came running speaking loudly, “Madam, you cannot walk there.” I was a bit confused as I did not understand from far what he was trying to say, but when I made out my mistake, I simply stepped aside and went to another part of the garden.

Hari and I were lost when we entered the inside of the temple. There was one big verandah with skylights and all children were enjoying themselves there. There was a room to our right, which indicated “Entrance for Ladies only”. We know that in Swami Narayan temple Ladies and Gentlemen need to enter in different sections. So we thought that was the main entrance to the temple, said bye to each other, and I entered the Ladies section. It was a very huge auditorium with Swami Narayan idols oin the main stage. It was lecture hall, as I came to know when I entered. Ladies sat at the back and gentlemen in the front, and it was huge, with much distance between these two sections. A swami was delivering the lecture in Gujarati and everyone was smiling whenever he joked (I knew that it was a joke, when everyone smiled), for I do not know Gujarati. Well, I tried to understand some, and could, as it was similar to Hindi in some aspects, but I had no way of communicating with my husband that we can leave to the main temple. I did not know where he was. Half an hour passed and I got up and left the hall through our “Ladies Exit”. Hari was standing outside. I was so amused about the coincidence. But Hari said, “I never entered the Hall. I was halfway about to enter, and the security person told me that it is the Lecture Hall. I came out and I was trying to get you out from there.” We had a good laugh and then proceeded to the main temple.

The idols are stunning. The idol of Rama is my favorite. It is very beautiful. They opened the main altar as well and we had a wonderful prayer session. It was a very beautiful experience, and after the prayer, deeparadhana and prasad, we came back to our car feeling very elevated. On the way to our home, we kept on wondering, that we have so much of money to build such grand temples for God, but sometimes, (most of the times), we turn a blind eye to the poverty of the others.

India is rich yet poor – How to explain this contradiction ? We did not delve deep into the subject and returned to home with a wonderful feeling.

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