I am starting to believe it is in the most barren places that the world creates the
most beautiful things. A rainbow sunset that paints the desert sky, a mountain covered in
plush green trees, and a Hindu Mandir in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
Just off the 71 freeway in Chino Hills, California, surrounded by new homes, and
industrial buildings there is a temple that houses traditions from one of the oldest
religions in the world.
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir nearly blends in with the surrounding tan and
sand beige buildings. However, what does stand out is its intricacy and the instant beauty
As I walked out into the 90 degree day toward the Mandir, I instantly realized how
tranquil it felt. The grounds were oddly silent considering its position right next to the
freeway, yet somehow it was noiseless. It was the type of silent that I have felt before
around places with great spiritual means.
Since it was still morning it was nearly empty, but there were a few men, women,
and children moving about from building to building. Some of them wore tradition
clothing while others did not.
I slipped off my sandals and felt the warmth from the sun, not quite burning but
enough to make me walk quickly up the steps of the Mandir. As I did so I was drawn by
the delicate carvings that decorated the entirety of the temple. My eyes were filled, and as
soon as I focused on one aspect of the architecture my eyes were drawn somewhere else.
Before entering into the temple I noted the signs requesting the turning off of cell
phones and the practice of silence; two things most of seldom do.
Once I opened the wood carved doors I understood the importance of those two
requests. Inside the temple was the same intricate carving that covered the ceilings, walls,
and pillars but in a white marble. The time, energy, and love that was put into this detail
would not have been appreciated nearly as much if the presence of phones and
conversations were allowed; and for that I was thankful.
The square shaped room had a series of pillars leading toward the middle where
there were a series of Mandir Shrines. Lining the sides of the room were more Shrines .
Some people stood, others sat, or knelt showing reverence to the sacred images. Some
people sat in meditative prayer as the soft backdrop of traditional music played creating
an even greater spiritual pull.
There was an energy present in the Mandir that was undeniable. It was humbling to
watch others in their space of worship and to observe the rituals and characteristics that
bring THEM closer to God.
When I felt ready, I explored the interactive exhibit that was held downstairs. The
exhibit delved deeper into the meaning of the Mandir and the cultural practices of
Hinduism. What resonated with me most was the emphasis placed on love and
Prior to my visit to this Mandir I had little knowledge of India and the cultural or
religious practices. I had no idea the richness and vibrancy that is found not only in the
architecture, but in the belief systems that hold them together as a people. It is not about
exclusivity but being inclusive; that was what struck me the most.
Walking out of the temple there was an energy surrounding my friend and I that we
didn’t want to break. The feeling was similar to when finishing a mediation or yoga
practice. The air is still, your heart and mind are calm, and the world feels a little less
scary and a little more like an adventure waiting for you to gently create a footprint.
“A Mandir is a place of paramount peace…to realize God”
– H.H. Pramukh Swami Maharaj
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Chino Hills- California