A few days ago, my family and I experienced culture and beauty in a way that we have never done before – we visited a Hindu temple in the Atlanta area. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir of Atlanta has been on my “Must See It” list since it was built in 2007. When it opened, a dear friend of mine wrote about it for our local PATCH, enticing me to check it out then- but with 2 young children under the age of 4, it just wasn’t the right time.
Fast forward 10 years later, and now my kids are older and homeschooling – which has given us many opportunities to tour this mandir with our local homeschooling groups. Sadly, for whatever reasons, we had not been able to join those tours until now. And, as luck would have it, the tour coincided with a visit from a childhood friend of mine which made the day extra-special!!
A few days before our tour, we took some time to learn a little about Hinduism and the Indian culture. We are homeschoolers after all – education is a part of everything! 😉
I gathered several videos about Hindusim and India on my YouTube Channel, “Hinduism Study for Kids“, for us to watch together. We also found a great book called, “Know about Hinduism” on our Kindle and skimmed through it as well. Lastly, we used Google Earth to examine the country up close by zooming into sites tagged by other people. I love technology!!
My daughter was enchanted to learn about the inclusive and encouraging nature of this culture towards women. Learning that they have always allowed women to become leaders of faith, teachers, doctors, and engineers really made her smile.
My son was fascinated to learn about their pantheon of deities and their epic battles. He said that their stories “blew away” the stories from Greek Mythology. I think he might be right on that one – they are pretty fantastic!
On the day of the tour, we all piled into the mini-van and shared the stories we learned about Hinduism and the Indian culture.
As we approached the Mandir, we could see the white dome and golden spires over the tree tops. Everyone started “oohing” and “ahhing” over the grand design the moment the building came into view.
The excitement built as we parked and walked to join our homeschooling group for the tour. If it was this beautiful from this far away, how would it look up close?
As we waited for everyone to gather up for the tour, we had time to drink in the beauty of the meticulous craftsmanship surrounding us.
When we were all gathered together, our tour guide took us into a small room to watch a short video about Hinduism, why this Mandir was created, and how it was crafted in India and subsequently assembled here in Atlanta.
The exteriors of the lower Mandir are made of Turkish limestone and Indian pink sandstone, while the upper Mandir is of Italian white marble. All of the designs were hand-carved by skilled artisans in India before being shipped to America.
The entire temple was reassembled here in Atlanta by thousands of volunteers using no metal reinforcements of any kind! It took 17 months and around 1 million hours of volunteered time. It is an extraordinary piece of masterful engineering and dedication.
After the presentation, our tour guide took us to the upper Mandir where the community gathers for prayers and reflection.
We removed our shoes and followed him up the stairs, totally unprepared for the stunning beauty of what we were about to see.
Truthfully, no one could have prepared us for that experience, even if they had tried.
There are no words to describe it and no pictures that can truly capture the experience of being completely enveloped by that kind of beauty. It’s just one of those things you have to experience for yourself – and I am so glad that we did it together!
Every column tells stories of the Hindu deities. Every ceiling panel draws your eyes upward to God and inward to the divinity within you. Even my normally antsy and fidgety children were slowed in their steps by its grandeur. They walked as if in a trance, jaws dropped, eyes wide, drinking in the beauty of the space. Quietly, we walked and whispered and learned together until our eyes, minds, and souls were saturated with beauty and we could take in no more.
Outside once again, we reflected on all that we saw at this sacred site. We were in total amazement of the engineering, art, architecture, and beauty of this mandir.
We felt humbled by the skill of the artisans and by the dedication of the volunteers who made this temple possible.
If you live near a mandir such as this one (there are 5 in the United States), please take the time to go visit it with your family. Learning about other cultures is eye-opening for everyone, not just our children.
Experiencing other cultures exposes everyone to new ideas, to new people, and to new concepts of beauty. And it is through that process of exposure that an appreciation of the differences between us can grow. “Unity through diversity” is truly a remarkable thing.
So, Go! Go drink in the beauty of another culture. Go explore with your family. Go have fun learning together!
Go! Go Live Life unScripted!