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Hand-carved $40M Hindu temple opens in Toronto


Harper, Ontario premier on hand for event welcoming the architectural wonder

Jul 22, 2007,


The form of the mandir makes references to sacred mountains and caves where sanctuary and inspiration can be found. The form of the mandir makes references to sacred mountains and caves where sanctuary and inspiration can be found.
(Eli Glasner/CBC)

'This whole thing has no nails, no steel.'
—Sejal Maisuri, volunteer

A massive $40-million Hindu temple that is being called an architectural wonder, constructed with ancient techniques and 2,000 volunteers, had its official opening Sunday near Toronto's airport.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty helped open the 95,000-square-foot building — Canada's first marble Hindu temple — on Sunday.

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a monument to the Indo-Canadian Community, a structure considered like none other in Canada.

The local Indian and South Asian community raised the money to build the temple.

Made of Turkish limestone and Italian marble, hundreds of artisans in India, trained in the ancient Vedic tradition, carved 24,000 pieces using a chisel and hammer. These pieces were shipped to Toronto by boat and then assembled much like a massive jigsaw puzzle with interlocking sections.

"So this whole thing has no nails, no steel," explains Sejal Maisuri to CBC News.  Maisuri is among the countless volunteers who spent two years helping put the temple together.

"It's all put together through the sheer force of gravity."

Christopher Hume, a local architecture critic, calls it "wonderful.

"I don't have to be Hindu [to appreciate it]," says Hume.  "It's got nothing to do with that. It sets an example that is so different from what we're used to."

In a release, McGuinty noted Ontario's "large, vibrant Indo-Canadian community" and its "strong commitment to celebrating our diversity.

"I know this Mandir will thrive here," McGuinty said. "I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to build this beautiful complex - it is a wonderful gift to Ontario and to Canada."

Besides an area of worship, the temple's ground floor houses a museum exploring the history and culture of Indo-Canadians, who say the Mandir is a way of giving back in the hopes other Canadians will come for a visit.

"It's amazing," says 11-year-old Parshad, who greets visitors at the tent set up outside for people to drop off their shoes.  "It's so big, you feel very proud. [People] should come. When you see it, you believe it."

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