Friday, September 23, 2016

My visit to Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in New Jersey.

Visiting temples is not and was never a priority weekend activity for me, but that doesn't mean I don't visit temples. Most of my family is very religious and prefer to visit famous shrines and temples. I have visited many places out of curiosity or to enjoy the architecture and the general feel of the atmosphere. I really liked when I visited Ganga ghats of Varanasi, temples in that city are also good, I personally feel that they can be maintained in much better way and turned into very prominent tourist attractions of that city, but somehow state and local governments don't think like me. Even without much support and management many of these temples attract millions of visitors every year and help the economy of that place. A few days back I visited Shri Swaminarayan temple of Robbinsville, NJ. My wife really wanted to visit this place as she heard a lot about it from some of her friends and also saw some spectacular pictures of the temple on social media. 

Temple is really beautiful, situated on very spacious land, with ample amount of parking space. There is still a lot of construction going on, so I think they are still in a process of building more structures there as there is a lot of empty land around and I am sure temple authorities would like to use it all. People at the temple are very nice and polite, they allow photography everywhere except inside the central part of the main temple. If you are wearing shorts or sleeveless or something like that they will give you a cloth (something like lungi and shawl) to cover your body, I was happy to see that this rule was not just for women, but for men also. I didn't understand the logic behind this rule, but at least it was not a gender discriminatory rule. I wonder what will happen if someone enters the  temple in shorts or sleeveless top? This rule was not applied to kids, which made sense as parents would have struggled to explain to them why they have to wear lungi or shawl inside the temple. Inside temple right in front of deities, there was an empty space for devotees and visitors to sit and pray. The area was divided into two sections, front section belonged to men and back section to females. My daughter was not happy to see the females were given a back seat, she was (and even I was) wondering, why didn't they divide the section in tow halves which would have allowed each side get a chance to sit in front of the deity. There was no prasad after aarti, I couldn't believe it, such a posh temple and no prasad after aarti? I love the taste of prasad food offered at many temples, and most of them give it free after their pooja or aarti, but here it was different. It seems one has to buy prasad from temple cafeteria, I liked this business idea, after all, whether it's temple, church or mosque or any other religious place, they all are also business centers and have to generate income to maintain themselves. If you understand this simple basic thing, many of their policies make sense.

Our visit was short and sweet, we attended aarti and left for our next destination. My wife was really happy to visit the place and it made me very happy. Kids were also happy to see a beautiful structure, learned some mythological stories while we were at the temple. In general, it was quite an enjoyable trip.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]