Center for Faith and Vocation

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

(317) 271-1577
350 N County Road 900 East
Avon, IN 46123

Institutional History/Information

Swaminarayan Hinduism traces its history to a guru named Bhagwan Swaminarayan, who died in 1830. Swaminarayan Hindus believe that the guru's spiritual authority passed through a lineage of monastic leaders that succeeded him. The Avon temple belongs to the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a splinter group within the Swaminarayan tradition with a large, worldwide following. BAPS members believe that the line of Swaminarayan's spiritual authority has passed through five gurus down to the present leader of the community, who is known as Pramukh Swami. A picture of the Pramukh Swami can be seen next to the entrance to the worship area in the Avon location. The Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism is unique because of its focus on powerful and unifying god who works through the other gods and goddesses that are normally associated with Hinduism (Krishna, Shiva, etc.). The Avon BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir is only around 3 years old. Worldwide there are over 7,000 congregations, the largest and most celebrated located in New Delhi. Several photographs of the New Delhi mandir can be seen in the lobby of the Avon building.

Demographics

At Avon BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir, attendees range from age 2 to age 70. Most attendees are middle-aged, though. Most of the people who attend are Gujaratis, or the descendants of Gujaratis (Gujaratis are from Gujarat, a state in northern India, near Pakistan). Gujaratis speak Gujarati, and that is the language in which the service is conducted. Some people travel to this mandir from as far away as 60 miles. The most attended service during the week is the weekly assembly on Sunday from 4-7 pm.

Service Style

Daily arti services are held at 7 am and 7 pm. The Sunday morning arti is attended by several hundred people and it lasts for approximately two hours. Weekday arti is attended by a few devotees. Scripture is read and meditated on, and rituals are performed before the gods and goddesses. The ritual includes the waving of a small candle in a circular motion in front of each deity while singing. There is an extended period of songs interspersed with kneeling. The act of kneeling involves going to the floor on the knees, followed by the hands and then forehead. Some congregants sing along with pre-recorded music. A priest on location indicated that one of the continuing goals of the facility is to have live music with instruments (particularly drums) brought in from India. After the service, worshippers are offered water to drink from their hands as well as food that has been offered to and blessed by the deities, called prasad.

The purpose of the arti service is twofold. First, according to those at the temple, the use of the fire wards off evil things around the images of the deities. The second purpose of the arti service is to worship the gods and demonstrate one's devotion to them.

What To Expect

Attendees must take their shoes off at the door. No photography or recording is allowed in the main worship room. For the services, men and women are seated on opposite sides of the room in chairs to the left and right as you walk in. Directly in front of you as you walk in to worship is an ornate gold structure in a sectioned-off part of the room. The structure holds statues of gods and goddesses as well as pictures of Swaminarayan and his successors. The statues are not merely statues, but are considered to contain the presence of the deity. Because of this, the figures are cared for as if they were living beings. They are symbolically awakened in the morning, offered three meals, and sheltered during an afternoon nap and at night. Before attending an arti service, it is recommended that the visitor call ahead and ask to be met and guided.