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Hidden Treasures: Would You Expect a Palace Like This To Be Found in America’s Midwest?

by Jennifer Geer 4 months ago in culture
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The Hindu temple, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir of Chicago is open to visitors

BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha/(CC BY-SA 3.0)/via Wikimedia Commons

Although Chicago is a city known for its architecture, visitors may not expect to see a palace made of Turkish limestone and Italian marble sitting in the suburbs.

Head west of downtown Chicago for about 45 minutes to find the suburb of Bartlett and the incredible Hindu temple, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir of Chicago.

This gorgeous temple is open to visitors, and the summer months are a particularly excellent time to visit, as the gardens are full of blooms and the fountains are running.

BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha/CC BY-SA 3.0/via Wikimedia Commons

The Mandir is a place of worship and the religion practiced is a denomination of the Swaminarayan branch of Hinduism.

According to the website,

“BAPS is a spiritual and humanitarian Hindu organization dedicated to serving humanity by caring for individuals, families and society. A dedicated force of thousands of volunteers offers over 12 million volunteer hours every year to serve the community through various health, education, disaster relief and environmental protection projects. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Bartlett , IL is one of the Mandirs.”

BAPS/CC BY-4.0/via Wikimedia Commons

The temple encompasses 27 acres and includes the Stone Mandir, the Wooden Haveli, and the Understanding Hinduism Exhibition.

The exhibition is broken into five parts: Introduction to Hinduism, India's contributions to the world, Introduction to the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, About BAPS, and the Social and Charity activities of BAPS.

Visitors can not only view this remarkable structure but can also learn more about the culture of India and the traditions of Hinduism while they are there.

"The construction and architecture of it is rooted in Vedas in a treatise known as the Shilpa-Shastras. The Mandir exemplifies a system of construction that has been proven to withstand the tests of time, thus providing a place that will continue to generate memories and experiences for the posterity." - BAPS Website

BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha/CC BY-SA 3.0/via Wikimedia Commons

The making of the Mandir

BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha/CC BY-SA 3.0/via Wikimedia Commons

The construction of the temple was an architectural feat, with entire pieces assembled elsewhere and pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle.

The marble came from Italy and the limestone from Turkey. The materials were then shipped to western India, where they were hand-carved by over 3,000 artists in less than two years.

Once completed, it was another two months for the finished pieces to reach the US by boat from India, where they were then put on a train from Virginia to Chicago.

BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha/CC BY-SA 3.0/via Wikimedia Commons

When the pieces arrived at the construction site in Bartlett, they were put together “like a massive, 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.”

And finally, according to the website,

“On the auspicious day of August 8, 2004, the Mandir was consecrated by Pramukh Swami Maharaj and made open to the public.”

What to know before you go

If you live in the area or are visiting Chicago, you may want to take the time to drive out to the suburbs and visit this unique architectural marvel.

Tips for visiting:

  • There is plenty of free parking available. Visiting hours are 9 AM to 6:30 PM.
  • The Mandir is a house of worship, and a dress code is required.
  • No sleeveless tops or skirts above the knee. Wraps are provided in the Haveli for visitors to wear who do not have the appropriate attire.
  • You may want to wear socks, as shoes must be removed in the buildings.
  • No cell phones can be used in the buildings, even to take photos.
  • Entrance is free, but you may want to check out the website for visitor information before you go for details.

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Note: An original version of this story was previously published on NewsBreak.

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About the author

Jennifer Geer

Writing my life away. Runner/mama/wife/eternal optimist/coffee enthusiast. Masters degree in Psychology.

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