A Hindu temple in Lilburn? We’d never heard of one until this weekend, but sure enough, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is right there on Rockbridge Road at Lawrenceville Highway in Lilburn, open since 2007. A mandir is a Hindu place of worship, which also serves as a center for community social, educational, cultural and religious activities. The word mandir is made up of two words (Man and Dir) meaning “mind” and “still,” so the mandir is truly a place of peace and calm, somewhere to escape the pressures of daily life and take some time to relax and reflect.
Entering the complex by car, you need to check in with a security guard and leave your name. There’s plenty of parking in front of the impressive structure made from Turkish limestone, Italian marble and Indian pink sandstone. According to their web page, over 34,000 individual pieces were hand carved in India and shipped to the US. The mandir itself seems to glow, its stark whiteness in contrast with the bright blue sky on the day we visited. There’s a large side building, still under construction, which houses restrooms, classrooms, and space for community events. Skilled craftsmen were up on scaffolding, working on the facade of this huge, pink building.
Steep stairs with two stone peacocks at the top lead up to the main building. No photos are allowed above this point, but the BAPS website has a great photo gallery with some beautiful interior shots. A small door leads to an area where you must take off shoes and leave them in a cubby. The marble is cold on bare feet as you climb two flights to the main hall. An attendant holds a sign requesting silence during your visit. There is an audio guide available for $5 in the Gift and Book Shop, but informational signs are also there to explain the details of some of the carvings and murti (sacred images). The hall is navigated in a circuit. Ornately carved wooden doors protect the inner sacred shrines. Those inner doors are open only 9:00 am – 10:30 am; 11:15 am – 12:00 pm; 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Outside, on the ground level in front of the temple is a large reflecting pool, filled by a row of spouting elephants. Colorful flower plantings and marble benches line the opposite side of the pool.
There are many special events and ceremonies at the complex, in addition to weekly music classes. Check the website for details. Note: Since this is a place of worship, when visiting, clothing must cover shoulders and knees. If you need one, wraps are provided. Also on the grounds is a vegetarian restaurant and sweets shop, BAPS Shayona. They have a fairly limited menu of snacks and light meals. Their samosas and kachori were both good though. The store has lots of Indian bagged snacks and a big selection of sweets.
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), established in 1907, is a worldwide civic and religious organization dedicated to the spirituality of the individual while promoting harmony, between individuals, within families, and within diverse communities. —http://atlanta.baps.org/