Europe’s first traditional Hindu Temple in Neasden, London – Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.
After getting off the bus in between Tesco and IKEA shopping centres, walking along one of the main routes and a regular London neighbourhood we’ve made it to the temple. A massive ornate building in the middle of the neighbourhood. Interesting.
As soon as I went into the building however a moment of reflection began. A few things surprised me from the beginning. First of all – you need do take off your shoes before you start the tour. Second of all – you can’t take any pictures inside. None of these things are bad in any way, they were just something different from what you usually get in London tourist attractions. Actually it is quite a good way of experiencing this place if you can’t take any pictures. You have the time to focus and really admire. And you can do that from the very moment you enter the building as the Grand Haveli Foyer delights with its wooden carvings.
We started off with going to the Inner Sanctum, the main part of the Mandir. It’s a beautiful place, with amazing carvings on pillars and ceiling, I think it is all made of marble and limestone if I’m not mistaken. It certainly made a big impression on me, especially that I didn’t know much about Hinduism I must admit. If I was to ever try meditation or needed a calm and quiet space to think things through I could definitely go there. The visitors were really respective of the spirituality of the place and kept quiet while walking around the temple.
The part that provoked a lot of thoughts was the exhibition available on the ground floor. Apart from the history of Hinduism very neatly presented, we could find a history of Indian inventions. And here is what we found out:
– World’s first university was established at Tashashilā, in the north-west region of India
– India invented the zero number
– Indian Surya Siddhanta treatise describes detailed applications of Trigonometry which were introduced in Europe 1200 years later in the 16th century.
– Pythagorean Theorem was in fact formulated earlier by Baudhāyana
– Aryabhatta has stated that the Earth revolves around the sun over a thousand years before Copernicus
– Bhaskaracharya, an Indian astronomer, has made a note of the Law of Gravity 1200 years before Isaac Newton
– Shushruta practised his plastic surgery skills as early as 600 BC.
My world has just turned upside down! The people of India knew everything around 1000 years before us [Europeans] – how come they hadn’t become the world power back then?I couldn’t help it, I had to google all these information.
Saying that the Indians invented the trigonometry, Pythagorean Theorem or heliocentric models would be a slight overstatement, however various scientists stating the above much earlier than it has been officially described is a fact. What does it tell us then? Of that I’m not sure. How come they didn’t manage to use this knowledge to develop complex mathematical models proving their hypotheses? They had 1000 years to do that, didn’t they? My research didn’t go that deep yet, so if you happen to have the answer to this question – I would be happy to learn!
The most important learning from that was my feeling of surprise and reaction of denial (What? They invented all that? That can’t be true), simply because this was not exactly what I was taught for so many years at school. It was a nice experience to get a new perspective and do some more reading on the things that seemed to be absolute truth before.
Unfortunately we didn’t manage to join the traditional rituals available to see in the temple as well, but it seems like it would make the visit more complete. If you have the chance, make sure to keep an eye on the available ritual timings specified on the website.