By Mautik Dave
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha
Mandirs, Hindu places of worship, play a pivotal role in nurturing community bonds and offering personal care. Communities are vital for human connection, providing a sense of identity and belonging. Mandirs facilitate these connections through shared traditions, faith, and spaces.
Traditional Hindu mandirs, characterized by architectural styles like Dravida, have long been hubs for community building. Noteworthy examples include the Ranganthaswamy Mandir, Chidambaram Mandir, and Meenakshi Mandir. These structures incorporate concentric enclosures, housing various community activities, from commerce to residence. Libraries with sacred scriptures and gurukuls for scriptural education contribute to literacy and philosophical preservation. Community kitchens ensure nourishment during festivals, while community halls, like the mandapam, host gatherings and ceremonies.
An exceptional instance of a community-centric mandir is the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham, an impressive complex in Delhi, India. It transcends architectural beauty, embodying community spirit and cultural enrichment. Akshardham welcomes diverse individuals, fostering unity through intricate carvings, exhibitions, and performances. This endeavor extends globally, as Akshardham establishes a presence in Robbinsville, New Jersey later this year.
The heart of the community within mandirs lies in personal care. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s visit to a New York mandir showcased this. His connection with a Korean contractor exemplified the inclusive nature of mandirs. This sense of care inspired Wilson Li, the contractor, and youth volunteers to collaborate on mandir extensions. Elders and youths alike supported him, fostering a reciprocal bond of care and love.
This essence of care also benefited students, as seen in the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Bloomington. Students lacking transportation were offered rides by nearby volunteers. Regular visits fostered a sense of home away from home. The community’s selflessness extended to providing extra food for students and even offering a van for transportation.
Mandirs epitomize community unity. Selfless service, positivity, and compassionate care form their guiding principles. Beyond the physical structure, it’s the community that breathes life into mandirs, making them centers of shared values and connections.