Vol. 2 No. 1                            "India is the cradle of the human race... " - Mark Twain

August 2007  "Canada is one of the oldest federations the planet still has up and running." - Roy MacGregor

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially opens 
BAPS Swaminarayan Complex
"a project such as this happens once in a lifetime, in Canada, only once in many lifetimes." - Christopher Hume, Toronto Star 

2007 is the centenary year of Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha.

On July 22, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially opened the BAPS Swaminarayan Complex, a dual-purpose facility that houses the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and the Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians, located beneath the mandir, at ground level.

The 1,800 sq metre museum includes exhibits on the contributions of Indian civilisation to the world in areas of science, mathematics, medicine, art and language. 

It will also chronicle the history and the migration of the Indian diaspora to Canada via Africa, the Caribbean and Fiji.

Traditional Welcome of Prime Minister

“Located in the country’s most ethnically diverse city, the facility stands as a testament to Canada and India’s proud traditions of pluralism. On behalf of the Government of Canada it gives me great pleasure to declare the BAPS Swaminarayan Complex officially open,” said the Prime Minister.

The distinguished guests also included, amongst others, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto Mayor David Miller. 

There are 191,305 Hindus in Toronto, according to Statistics Canada, who paid for the $40 million building without any public or foundation funding and provided 400 volunteer workers.

There are 713,330 Indo-Canadians in the country or approximately 3 percent of its total population.

The Indo-Canadian population is mainly concentrated in southern Ontario, Lower Mainland, Calgary-Edmonton Corridor and Montreal.

According to Statistics Canada, since the late 1990s, roughly 25,000-30,000 Indians have been arriving each year in Canada.

While the Mandir will provide an additional place of worship for local Hindus, the museum will inspire visitors to appreciate how the spiritually diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic heritage of Indo-Canadians has contributed to the fields of arts, architecture, science, democracy, education, and pluralism.

The structure is made up of over 24,000 hand-carved pieces of stone. Each individual piece of the temple was made in India.

Prime Minister Harper took the opportunity to thank BAPS, or Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, a global social-spiritual organization that promotes peaceful co-existence among all communities through understanding and cooperation, provides aid domestically and abroad, and promotes a sense of integration and social consciousness among youth while preserving faith and heritage, for seeing the project through to fruition.

The Prime Minister also thanked His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the Inspirer of the Swaminarayan Complex, saying that he has given a great and wonderful gift to the people of Canada.

“This awe-inspiring work of architectural brilliance will serve as a source of pride for not just Indo-Canadians, but indeed all Canadians,” said Prime Minister Harper.

"To those of us raised on an architectural diet of steel, glass and brick, it will come a shock to discover that there are people in the world who still know how to build with a hammer and chisel. And not just build, but create structures of the most amazing beauty and complexity," writes Christopher Hume in Toronto Star.

Naresh Roy Patel, a trustee of the complex, says, "The message is one of pluralism - unity in diversity - which will have great importance for all Canadians."

Construction of the museum, which began in April 2005, is based on Vedic engineering principles, without using steel or nails, said Naresh Roy Patel.

Opening of the Museum by the Prime Minister, the Premier & Mayor

It has been done "using the same 10,000-year-old traditions, so it's not a replica, it's the real thing. These structures are built to survive for at least 1,000 years," he said. There's no use of steel, no screws or nails, no wood, just the stones, cement, and marble.

Slabs of limestone, marble and teakwood were shipped to India where 1,500 sculptors and artisans worked on them and shipped back the finished slabs to Toronto to be assembled by 101 artisans, who were flown in from India.

According to the temple literature, 1,800 craftsmen were engaged for 18 months, sculpting 24,000 pieces which were later transported to the temple site in suburban Etobicoke, North-West of Toronto, and assembled together. 

Suresh Thakrar, community leader says, "This is a place open to all. That's especially appropriate considering that it's a global project. We also want people to be educated about Indo-Canadians."

Nitya Vivek Swami, a Hindu monk (and computer science grad), who has lived in Toronto since the project began in 2005 and who has worked on similar buildings in Houston, Chicago and London, says, "We believe this is a living building, so it has to be built in a certain way." 

At the back of the temple is a small, gilded antechamber, where an image of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, the central figure of Swaminarayan Hindu worship, is backlit in gold. Statues of other religious figures, Swaminarayan's choice devotees, fill antechambers to the side.

A Nagar Yatra took place on July 21, a day before the opening of the complex. 

[Please click here to see slide show of Nagar Yatra on July 21 and Murti Pratishtha.] 


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