Category Archives: Pilgrim Centers

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.

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Our Trip to Baha’i Temple of Worship

Hari had visited the Lotus Temple of Bahai’ faith in Delhi, India, many years ago; but I did not get a chance (though I stayed near Delhi for a near 5 year period !) Suddenly one fine Sunday (Labor Day weekend), we were sitting at home and Hari was in a mood for traveling. When he said we would go to Chicago, I was not particularly excited as we go to Chicago very frequently and I had seen Chicago many times. Sears Tower does not attract me any more. I have seen almost all temples there (atleast I thought). But when he made a detailed plan including Swami Narayan Temple (BAPS), which is the richest temple in USA and Baha’i temple, my interest was aroused as I have never before gotten into touch with Swami Narayan Sampraday of Gujarat and also the Baha’i Faith. I know that the Lotus temple existed in India, but I was unaware of what Baha’i meant and its significance. We undertook a kind of pilgrimage to these temples and other before-visited temples on the Labor Day weekend.

Before starting, we looked through the websites of Baha’I and Swami Narayan temples so we don’t miss the timings. Baha’i is open all through the day for worship, where as Swami Narayan temple had some pre-set timings for darshan, puja and arati. You cannot imagine how happy, overjoyed I felt when the Bahai’ web site opened with a Tyagaraja’s classical kirtana, a tribute to Lord Rama –

jagadaananda kaarakaa, jaya jaanaki prananayakaa…

(O Abode of Bliss, O Beloved of Janaki ..)

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