Why the Neasden Temple is a must-see London sight

Neasden Hindu Temple in London

Neasden Hindu Temple in London

Many places lay claim to the much hyped label ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. A recent entrant to this list of aspiring wonders is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandi, better known as the Neasden Temple. This unglamorous corner of London is better known to millions as home to two giant symbols of worship of a different kind: Wembley Stadium and IKEA. Yet tucked away a stone’s throw from my big blue and yellow Swedish nightmare on the North Circular is without doubt one of London’s most beautiful and impressive buildings.

Neasden Hindu Temple in London

Neasden Hindu Temple in London

Having driven past the signs for Neasden Temple many times, we finally took the chance to make a visit. The first sight of the Temple is hugely impressive and the building is a stunning contrast to the forlorn parking lots and garages that surround it. A guard greeted us at the gates and politely asked me to return my camera to the car and not bring it onto the premises. We then passed through a full airport security check before entering the temple.

The temple is an impressive complex made up of many rooms, including a large shop selling many Hindu-related items. Entry to the temple is free although a donation is appreciated, and there are ample opportunities to leave one. The walls are adorned with photographs of the many illustrious people who have made a visit to the Temple. These include Prime Ministers Blair and Cameron, their wives and Prince Charles.

The highlight of the visit is without doubt the main Mandir, or prayer room. Here the level of intricacy in the carvings has to be seen to be believed. Handcrafted in over 2.5 years from Italian marble and Bulgarian limestone, there are over 26,000 different carvings in this small but atmospheric central room.

Neasden Hindu Temple in London

Neasden Hindu Temple in London

Upon entering we both felt as if we had instantly been transported to India, as we absorbed the smells of incense and the quiet murmurs of devout prayer from the many pilgrims present. The constant smiles and warm greetings from the worshippers as they saw two strangers in the Temple suggested that the effort we had made to visit had been far more than a mere 30 minute drive from our home.

There is an excellent museum (£2) below the main prayer room that tells the story of Hinduism and is aimed at non-Hindus. It describes the early principles of the religion and how it developed and eventually grew into a faith that now spans the entire globe, thanks largely to the emigration of Indian people over the centuries.

Neasden Hindu Temple in London

Neasden Hindu Temple in London

The Neasden Temple really is one of London’s unsung treasures. If it was in the centre of the city I am convinced that it would be one of the major visitor attractions, such is the beauty and impressive nature of the building. Yet stuck out in unloved Neasden, it attracts a fraction of the interest and appreciation that it deserves. Maybe not a bad thing, but if you are in London and want to see a world class building that will genuinely surprise, I would heartily recommend a trip out to the Hindu Temple in Neasden.

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