Sheetla Devi Temple is situated at Gurgaon village, a suburb of Gurgaon, in the state of Haryana. The temple, standing near a pond, is dedicated to Mata Sheetla Devi. Sheetala Mata Mandir, situated near Delhi, is at times referred to as a “Shakti Peeth” and is considered as one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimages in India. The temple is flooded by hoards of devotees, especially during the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April). During this period also, the rush is exceptionally heavy on Mondays.
The only exception to the rush in the temple is in the Hindu month of Shravana (July-August). Sheetla Devi Mandir is also a favored place amongst the devotees for the purpose of the “mundan” (shaving off the heads) ceremony of their children. There is an interesting legend associated with the Sheetla Devi Temple. It goes that there was a poor carpenter in Farukh Nagar, who had a daughter of marriageable age. Since she was exceptionally beautiful, a Mughal ruler sent a proposal to marry her.
The carpenter didn’t want to marry his daughter out of cast, so he approached King Surajmal of Bharatpur to do something about the same. The matter was out of Surajmal’s jurisdiction, thus he refused to interfere. Next he approached Prince Bharatpur, son of King Surajmal. When Surajmal refused Bharatpur also, he revolted against his father and launched an attack on Delhi. While leaving, he prayed at Sheetla Mata Mandir and pledged to build a temple if he came back victorious. He won and this was how the present temple was built.
Lotus Temple DelhiLocated in Kalkaji in the south of Delhi, it is lotus shaped and has rightly been given the name. It is made of marble, cement, dolomite and sand. It is open to all faiths and is an ideal place for meditation and obtaining peace and tranquility.
It is a very recent architectural marvel of the Bahai faith. The Bahá’í Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religions. Its founder, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá’ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad. The central theme of Bahá’u’lláh’s message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Bahá’u’lláh said, has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification.
THE GRAND STRUCTURE
Fariborz Sahba, Canadian architect of Iranian origin, spent 10 years in designing and project management, and with the help of a team of about 800 engineers, technicians, artisans and workers brought to realization one of the most complicated constructions in the world. The structure of the House is composed of three ranks of nine petals; each springing from a podium elevating the building above the surrounding plain. The first two ranks curve inward, embracing the inner dome; the third layer curves outward to form canopies over the nine entrances. The petals, constructed of reinforced white concrete cast in place, are clad in white marble panels, performed to surface profiles and patterns related to the geometry. Nine arches that provide the main support for the superstructure ring the central hall. Nine reflecting pools surround the building on the outside, their form suggesting the green leaves of the lotus flower. Translating the geometry of the design, in which there are virtually no straight lines, into the actual structure presented particular challenges in designing and erecting the framework. Not only was it difficult to align, so as to produce accurately the complex double-curved surfaces and their intersections, but also the closeness of the petals severely restricted workspace. Nevertheless the task was carried out entirely by the local laborers. Thanks to each one who contributed in its construction. To avoid construction joints, petals were concreted in a continuous operation for approximately 48 hours. Concrete was carried up the staging by women bearing 50-pound loads in baskets balanced on their heads. All the steel reinforcing for the shells of the lotus petals was galvanized to avoid rust stains on the white concrete in the prevailing humid conditions, guaranteeing the life of the delicate shell structure of 6 to 18 cm thick shells of the petals. India is well endowed with human resources.
Bahai’ Temple in New DelhiSIGNIFICANCE OF THE DESIGN
The lotus represents the Manifestation of God, and is also a symbol of purity and tenderness. Its significance is deeply rooted in the minds and hearts of the Indians. In the epic poem Mahabharata, the Creator Brahma is described as having sprung from the lotus that grew out of Lord Vishnu’s navel when that deity lay absorbed in meditation, There is a deep and universal reverence for the lotus, which is regarded as a sacred flower associated with worship throughout many centuries. In Buddhist folklore the Boddhisatva Avalokiteswara is represented as born from a lotus, and is usually depicted as standing or sitting on a lotus pedestal and holding a lotus bloom in his hand. Buddhists glorify him in their prayers, “Om Mani Padme Hum”, “Yea, 0 Jewel in the Lotus!” Lord Buddha says you have to be like a lotus which, although living in dirty water, still remains beautiful and undefiled by its surroundings. So, we realise that the lotus is associated with worship, and has been a part of the life and thoughts of Indians through the ages. It will seem to them as though they have been worshipping in this Temple in their dreams for years. Now their vision has become a reality and. God willing, some day they will all enter and worship in it. History of the Bahá’í Faith in India: The history of the Bahá’í Faith in India started with the inception of the Faith in Iran when the Báb (literally, the Gate) inaugurated a new era in the history of the human race. The Báb Himself had appointed one of the Indian believers as the ‘Letter of Living’ in 1844-45, the first year of His Ministry. Since then, India is spiritually connected with the Bahá’i Faith.
Kalkaji temple is arguably the most visited temple in the Delhi city. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Kalka or Kali who is reincarnation of Goddess Durga. The Temple is situated near the Okhla industrial estate just in front of the famous Lotus temple. Devotees throng the temple throughout the year but the culmination point of the celebration comes during the festival of Navratri. This is a nine-day festival, during which a large fair is organized here. These fairs are the Indian version of carnivals that is full with the vibrant commotion of hawkers and children. Small groups singing various hymns and songs praising Goddess Durga, accompany them.
Very less has left of the original temple, built in mid 18th century. However, a very small portion of the original structure built in the year 1734 can be seen on the topmost point of the hill. According to the historical accounts, Marathas are said to have plundered the then temple after they lost to the Mughals in the battle of Talkatora in the year 1738. Later in the mid 19th century, Raja Kedarnath, the treasurer of Emperor Akbar II made certain changes and additions to the temple.
The modern temple is a 12-sided structure completely made out of marble and black pumice stones. This structure houses the black stone that denotes goddess kali. The temple building is very simple and has no ornamentation as such. There is an inn in the backyards of the main structure known as Kali Dharamshala.
The major ritual consists of offering and bathing the idol with milk followed by an Aarti in the evening. This, in turn, is followed by hymn recitation. Offerings can be purchased just before the entrance of the temple. Visitors should be alert in the area as the place is very crowded and there can be few anti-social elements (pickpockets) after your wallet or precious possessions.
Kali Bari Mandir of New Delhi is dedicated to Goddess Kali. It is relatively small in size and quite unpretentious in its design. The temple holds special significance for the Bengali people residing in the city, especially at the time of Durga Puja, held in the month of October-November every year. During that time, the temple becomes the center for celebrations and is flooded by devotees of all ages, in large numbers. A massive Peepal tree grows inside the temple and is considered to be quite sacred.
Devotees coming to the Kali Bari Mandir tie a red thread around the bark of the tree while making a wish. If the wish gets fulfilled, they come back to the temple to untie the thread. An amazing fact about the temple is that here, liquor is offered to the Goddess. Situated near the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, the Kali Bari temple is also visited by the North Indians staying in the capital city. Though not ostentatious like the numerous other temples in Delhi, it still attracts devotees from far and wide.
A stone’s throw from Birla Mandir to the right is the much smaller but quite popular temple devoted to the Goddess Kali. Especially dear to the Bengali community of Delhi, Kali Bari Mandir in Delhi is the centre of celebration during the festival of Durga Puja held every October. Since Kali is believed to be the manifestation of Durga in her most terrifying, warlike avatar, liquor is offered to the goddess in this temple.
The Kali Bari Mandir is rather small and very simple in design. From within the temple grows a huge peepul tree that pierces through the ceiling to shade the temple. The peepul is considered sacred by Hindus and red threads are tied around its bark when beseeching a boon.
For many this is just a temple, for finding solace, peace and quiet. Sitting amongst Lord Krishna and his devotees with Hare Krishna chants going around is indeed an experience. But for those who are seeking more, there is so much to learn and see, than what meets the eye.
From a restaurant to a museum in the making, a library and a special animatronics show, ISKCON has it all. While looking around if you get hunger pangs, you need not go further than the completely vegetarian restaurant Govinda.
The idea behind the upcoming museum is to present Indian history in an interactive manner. Says Dina Nath Das, the brain behind the entire show “it is important to present the story of human evolution to the people, in the right manner. Thus the sound and light presentations accompanied by huge relief and life-like figures are bound to make an impact on an audience, far more than just an exhibition”. The museum will be opened by August for those who want to see the best of science and religion together.
Though the museum is being built, the artwork and the concept behind it already seem impressive. The story begins on the ground floor with the Bhagwat Gita. When you move on to the first floor, you will be taken through the entire sequence of the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Shrimad Bhagwatam.
Not only this, but the museum is also planning to create special section on Forbidden Archaeology. Says Dina Nath “Till date, we all have sworn by Darwin’s theory of evolution. We all believe that the humans came on the earth thousands of years ago. But what is written in the Gita, or the Shrimad Bhagwatam has torn this theory to shreds. For those who do not believe that humans have existed since the universe was formed, evidences have been found of human footsteps along with those of the dinosaurs. Apart from this, excavations have revealed signs of human existence on pieces of land that have been in existence since billions of years”.
Thus by creating this section, ISKCON aims at having a better understanding among Indians about what was said in the Gita and Shrimad Bhagwatam …that humans have been on this earth since the universe came into existence.
But all this is yet to come…what exists today in the temple premises is the Animatronics Centre. Through three different screens, you get to see how the temple was formed, the idea behind it and the spread of the Hare Krishna clan in many other countries. As the show ends, the main animatronics begin. Created by using hi-end technology, the show is controlled by 3 computers networked together and connected to a remote control. One computer controls the overall show, second one acts as the laser discs controller and third one controls the movements of the robots. All 3 computers are synchronized to time codes written on the laser discs, which are the three 3 hi-tech robots of Krishna, Arjuna and Srila Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON.
This is one place, which has been successful in combining science and technology with religion. Even the books and other information that have been displayed here are of interest to those who love to wander in the premises.
ISKCON has thus emerged as a place loved by those who would want to try out good vegetarian food, among architects, philosophers, artists, and even tourists. Take your pick and venture into a place that has lots to say, for those who want to hear.
Hanuman temple in DelhiBal Hanuman Temple in Connaught Place region of Delhi is also known as Prachin Hanuman Mandir. It is one of the few temples which survived the rapid onslaught from the invading armies. Hanuman Mandir is said to be made by Maharaja Jai Singh along with Jantar Mantar in 1724.
Prachin Hanuman Mandir is located on Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Connaught Place, New Delhi. A number of state emporiums are located near the temple.
Adornment of Temple
Ancient Hanuman Mandir entrance door or the Dwar is embossed with the depiction of the entire Ramayana. Ceiling of the main mandap of the temple sports paintings of scenes from Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas. The paintings look very realistic and provide a quick recall of the incidents. Just below the paintings, verses from the Sunderkand from Ramcharitmanas are engraved in marble. The temple has undergone several times.
While Visiting the Temple
While your trip to the temple, you can also visit evening flower market near the temple. Henna tattoo artists sit nearby the temple to assist their clients in decorating them. They can make extremely complicated designs on your hands. Marrried women can purchase bangle from the bangle sellers most of whom are muslims. This is indeed a perfect example of thriving in harmony. You will also find sellers dealing in religious objects. And you must not skip kachoris which are simply too good to miss. Kachori is a heavy and spicy Indian snack which is usually eaten with potato curry.
Gauri Shankar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The lingam is girded by snakes and represents a `cosmic pillar, the centre of universe, the life itself`. Statues of Gauri (Goddess Parvati) and Shankar (Lord Shiva) stand beneath the silver canopy, inside the main shrine, ornamented with pricey finery. Other idols of their sons, Kartik (the God of War) and Ganesh (the elephant-headed God) are placed to their sides.
The Gauri-Shankar Mandir of Delhi counts among the most revered temples of `Shaivism` (a sect of Hinduism that worship Lord Shiva) in India. A flight of marble stairs, beautified with pillars carved with chains and bells, lead into temple courtyard. Offerings made in the temple include `bilva` (wood apple), `chandan` (sandal wood paste), marigolds, red powder, rice and cotton threads. One of the high points of the temple is a marble chair of Bhagat Swaroop Brahmachari, a Hindu saint who spent more than 50 years in the temple.
Gauri-Shankar Temple, Delhi Legendary stories associate itself with the Gauri Shankar temple. One of them is that of Apa Ganga Dhar, a Maratha Hindu soldier who was a staunch believer of Shiva. One day he was fiercely injured in battle, with his survival chances being quite dull. He prayed to the Lord and pledged that if he survives, he would build a temple dedicated to the Lord. To everyone`s amazement, Ganga Dhar survived and according to his word, he built the temple, known today as the Gauri-Shankar Mandir. Another legend speaks of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb who had ordered that the temple bells would not be rung. From that day onwards for the next three days, he kept hearing the ringing of the bells in his ears, in a continuous flow. Eventually, he yielded and took back his orders.
Chattarpur Mandir is situated just 4 km from Qutub Minar, located in the Mehrauli area of New Delhi. The spectacular temple complex is an architectural gem in itself. All the shrines in the complex are built from white marble. Comparatively recent in its construction, it rivals the splendor of the Mughal architecture of the city. Devotees from all over Delhi come to pay their homage to the deities in the temple. The main shrine is dedicated to Goddess Durga and exhibits traits of the temple architecture of South India.
On Durga Puja, one can see never-ending queues of devotees waiting patiently for their turn to ask for the blessings of the Goddess. According to the popular belief, tying a thread on the tree inside the complex of Chattarpur Mandir fulfills one’s wishes. Prayers and sermons are conducted in the temple 24 hours a day. Anybody can participate in these spiritual meetings, any time. The beauty of the complex is highlighted by the lush green gardens in the area. There are also a number of temples inside the complex, dedicated to various Gods and Goddesses, like Vishnu, Ganesha, Lakshmi and Shiva.
Strictly speaking, this structure is not part of the New Delhi Lutyens designed. Famous Birla Mandir in Delhi is essentially a Hindu temple which came up alongside with New Delhi and has therefore been pegged with it. Popularly known as the Birla Mandir, it is the first of the temples built across the country by the industrial family of Birla. Located just off Connaught Place on Mandir Marg, it is dedicated to Vishnu, the second of the Hindu Trinity of creator-preserver-destroyer, and his consort Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth.
¤ The Most Important Temples of Hindus
Built in 1938, famous Birla Mandir in Delhi was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi (Father of the Indian Nation) on the express condition that people of all castes and especially untouchables would be allowed in. (Refer to section People). Consequently a plaque at the gate reiterates that people of all faiths and classes are welcome. Till date, it remains one of the most popular temples in Delhi.
¤ The Architectural Brilliance of The Birla Mandir (Temple)
Birla Mandir is also famous for the festival of Janmashtami (birth of the Hindu deity Krishna). The festival is celebrated here with much goodwill and cheer.
The temple is designed in the Orissan style, with tall curved towers capped by large amalakas (circular ribbed motif at the summit of a temple tower). The exterior is faced with the white marble and red sandstone typical of Delhi’s Mughal architecture. The interior court is overlooked by two-storey verandahs on three sides; there are gardens and fountains at the rear. The profusion of sculptures, idols, spires and jalis, the Birla Mandir in Delhi is also considered as splendor in terms of its architecture.