You can admit it. You go to London hoping to bump into Hugh Grant, or any other British celebs. Or maybe not, you are the cultural type. You go to visit Buckingham palace, the British Museum or to see Tower Bridge.London, eh. Quoting Wim Wenders here, faraway so close. I had been there a couple of times before, but this time around, in February 2009 with Madame Zenith at my side, I wanted to find out something new. I wanted .. a secret place.
2000 tons of Carrara marble were waiting for us in Neasden. Neasden is the place where you can find the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the largest traditionally built Hindu stone Mandir (temple) in the Western emisphere.
The Tube is the best option to get there if you are in London: if you are in the mood for something sparkling and silvery, get the Jubilee line. If your mood is a bit darker, you can get the brown Bakerloo line. In less than one hour from the city centre, you are there. At first, you can’t describe why you feel so small. Maybe it’s the translucent walls of this devotional place. 26000 pieces of marble shipped from Carrara to India, where 1500 artisans and craftsmen carved them, there, closer to the divine places of Hinduism.
You wonder, how come that only a few blocks got broken in the process. Human life is indeed a lot flimsier and more delicate.
Inside, then, no need to talk, or ask. No need to take picures, as cameras fail, sometimes. Fruit and rice offerings for those deities, who reassuringly share our human worldly needs. Incense gets passed around, on my head, and on my throat.
Madame Zenith and I walk around. Silent. I cannot stop thinking about those volunteers who, before the 26000 blocks were assembled, came here to polish and clean them. Was this a way to touch deities?
Divinity in this place feels closer. Shoeless, I walk around. Strangely feeling at peace.
This is the Official Link for the Mandir: Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London