Shri Swaminarayan Temple
is the first temple of the Swaminarayan Sampraday, a Hindu sect. It is located in Kalupur
area of Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat
. It was built on the instructions of Swaminarayan, the founder of the sect. As per the will of Swaminarayan, the administration of the Swaminarayan Sampraday is divided into two Gadis (seats) - NarNarayan Dev Gadi and LaxmiNarayan Dev Gadi. This temple is the headquarters of the NarNarayan Dev Gadi. Green and yellow sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses, their bodies fitted in opulent dress, cover the structure of this nineteenth-century temple.
With its architecture based on Burma teak wood, every coloured arch and bracket is a bright different shade, something that stands out in most Swaminarayan temples. According to Anjali Desai, author of India Guide Gujarat, the temple resembles a fairytale with all its colours and opulent carvings that profusely embellish every wooden bracket, column and arch. The temple attracts a million people on the day after Diwali. The temple has a multi-story guesthouse that is air conditioned and has a fully equipped medical clinic within its compound.
This three-storey mansion was constructed by Acharya Maharjshree Keshavprasadji Maharaj in 1871. The mansion itself rests on octagonal and square wooden pillars on which Ardh-murt relief sculpture of flowers and creepers is engraved. Angles of wooden pillars, carved in free hand design and the shapely Bharnai, which balconies rest on. The Sabha mandap, an extensive Central Hall, has been constructed on sixty pillars.
There are giant size madal-shilp sculptures on twelve high pillars in the front row on which rest the portico of the first floor, capture our attention with its great artistic appeal. These sculptors include a flying Hanuman lifting the Devgiri mountain in his palm; a pot bellied Ghanesha wearing a scarlet turban in the South Indian style, miniature sculptures of several soldiers armed and dressed in Marathi turbans and costumes and herds of monkeys have been created on the religious tradition in the wooden sculptors.
Interestingly, some sculptors depict the 1857 uprising, with the Rani of Jhansi and other heroes narrated in carvings of these pillars. There are a total of 12 such pillars, which depict scenes such as a Maratha warrior fighting under the Rani of Jhansi in guise of Durga the Hindu goddess, Indian leader Tatya Tope in the guise of Narsimha, the lion headed form of Vishnu and that of parrots which tell the mood of the times. Sculptures of lions and elephants, birds like peacocks and parrots and perfectly engraved leaves and flowers decorate the panels.
The beams, ceilings, and lower sections are adorned with engravings, artistic sculptures and free-hand designs. In this mansion, Acharya sits on the wooden seat once used by Swaminarayan in the Congregation Hall. A new residence of the saints, Vrajendraprasad Mahal and a dining hall for the devotees are also situated in this mansion.
This mansion is two storeyed. Sculptures of animal heads, flowers and creepers are carved on the wooden pillars of the portico on the ground floor. Items relating to NarNarayan Dev on the ground floor. The first and second floors house a Sanskrit and music school as well as residence for saints. The backyard hosts the residence for brahmchari (celibate) students. A well where Swaminarayan used to bathe under a dome is also part of the backyard.
Secular Area And Heritage Walk:
Kalupur area in Ahmedabad where the temple is located in a Muslim dominated area. Communal harmony was shown during the 2001 Gujarat earthquake when the Muslim neighbours cooked food and gave it to the temple authorities, who accepted it as they needed it to distribute to earthquake victims. A Heritage Walk of Ahmedabad city was started on on the 19 November, 1997 by the local municipal corporation in association with the Foundation for Conservation and Research of Urban Traditional Architecture (CRUTA).
The walk starts from this temple in the Kalupur area of the city and ends at the Jama Masjid
, after touring 18 sites. The one and a half kilometer long walk takes three hours to complete. In 1999, the temple held an exhibition of photographs relating to the culture and architecture of the city as part of the Heritage Week celebrations. In 2003, Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, chose to lead this walk along with his cabinet colleagues to spread the message of peace.