BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha®
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir - Houston
1150 Brand Lane, Stafford, TX 77477 | 281.765.2277
Mandir ConceptsThe Mandir is built according to the principles of ancient Indian Shilpshastras. The Murtis and rituals of worship in the mandir form the very core in elevating the soul to the pinnacle of God-realization. Swaminarayan mandirs worldwide fulfill the lofty concept of the Hindu tradition of mandirs.
What is a Mandir?
‘Mandir’ is a Sanskrit word for where the mind becomes still and the soul floats freely to seek the source of life, peace, joy, and comfort. In Hinduism, ‘Mandir’ is a place of worship, or prayer. For centuries, the Mandir has remained a center of life – a place in the community where people forget their differences and voluntarily unite to serve society.
Why do we need Mandir?
Every religion, upholding its own traditions, builds houses of worship. It is the mandir that fuels our faith in God, strengthens our society and teaches us to trust one another and to become trustworthy. Schools will educate the mind, but who will educate the soul? Hospitals will mend a broken arm, but who will mend a broken heart? Entertainment will excite the mind, but where will one go for peace of mind?
A Mandir is a center for learning about man, nature, and God. It is where ethics and values are reinforced, where people celebrate festivals and seek shelter, and where talents in various arts, be it music, literature, or sculpture, are offered in the service of God. A mandir is a center for learning about man, nature, and God.
Science of Architecture
From conception to completion, the Hindu ethos for building a mandir requires that nature is appeased through various rites performed during the different stages of its construction:
Khãtmurat – The land sought for the structure proposed is first inspected and its soil tested for suitability. The actual ritual involves paying homage to the land, and using prayers to seek permission from the earth to disturb its natural state prior to construction of the structure.
Shilãnyas - The foundations are first dug and a small pot containing sacraments is ceremoniously placed below the garbhagruha. This creates an awareness that nature is a dynamic ecosystem and man is to live harmoniously with other forms of life.
The design of a mandir contains a complex pattern of mathematics and geometrics that link the mandir to the universe and its component stars, planets, and galaxies. Underneath the intricate artistic sculpture lies the foundation of regular shapes. Hence, the birth of geometry and numeracy arose from the need to build mandirs of perfect proportions.
Traditionally, all the masonry of such a mandir is load bearing in itself, with no reinforcement from ferrous metals, such as steel, in its foundation or structure. This extends the life of the mandir to over a thousand years, due to the absence of erosion through temperature variations or corrosion of steel. The ferrous metals concentrate earth's magnetic field, which impedes meditation.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Hindu Mandirs
As part of His divine mission to elevate society and re-establish spirituality, Bhagwãn Swãminãrãyan inspired the building of six magnificent mandirs throughout Gujarãt in the span of seven years (1822-1829). He built large three-pinnacled mandirs known as shikharbaddh mandirs. The Murtis(sacred images) of God and His ideal devotee were installed in these mandirs in the cities of Amdavãd, Bhuj, Vartãl, Dholerã, Junãgadh, and Gadhadã. These mandirs helped the masses offer devotion to God and emerged as ideal models of Hindu art and architecture since they depicted Hindu thought and philosophy in the rich wall paintings and carvings.
After the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) was formally established by Shãstriji Mahãrãj in 1907, BAPS mandirs were erected to foster the worship of God together with the ideal devotee in Bochãsan, Sãrangpur, Gondal, Atlãdra, and Gadhadã.
The Swaminarayan mandirs are a rare gift in today's age. They serve as ideal examples of spiritualism coupled with art and architecture. They are centers of peace, worship, hope, and inspiration. With their inherent purity, they represent abodes of love and harmony for the devotees. Today, these mandirs are visited daily by thousands of people who come, pray, worship, and receive divine inspiration.
Concept of Murtis
When one visits a mandir, he or she goes there for 'darshan,' which loosely translated means 'viewing' the sacred images of God. However, to a Hindu it has a more profound meaning where it implies being in close proximity with God and beholding His divine form. ‘Murti pujã,’ has always been synonymous with the Hindu tradition and for thousands of years, Hindus have practiced the adoration and reverence of sacred murtis as a form of devotion.
The ancient sages, realizing the difficulties in controlling the mind sanctioned Murti puja to enable devotees to focus on a Murti – a medium aiding concentration. In the Bhagwad Gitã (12/5), Shri Krishna strengthens this point by stating that it is difficult for those whose minds are attached only to the impersonal aspect of the Supreme to make spiritual progress.
The worship of God through belief in his presence in an image is considered to be one of the foremost aids to spiritual realization in Hinduism. Murti pujã, or image worship, is firmly entrenched in the daily lives of all Hindus through countless generations of fruitful worship. The hundreds of thousands of mandirs, large and small, scattered over the Indian subcontinent, are visited daily by the faithful.
The ãrti is the waving of lighted wicks before the sacred Murtis in a spirit of humility and gratitude, wherein faithful followers become immersed in God's divine form. It is the innermost calling of the soul and symbolizes the five elements: 1) space (akash), 2) wind (vayu), 3) light (tej), 4) water (jal), and 5) earth (pruthvi).
The offering of vegetarian food to the Murtis on a regular basis throughout the day is called Thaal. In essence, it is to reciprocate our love for God by offering Him food in a spirit of supreme reverence and dedication. Thaal is offered with accompanying prayers asking that God partake of and sanctify the food.
Abhishek is an ancient Vedic ritual of pouring holy water upon the murti of Bhagwãn to honor Him and to attain His blessings for inner peace and prosperity. Here the sacred waters of Ganga and Yamuna are ceremoniously poured on the Murti of Nilkanth Varni, the child yogi who later became known as Bhagwãn Swãminãrãyan. May this ritual fill our human life with His divine virtues of faith, fearlessness, humility, self-control, love and peace and also fulfill our innermost prayers and wishes.