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Harper officially opens elaborate Hindu temple

CTV News Staff

Jul 22, 2007

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, receives a gift, while taking part in the grand inauguration of the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir on Sunday, July 22, 2007 in Toronto. (CP / Nathan Denette)


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A portion of the detailed carvings is shown. More than 24,000 pieces of the temple were sculpted in India. (BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Toronto)


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The Swaminarayan Mandir, a Hindu temple, is located northwest of Toronto and officially opened on July 22, 2007. (BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Toronto)


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A crew member carves a design into a piece of stone (BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Toronto)


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A view of the detailed pieces construction at Swaminarayan Mandir. (BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Toronto)

After 18 months of construction and millions in fundraising efforts, a one-of-a-kind Hindu temple opened Sunday in Toronto.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on-hand to celebrate the official unveiling of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.

Harper said the $40 million architectural marvel represents India's and Canada's embracement of spiritual and ethnic pluralism.

"Canada's accommodation of diversity is not without precedent," Harper said, addressing a large crowd.

"There have been forerunners -- and of these perhaps none is as note-worthy as India."

Located at Hwy 427 and Finch Avenue in north-west Toronto, the temple is an architectural masterpiece. Built with Turkish limestone and Italian marble, the temple was built by artisans armed with chisels, hammers and ancient Hindu doctrine outlining how a holy place should be constructed.

The entire project was created by the Hindu community both in Canada and in India. About 2,000 Indian craftsmen were hired to bring the temple to life. About 100 were brought to Toronto to construct the temple while about 1,800 were hired in India to carve out some of the intricate, detailed carvings that adorn the temple.

Harper said the fruit of the community's labour will give people a glimpse into how Indo-Canadians have influenced Canada's cultural mosaic.

"The facility will inspire visitors to appreciate how the spiritually diverse, multi-ethnic heritage of indo-Canadians has contributed to the fields of arts, science, education and pluralism," Harper said.

Here are some details about the massive project:

  • More than 24,000 pieces of the temple were sculpted in India -- with each of the parts marked with a bar code to facilitate construction.

  • The project started in 2005 and opens officially on July 22, 2007.

  • No steel was used in the construction. It is all stone piled on stone.

Not only did the Hindu community raise the majority of the $40 million it took to build the temple, they also served up 400 volunteers to help the project along. They did it all without asking a cent from the government.

The celebration started early Saturday afternoon with a procession in the downtown core.

Starting at 4 p.m. on the grounds of Queen's Park, a colourful parade made its way down to Wellington St. complete with music and dancers.

The parade carried several idols that were to be indoctrinated in the temple Sunday morning. It was meant as a symbolic gesture to introduce the deities to the city, their new land.

BAPS, which stands for Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, has an international following. The temple will not only offer religious services to the community, it will also hold classes and the Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians.



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