The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Sanstha Mandir in the Chicago suburb of Bartlett is not just a mouthful, but also an eyeful with its traditional Indian design and marble construction.
In fact the innocuous worship site is not only made in a traditional Indian style of construction but it is actually built to the ancient specifications laid out in the Hindu text on temple design, the Shilpa Shastras. The ornate marble and limestone complex was remarkably constructed in just 16 months by a supernaturally dedicated group of 1,700 volunteers, using no steel support in the entire building. The speedy construction feat was achieved by quarrying the stone from such disparate countries as Turkey and Italy, then shipping the raw rocks to India for carving. The delicate and ornate stonework was then carved in India for 22 months prior to being shipped out to Bartlett where the pieces were put together like the most expensive Lego set of all time.
The beautiful ivory building features five carved pinnacles surrounding a central dome, all spread across the huge central building. Despite the tall, sprawling structure there is not an inch of the temple that seems to be free of some sort of carving or filigree giving the building an unreal fantasy feel.
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Sanstha Mandir seems as though someone simply created a portal to India on the outskirts of Chicago. To complete the effect, the mandir also features an adjoining cultural center known as a “haveli” which was also created to religious specifications, although using wood. If a trip to India is too expensive, this temple provides a more than reasonable substitute.