Neasden Temple

A visit to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Neasden Temple), London

Tucked inside the North Circular and close to the temples of football (Wembley) and shopping (Brent Cross), is BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, also known as Neasden Temple.

Made from 5000 tonnes of Italian and Indian marble this Hindu temple dominates the local area, a spectacular building in a pretty nondescript area of London. Opened in 1995, it was funded entirely through donations from local worshippers and is the first traditional Hindu temple built outside of India in modern times.

Haveli entrance
Haveli entrance

As the kids and I walked through the entrance gate I was a little concerned. Would we be the only non-Hindu visitors? Would it be obvious what to do once inside? I needn’t have worried. The temple welcomes half a million visitors each year; friendly volunteers and explanatory signs help those unfamiliar with Hindu beliefs.

We entered via the haveli, a cultural centre, whose facade and courtyard are carved from teak and oak. I wish I’d taken more time to look at the carvings but after leaving our shoes in lockers we were directed to join a school party and ushered in to the Prayer Hall to watch a short film about the temple’s history.

Neasden Temple
Neasden Temple

The facts and figures relating to the Mandir are astounding. Neasden temple comprises 26,000 stone pieces which were hand-carved in India and then shipped to the UK. Back in London, 100 full-time and 1000 part-time volunteers worked alongside 80 stonemasons to help assemble the temple from its constituent parts over a two year period.

Entrance to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Neasden Temple)
Entrance to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Neasden Temple)

After the film we headed up the marble staircase to the Mandir. Photography is not permitted inside the temple so you’ll have to take my word that the interior is even more impressive than the exterior. Intricate carvings of Hindu figures adorned every column, punctuated by patterns and friezes.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

We stayed for Arti, a prayer ceremony which takes place daily at 11.45am. Male and female visitors sit in separate areas during the ceremony, and my son was initially a little hesitant about being directed to sit on his own in a different section. However, he wasn’t alone for long as the room filled with visitors and several school groups (who weren’t as silent as they should have been!).

The Arti ceremony involves the waving of lighted wicks in front of the sacred images, to the sound of music and prayer. It seemed like a joyous and happy occasion, plenty of worshippers were clapping along to the music. Afterwards we were directed to walk clockwise past the shrines which enabled us to take a closer look at the deities.

Neasden Temple
Neasden Temple

It’s easy to spend a couple of hours at the temple, particularly if you co-ordinate your trip with the Arti ceremony and visit the exhibition about Hinduism. I’m embarrassed to say that we missed this out as my materialistic twosome were desperate to go to the temple souvenir shop instead!

It takes some effort to get to Neasden Temple from central London but I wholeheartedly recommend a visit. The architecture is truly stunning and we felt welcomed by everyone we encountered at the temple.

More info

  • BAPS Shri Swaminarayam Mandir is open daily between 9am-6pm; entrance is free although there is a small extra charge for the exhibition. Respectable clothing is required and bags should be left in the storage facility across the road.
  • The temple is about 20 minutes walk away from the nearest Underground stations. We travelled to Stonebridge Park, but Neasden is equi-distant.
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31 thoughts on “A visit to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Neasden Temple), London”

  1. Great post, I’ve seen the outside of this temple as it’s not far from where my grandmother grew up. It looks stunning, and you’ve made me realise I would think nothing of visiting a temple abroad but it’s never occurred to me to visit one in this country. Need to rectify that as I have a real thing for this sort of architecture. #timetravellerlinky

    1. Thanks Mary. I’m exactly the same. I’ve visited plenty of temples abroad, along with churches here, but I was quite nervous about visiting and doing something ‘wrong’.

  2. This is pretty near where I grew up and I think it’s beautiful. My kids also went there on school trips and they both enjoyed it so much and learnt a lot. They also liked the souvenir shop!

  3. My kids are always desperate to visit souvenir shops and buy something. My youngest gets really grumpy if he can’t find something to spend his money on (usually because we only give him a £1 and he can’t find anything cheap enough!).

  4. I’ve driven passed this so many times and it looks beautiful from the outside. I’ve not once been inside though. I will try make the effort next time I pass to go in and have a look
    #PoCoLo

  5. Wow what an impressive looking building and in London too. When I first saw the pictures I honestly thought you’d popped over to India.

    The work that has gone into constructing the temple. Shipping the hand carved stones form India must have taken some doing. It sounds a really interesting place to visit and it’s nice to hear that the worship was a happy affair!

    1. Thanks Debbie. I didn’t mention in my blog post but the smallest piece shipped back from India weighed only 50 grams. Constructing the temple must have been one huge jigsaw puzzle!

  6. Wow, it looks amazing, and gorgeous photographs! Like Mary I’ve also regularly visited temples and churches abroad but never thought of visiting them in this country.

    1. Thanks Jennifer. I think it’s because it feels OK to be more of a ‘tourist’ in other countries whereas if I’m in the UK I somehow think they’re only for actual worshippers.

  7. Round our way we have a lot of Victorian CofE churches, which was a new one on me, being from a more rural area with medieval buildings. I’ve been working my way round them. I do love a good nose around a place of worship. Always so much effort going into their decoration and always a fascinating glimpse into the community that uses them. This, however, looks even more interesting, particularly as I can;t see myself ever getting to India to see a Hindu temple in situ. Great visit! Must plan!

    1. I think churches are our most accessible historical buildings so give a fascinating insight into the times during which they were built. Although I actually enjoy wandering around the graveyards just as much!

  8. What a stunning temple, hard to believe it’s in Neasden! With a few of those pictures it would be easy to imagine it was in India! #timetraveller

  9. What a beautiful temple, we have Guru Nanak in our town, I have been to see the outside to admire the architecture which is stunning but I didn’t know if I could enter or not. I must go back.
    Thanks so much for linking up to #TimeTraveller

  10. I’ve driven past the temple quite a few times back when I used to work in London and it is so beautiful but I never thought about visiting it and seeing the inside. Sounds like it was a really interesting experience.

  11. Amazing place. I don’t really know that area of London well, but this is a stunning building. There are a few around us here, but not so grand and majestic. It must have been so interesting actually going inside and glimpsing the Arti ceremony.

    1. Hi Rod, I think there’s a car park but am not 100% sure as we used public transport. If all else fails, IKEA is just down the road!

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