Lakshmi Narayana Temple
The Lakshmi Narayana Temple is a Hindu temple in New Delhi, the capital of the Republic of India, also known as the Birla Mandir.
Delhi, like India itself, is a city of many faces and brilliance, striking in its identity. Here there is both boundless luxury and extreme poverty. But the temple of the goddess Lakshmi Narayan is open to all.
In 1933, father and son Birla, the famous businessmen of the time, donated money to build this temple. It was erected for 5 years, and in 1938 it was opened. The opening ceremony was conducted by Mahatma Gandhi himself, it was he who insisted that this sacred place could be visited by all people, regardless of caste. The most famous and skilled sculptors worked on the carved walls and statues of the temple. The result of their labors was this magnificent structure of pink marble.
The temple occupies a huge area – about 3 hectares. On this territory there is a free hotel for parishioners, a large park with cascading waterfalls, there are also special caves where yogis can retreat to their meditations and a library. The area of the complex is guarded, so it’s really a place for solitude and contemplation.
The main temple is dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of love and material prosperity. The tallest tower of the three-story structure goes up 48 meters. Inside the walls are richly decorated with various frescoes with scenes from the lives of the main saints – Lakshmi and her husband. A huge statue of the goddess is considered the main shrine of the complex.
As local guides tell us, the place for the construction was not chosen by chance. Everyone who comes here can feel that the temple stands in a place of power. If you stay here for at least an hour, you can change your karma for the better.
Various services and rituals are constantly held in the temple. On all the buildings are hung speakers, where the relaxing music pours out. It is played live, you can even attend a concert of percussionist and vocalist. Also here is a strict rule – you can enter the sacred room only barefoot. If you dare to go in barefoot, you will be politely but emphatically asked to take your shoes off. It is also forbidden to take photographs or videos, but the entrance is free.
It’s better to visit the temple and India in general in winter from early November to March. In summer it is very hot, even the gods have a rest during this time and not attentive to the requests of earthly inhabitants.
The doctrine of the holy trinity is reflected in various world religions, but the earliest among the “trinity” teachings was Hinduism. Thus, the Trinity, which in Sanskrit is called “trimurti,” consists of Brahma, who creates the universe. Vishna protects and multiplies what Brahma created. Shiva destroys the universes, in place of which Brahma creates new ones, and the cycle starts all over again.
Hindus, like all civilized people, in spite of all the ascesis of the vast majority of the teachings of the various branches of Hinduism, still prefer a comfortable and well-fed existence. That is why traditionally the most revered hypostasis of the god in the Trimurti is Vishnu, the one who develops peace and brings happiness. One form of Vishnu, Narayana, which literally translates from Sanskrit as “he who shelters” or “he who gives shelter,” has parallels with the role of Jesus in Christianity. It is to this manifestation of the god that the temple of Lakshmi Narayana, located in the Indian capital, Delhi, is dedicated.
Lakshmi, the sun-faced consort of Vishnu, who gives people abundance in all their undertakings, is the main deity of the temple, and the main sanctuary is dedicated to her. However, there are a number of altars for other deities such as Shiva, Hanuman, Ganesha, Durga, Krishna, Buddha and others. This diversity makes the temple completely universal for all currents in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, and therefore pilgrims from every corner of India and Tibet, as well as many Western countries, can be found at the Lakshmi Narayana Temple all year round.
But even without the religious background, the temple attracts tourists because the architecture of this place is unparalleled in the whole of India. All the inner parts of the temple are painted with the finest frescoes showing various narratives from mythological and religious epics of India. Curiously, the entire temple is decorated with stucco in the form of swastikas, which symbolize the Sun and its role in the cosmos.
Even before our era, the Hindus had a truly impressive knowledge of astronomy. Epochs called “yugas” divided the history of the world into different stages, and the smallest unit for fixing epochal events were the years of the devs, equal to 360 revolutions of the Earth around the sun. But the larger mahayugi numbered 432000 years, which strikingly coincides with the latest research of cosmologists in the formation of cosmic objects.
Lakshmi Narayana temple at night
It is facts like these that are the main “cleansers” of the name of the solar swastika from the taint of the Third Reich, which made it its main symbol. That is why at least one research expedition is constantly on the territory of the temple, studying the old temples, replenishing the treasury of world history with more and more deciphers of the ancient symbols.
