Largest Hindu Temple in North America is OTP

Visiting the Hindu Temple in Lilburn, Georgia was amazing! It is a wonderful place to take children. The temple, also called a Mandir, is easy to drive to, has ample parking, and is free to visit.

When you turn into the gate, the view of the Mandir is breathtaking! You will need to give your name at the gate and then you will be directed to the gift shop. Touring the Mandir is free, but I highly recommend the audio head set for $5.00. Follow the map on the brochure and you will be able to read information at the shrines/stations but the audio gives more detailed information.

10517506_10152523401411827_2399757538123988755_nThe architecture is unbelievable. The 32,000-square-foot (3,000 m2) temple, officially called the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, sits on 30 acres (120,000 m2). With hand-carved stone spires that tower 75 feet (23 m), it is the tallest building in Lilburn, Georgia, dominating the intersection of Rockbridge Road and Lawrenceville Highway.

More than 1,300 craftsmen and 900 volunteers dedicated their time in putting this 34,450-piece stone building together. More than 4,500 tons of Italian Carrara marble, 4,300 tons of Turkish limestone, and 3,500 tons of Indian pink sandstone was quarried and shipped to the craftsmen in India. Then, all of the nearly 35,000 pieces were shipped to the United States.

It serves members of the Swaminarayan branch of Hinduism, which originated in India more than 200 years ago. The traditional design features custom-carved stonework, a wraparound veranda and five prominent pinnacles reminiscent of the Himalayan hills. The Lilburn location is the largest temple in North America for BAPS which was built at an estimated cost of $19 million.

After admiring the outside of this gorgeous building, we entered and were asked to wear a cloth, which was provided, sarong-style over our knees. (I had read online to wear a shirt that covers our shoulders but did not know about covering our knees.)

Inside the temple, we removed our shoes and placed them in a wall of cubby spaces. No photography is allowed — it is an active temple of worship. Walking barefoot up the marble stairs was just a prelude to the beauty that we were about to see.

The Mandir is intricately hand-carved and absolutely stunning. We followed our audio guide around the temple learning about all the people featured in the shrines. We saw real monks in orange drapes preparing food for these inanimate shrines.

At a certain time, three of the most prominent shrines opened their doors and we saw a ceremony involving prayers, singing and smoke. We watched Indian families participate in the ceremony and kneel and kiss the floor in front of the shrines.

Outside of the inner temple, we went into a room where we saw a water ceremony where the families poured water on a statue and circled the room a certain number of times. Surrounding this statue were signs and pictures on the wall to read. I think kids will enjoy learning about the young boy, Bhagwan Swaminarayanwho learned all the Hindu teachings, then walked 700 miles across India and is considered their main prophet.

Most of all, I think kids will enjoy learning that the Hindu religion is based on God being everywhere and God is expressed through nature and animals and people. Seeing other Indian children worshipping their faith is very educational.

baps8We noticed that only males were allowed to sit at the front of the room during the ceremony. We were asked to participate in part of the ceremony where we fanned the smoke from the candle toward our face and moved our hands over our head three times as we saw the other worshipers do.

After touring the Temple, we walked around outside where a huge reflecting pool featured bronze elephants squirting water from their trunks. We walked to the bottom steps of the Temple to a designated photo spot and took a picture with the Temple behind us. Then, we went across the street to the café BAPS Shayona, where they have a buffet lunch of Indian food as well as a la carte items and a large selection of bagged Indian pastries. It was a wonderful morning spent at BAPS, the Hindu Temple in Lilburn, and we will look forward to visiting again! Recommended for adults and children.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
460 Rockbridge Road NW
Lilburn, GA 30047
Phone: 678.906.2277
Fax: 678.906.2984

Julie Starling is a 15 year OTP resident and  a senior contributor to the website Trip Advisor under the name “TravelingGal2012.”