Located off highway 427 just north of Toronto stands this majestic architectural masterpiece. The BAPS Shri Swaminrayan Mandir is a traditional Hindu place of worship that was built by the BAPS Swaminaryan Sanstha. It sits alongside a heritage museum and a Haveli, and is open to the general public.

The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir

This breathtaking mandir is the only structure of its kind in Canada. What kind, you ask? This entire building, as well as the other structures that sit on this 18 acres complex, were built using no metal! This mandir follows strict shilpa shastra buiding codes, which have been outlined in Hindu scriptures and have been carried down select families for millennia. This structure and its accompanying haveli were assembled (not built) like a giant 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. 1,800 special artisans, who have learned the art of shilpa shastra from their ancestors, were recruited to hand-carve 24,151 pieces of Italian carrara marble, Turkish limestone, and Indian pink stone.

Lotus outside

After the Indian artisans had carved all 24,151 pieces in India, these pieces were flown into Toronto. 400 volunteers worked over 18 months to assemble the marble and limestone pieces like Lego blocks into what we see today. During the assembly, no screws, rivets, or nails were used. Unlike most Canadian structures that have a steel skeleton, this structure has no steel, not even in  its foundation. Inside, the lack of support pillars not only makes the halls look majestic, it also reinforces the fact that we are inside a structure that is supporting itself on its own weight – there is nothing holding it up, literally!

Outside Wall

I must emphasize the point that this project did not rely on government funding or tax payers dollars. It was completed on the time and money donated by the community.

The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir website lists the following numbers:

Toronto’s BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, by the numbers:
·   400 volunteers gave more than a million hours of services
·   18 months to complete stone work (jig-zaw puzzle) in Canada
·   132 archways,
·   84 decorative ceilings, 340 pillars
·   24,151 handcarved pieces of marbel and stone
·   5.6 tonnes, heaviest stone vs 50 grams, lightest stone
·   10,000 tonnes of Italian marble, Turkish limestone, Indian sandstone and granite
·   Built to last over 1,000 years.
Inside, the Mandir has five temples dedicated to different deities. There is a beautiful marble dome resembling a lotus, under which the arti ceremony takes place.
outside wall
The accompanying Haveli is made of intricate panels of hand-carved Burmese teak. It is amazing how these materials are withstanding the Canadian weather and smog. Like the Mandir, the Haveli is also open to the public. However, one must keep in mind that these are places or worship first, and architectural marvels second, so it is important to be respectful, and check-in your camera when you go inside. I highly recommend a visit to this Mandir, specially on a festive day like Diwali.
Here is the map: