The Hindu temple Laxminarayan, or Birla Mandir as it’s otherwise known, is a major attraction in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by Gandhi and is dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth, good fortune, health, and prosperity, and the god Vishnu, also known as Narayana, who is a principal deity of Hinduism.
The architect Baldeo Das Birla (Birla Group of Industries) was in charge of the construction, and together with his sons, he finished the temple in 1939. Because it was constructed by this architect, who was the leading business tycoon of India, it received the name Birla Mandir.
It is situated on Mandir Marg, which is near the place known as Connaught in Delhi. The Mandir is surrounded by other, smaller side temples dedicated to other important gods and idols, including Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva, and Lord Buddha. The Laxminarayan was the first large temple to be built in the city and it is spread over 7.5 acres and has many little temples, several amazingly sculpted fountains, and a large garden filled with sculptures crafted in Hindu shapes.
As a major attraction, the temple draws in many tourists and devotees, particularly at the time of the Diwali, and Janmashtami festivals. It also houses Geeta Bhawan, dedicated to Lord Krishna for discourses, where visitors can learn about Hindu mythology and educate themselves about this beautiful culture. During the festivals, the place is crowded with devotees who come from all over India to pray to the Hindu Gods and receive their blessing.
The construction of the temple was under Pandit Vishwanath Shastri’s guidance. Swami Keshwa Nandji performed the ceremony at the opening, and the foundation stone was laid by Maharaj Udaybhanu Singh. It was inaugurated by Gandhi in 1939, who had just one rule, that people from all religions would be allowed to go inside. This temple is the first of many built by the Birla family. They designed temples in cities throughout India, and almost all of them have the name Birla Temple.
The layout of the temple is similar to the buildings designed in the Orissan style, which makes it look very exotic. It has three tall towers made of red sandstone, and the tallest one dedicated to the main gods is 16 feet high. The walls inside are decorated with magnificent carvings depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.
There are also numerous symbols and quotes written on the walls from the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. More than 100 artists from Benares worked on the carved icons of the mandir. There are many guest houses near the temple and inside for visitors and international scholars who want to gain knowledge about the Sanskrit religion. The small temple dedicated to Buddha in the compound is filled with fresco paintings in which his life and deeds are described.
The shrines of the goddess Lakshmi and Narayana are in the highest tower, standing in the middle of the temple, and is the most visited of them all. The statues in the mandir are made of marble by the most prominent artists, brought from Jaipur. The premises of the temple were made by Kota stones, which were brought to Delhi from Kota, Agra, Jaisalmer, and Makarana. The temple is open to the public the whole week, and it is most visited between February and April, when the weather in the city is at its most pleasant.
It is built facing east, which is the most important direction in the Hindu religion, connected to the sunrise. The many sculptures and statues add to the beauty of this amazing place.
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The well done artificial landscape and cascading waterfalls make the Laxminarayan Temple a perfect place for solitude and contemplation.