Calling it a gift to all Canadians, the Chief Guest of Honour, Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper joined the leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha Pramukh Swami Maharaj in inaugurating the first traditional stone and marble mandir in Toronto on July 22, 2007. Also dedicated to the people of Canada was the Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians. The awe-inspiring mandir and museum join the existing haveli as part of the BAPS Swaminarayan Complex.
After 18 months of construction and thousands of hours of volunteer work, the first Hindu temple in Canada hand-carved by Indian artisans out of 24,000 pieces of Italian marble and Turkish limestone stood glistening with white pinnacles as the much anticipated inauguration ceremony started on the morning of July 22nd. Just as stone becomes a statue at the hands of a sculptor, a carved stone becomes a murti once divinity is infused into the statue through a spiritually enlightened guru. This ritual is known as the murti pratishtha. Pramukh Swami Maharaj performed the murti pratishtha ceremony in accordance with Vedic rituals to infuse divinity into the sacred images inside the mandir in the presence of devotees and well-wishers from Canada, USA, UK, India and various countries from around the world. Those who could not make it to the event saw the live telecast on TV Asia, Sahara One and Aastha TV channels.
The Prime Minister arrived to a sea of Canadian flags and was welcomed by the BAPS marching band and a troupe of children in colorful and traditional dress. He then ascended the mandir steps to be greeted by Pramukh Swami Maharaj with a traditional welcome. Thereafter, the singing of the Canadian and Indian national anthems was led by members of the BAPS youth wing to launch the hour-long inauguration programme. Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, ?This awe-inspiring work of architectural brilliance will serve as a source of pride for not just Indo-Canadians, but indeed all Canadians.? He also thanked His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the inspirer and creator of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, saying that he has given a great and wonderful gift to the people of Canada.
Other dignitaries present for the event were the Premier of Ontario Mr. Dalton Mcguinty; the Mayor of Toronto Mayor David Miller; Mrs. Rajamani Lakshmi Narayan the High Commissioner of India to Canada; the Liberal Leader Mr. Stephane Dione of the Federal Government and Leader of the Official Opposition Party of Ontario Mr. John Tory along with several Federal and Provincial Ministers of Parliament.
The inauguration was a culmination of a host of events, held over seven days. Prayers for world peace also formed a part of the festival through a traditional yajna. This is a symbolic ceremony of rites and rituals for peace, prosperity and happiness for all of mankind. The mood turned festive after the yajna as a parade (sobha yatra) of decorative floats with the murtis (deities) to be installed in the mandir traversed the streets of Toronto. People in colorful costumes celebrated with folk dances, devotional hymns, and a youth marching band.
?It is truly the volunteers? labour of love which has turned into this magnificent mandir in Toronto? said Chandrakant Sachdev. ?In heat or cold, the volunteers have helped with everything from heavy duty labour work to planning and execution of the smallest thing for making of this mandir?, concluded Sachdev.
The people of Ontario, Canada, and the entire world have been bestowed with a magnificent complex, which will bring spiritual well-being, knowledge of the heritage of Indo-Canadians, and endless many colourful festivals and events for the next 1000 years.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), established in India, in 1907, is a worldwide civic and religious organisation dedicated to the spirituality of the individual while promoting harmony between individuals, within families, and within diverse communities. Since 1970, BAPS has been serving in Canada in the areas of family unity, spirituality, Indian heritage, children and youth development, and humanitarian services.
Toronto'sBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir: Some facts