Monday, November 26, 2012

BAPS Swaminarayan Temple Neasden London

I am not a praying man, I am not a believer in God, or `poojas’ or rituals. The pseudo Godmen who now seem to be everywhere completely get my goat, without exception. However, I do visit many houses of many Gods. I have also visited several Churches, Cathedrals and a few Temples in South India. All this has been in recent times purely as a traveller, as a visitor, to see something of startling beauty. Siddhi Vinayak at Prabhadevi Mumbai, the Balaji Temple at Tirupati, the Nathdwara Temple, Vaishnodevi, all of which are `hot’ temples hold no charm and I have never been to any of them. So visiting these places for their `power’ is not of any attraction for me. These temples have no particular beauty either. The Saint Peters Basilica at the Vatican City in Rome is an utterly beautiful building. The Golden Temple in Amritsar is quite beautiful. Many of the churches I visit in my travels across Europe are stunning. There is always a sense of peace, dignity and reverence. You feel calm, you feel fearful and to some extent intimidated by the surroundings.

Our FPG [friend, philosopher and guide] whom I had written about earlier, suggested that we visit the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha’s [BAPS] Swaminarayan Temple at Neasden a suburb in North West London. I was reluctant, but HRH the Queen of Kutch, who is far more open-minded in matters of `God’ was enthused. So off we went.

A short 20 minute ride on the Jubilee Line Underground train got us to Neasden. The FPG drove up in his open top car and we were soon at the parking lot of the Temple. As we entered the parking lot, I thought, “Groan, welcome to India”. This was the first parking lot I have seen in all of Europe where you had security guards telling you how and where to park. It seems that people who live and drive in London suddenly loose all abilities to park when they enter the Temple!!

Soon, we were really in India. 

No Cameras, 

Switch off your mobile.

Wear clothes that are below knee length.

Take your shoes off.

No chewing gum.

No outside food and drinks.

No smoking.

No bags.

No entry.

For staff only!!! 

You must wear footwear when using toilet. Please use footwear provided!!

The list of instructions seemed to be endless, as cruel and unreasonable as the best in India.

Then we had to go to security, frisking and get our purses X-Rayed.  The only language I could hear was Gujarati. Inside was a certificate from the Guinness Records stating that this was the largest Hindu Temple outside India. This was a bit of a fake record, much like a lot of the `records’ that the little master Sachin Tendulkar has thrust upon him.

After we got thru this we had scores of older Gujarati men telling us what to do and where to go at every step.

`Men on this side’,

`Women on that side’,

`Please sit down’

‘Please do not stand here’

`Please stand there’

As we entered the main Temple on the first floor, I saw a huge display of vegetables. Yes vegetables. And when I say huge I mean about 400 square feet!.  Done rather attractively I must say. Purple Aubergines neatly arranged with orange carrots and green `Doodhi’ and red Tomato. All very pretty though bizarre. The Deity/God/Statue was behind closed doors. People were sitting around while the instructions continued unabated. By this time I was at the end of my tether, so I walked out and stood downstairs. As I was walking down, the doors of the sanctum sanctorum opened to loud `Bhajans’, cheerleading clapping and chanting. I was well and truly done by this stage and I waited for FPG and HRH the Queen to finish the Darshan.      

On the way out, we were walking to the car when we saw that there was a store attached. So we entered. Now this was the best part of the whole complex. It was an Indian store, a Gujarati supermarket. Every variety of daal, lentil, pulse. Counters of delicious Gujarati snacks, deep frozen, `Farali Pettice’, `Vatana Pettice’, `Methi Thepla’, `Pizza Flavoured Samosa’ and a most delicious and intriguing `Paratha Toastie’. This was a Paratha shaped like a toast which you popped into your toaster. Sounded absolutely delicious. I insisted that FPG buy a pack for breakfast.

Adjoining the shop was a restaurant. This was getting better and better. The restaurant was run by a Sardar from Ahmedabad. The food served was pure vegetarian – naturally – and was `Satvik’ to boot. No onion no garlic. Boy I needed a meal there to offset all the beef, pork, chicken, duck and wine that I had been imbibing over the last few weeks. This would certainly purify me. So in we went. Punjabi Samosa Chaat, Khasta Kachori Chaat, Idli Sambar and a plate of Samosa. The food was good by any standard though extremely spicy as in `tikha’. The waitress was a Gujarati from Dahisar in Mumbai. All good cheer, bonhomie and smiles. Stomach filled we departed happy souls.    

Moral of the story. Food gives you more joy, happiness, warm feelings, bonhomie, positive thoughts and everything nice than any God, Guru or Temple!

It was a reasonably nice, large and clean Temple. It did nothing for me spiritually, but you know my views. HRH the Queen who is more of a believer came away untouched. Just too much supervision and passive agressision. Just too much treating people like mindless sheep. You can take a man out of India but you cannot take India out of a man. Put about 200 of these people together you will have a mini India. I did not come to London for this. I come to escape India.

Sorry folks, no photos. The Temple bans taking of photos, my camera had to be turned in.


  1. Last place I'd go to if I was traveling abroad (or indeed anywhere) is a temple. Unless it's a place that's truly memorable to see - and that only happens in India.

    1. I agree Pandi. It was a stupid thing to do.

    2. Sunil, two positives from the visit to the temple; one good satwik food gave you happiness and two you discovered the secret of joy and positive thoughts. Isn't this what a temple is supposed to do ?

  2. Security was placed after the Swaminarayan Akshardham Terrorist attack.

    and the World record is true