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Don’t miss out on this otherworldly Hindu Temple in New Jersey

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BAPS Shri Swaminarayan mandir
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple, New Jersey. Wikimedia commons
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New Jersey, April 23, 2017: It is a fact that Hinduism is not only confined to the peninsular country of India but this religion transcends over the world. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in New Jersey is a result of this very growth of Hinduism. Robbinsville, New Jersey may seem like an odd place for a religious pilgrimage, but that is exactly what it became when the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, also known at BAPS, inaugurated what is reported to be one of the largest U.S. Hindu temples in early August 2014 and since then huge crowd has been drawn to Robbinsville every year.

If you see photos of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a Hindu temple that is adorned with intricate Italian Carrara marble hand-carvings and images sacred to the Hindu faithful, you may think that you’re looking at the image of a structure thousands of miles away.

But this otherworldly temple is right around the corner in Robbinsville, Mercer County, and has been attracting those of the Hindu faith as well as those interested in its architecture and significance since it was built in 2014.

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“For the Hindus, this is a place to see God, purify themselves and increase their faith in God,” said Lenin Joshi, a mandir volunteer who lives in Lawrenceville and visits the mandir about twice a week. “For those who are not Hindu, they feel that coming here calms their minds and they experience peace. They learn the messages of tolerance, nonviolence and coexistence, and many also find the strength to give up addictions when they come.”

“The mandir is a one-of-a-kind temple made completely out of marble carved by hand using the ancient knowledge of temple making,” said Joshi. “Be prepared to be blown away by the craftsmanship. Many say that being there made them feel like they were in a dream or they found it to be heavenly.”

The carvings that adorn the mandir feature unique depictions of animals, deities and designs. Each of the 98 seven-foot pillars that fill the mandir, it took four artisans about two months to carve.

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Although there are nearly 80 BAPS temples in North America, the Robbinsville mandir is just the sixth built entirely of stone and according to an ancient Hindu architectural tradition based in the Shilpa Shastras, the Times of Trenton reported. It took three years, many volunteer hours and roughly $18 million to build.

Individuals and families are not required to book their visit in advance to the mandir, which has free admission and can accommodate about 150 people at a time, and on arrival, they can inquire about the availability of a tour guide or the audio tour guide. Tours last about 40 minutes to one hour, and visitors can learn about the artwork that adorns the mandir, Bhagwan Swaminarayan (to whom the mandir is dedicated), His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj (who inspired the mandir), see the greenery surrounding the mandir as well as see an arti ceremony.

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The arti ceremonies, which occurs three times per day at 7:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., are ancient Hindu offerings made by waving lighted wicks before sacred images to the accompaniment of a musical prayer. Many visitors have described the experience as awe-inspiring.

“At the heart of a Hindu mandir is personal devotion, bhakti, a one-on-one devotion with God,” said Trivedi, one of the founders of the mandir. “Primarily it provides a home, and it is not only a house of God but a house for the devotee”

“I always leave the mandir with a lot of peace,” said Joshi. “I feel that I have had hope renewed in me. This place can inspire everyone to live a better life.”

 prepared by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram, Twitter: @NikitaTayal6 

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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Hindusim
Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Hindusim
Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism
Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.