The modern temple was built on top of the Lakshmi shrines in the XX century AD, but some fragments of stone chapels are thousands of years old. The facades of the temple and its surroundings express all the architectural achievements of the past centuries. The Lakshmi Narayana temple became famous in India in the early stages of its construction. The pyramidal shikhara domes were decorated by the best stone carvers in India. Mahatma Gandhi, who personally inaugurated the temple, declared that Lakshmi was accepting of all, regardless of race, creed or caste. This is why the Lakshmi Narayana Temple is one of the few places in India that is fully open to foreigners. The simultaneous wealth and accessibility were the reason why the temple established a personal guard. Sanctuary guards search those suspected of theft at the temple’s exit.
This temple, according to legends of the ancient temple of Lakshmi, when you spend two hours in meditation cleanses the soul and rebirth of the body. Since Lakshmi is also the goddess of health, many Hindus come to the temple asking for healing, which most do receive. Miracle or self-inflicted, the Lakshmi Narayana temple is definitely worth a visit because there is no other such place to be found in all of India.
Lakshmi Narayan Temple
I first came to the beautiful Lakshmi Narayan Temple feeling shattered and discouraged, but after one hour there, my sadness and fatigue were gone.
Religion is an integral part of India’s culture. Delhi has an incredible number of temples and small temples of various branches and streams of Hinduism, but there are not many large and socially significant religious buildings in the city. Birla Mandir is one such temple and attracts thousands of pilgrims who come here from all over India. They believe that by visiting here they can change their destiny and purify their karma.
The main value of Lakshmi Narayana is not the rich architecture, but the fact that it is a universally recognized place of power. It only takes half an hour to see the temple, but you need to spend at least a couple of hours to get a feel for its power and understand why so many pilgrims flock here.
The temple has two names: Lakshmi Narayan (popular) and Birla Mandir (official). On the map of Delhi it is marked as Birla Mandir. Now I will tell you why it was so.
The idea of building the temple originated with Mahatma Gandhi, who was struggling with the problem of social stratification of society. Lakshmi Narayan was laid in 1938, to symbolize the absence of caste distinctions. It took a long time to choose a place for it and finally they settled on the ancient shrine of Lakshmi (wife of God Vishnu), the fragments of which are about 1,000 years old.
The temple was built at the expense of the family, who bore the name of Birla, hence its second name. Mahatma Gandhi carefully supervised the construction and hoped that the power of his energy and faith would “breathe long life” into this religious creation. For five years the stones were stacked on top of the stones, persistently and patiently, until the tower grew to a height of 50 meters. The walls of the temple are lavishly decorated with finely handmade frescoes telling the story of the lives of the Gods, and the murals are by the best artists in Hindustan.
The temple is open from the early morning hours of 4:30 to 9:00 pm. The least number of tourists is in the morning and evening. You can visit this sacred place for free. Excursions here, unfortunately, are not available at all.
How to get there
The exact address is Mandir Mang, DIZ Area, New Delhi.
From anywhere in the city
The nearest metro station is Rama Krishna Ashram Marg and it is about two kilometers from the temple. Closer, unfortunately, is not available. So first of all go to the station R.K. Ashram Marg station, and then take a rickshaw or walk.
Give the rickshaw driver the address I gave above or just tell him Birla Mandir (you will be charged around 1 USD / 50 INR).
How to get from the subway on foot, I have indicated on the map below.
From Main Bazaar.
If you are staying at Main Bazaar in the Pahar Ganj area (why it is convenient to stay there, I told you in my review article about Delhi), you can also take a rickshaw or walk to the temple from there.
It will take you 30-40 minutes and you will “take out” the bouquet of impressions of life in the streets of Delhi. If you take a rickshaw it will cost you about 1 USD / 70 INR. My friends and I usually go there on foot and return by rickshaw.
The rules for visiting
To enter the temple, you will have to deposit your camera and cell phone in a special locker and take off your shoes (there is a special shelf for Europeans). If this is your first time visiting a temple in India, you may not yet know that you need to cover your shoulders with a scarf and wear a long skirt, dress or trousers. This way you’ll feel comfortable, and the temple keepers won’t have any questions for you. At the entrance you can buy cheap flowers and fruit to make offerings to the deities.
It is recommended not to talk in this temple. Try to find a place and seclude yourself in meditation and listen to yourself. The structure of the temple is multi-compound and there are many quiet corners for peace. An important point: if you decide to meditate here a little bit, do not sit with your back to the deities and do not stretch your legs directly on them. This is considered disrespectful and you may be reprimanded. It’s better to group yourself into Subhasana, or more simply sit down stooped, or if your feet get tired you can stretch them out, but to the side.
What struck me when I first saw this temple, and still strikes me when I see new temples in India, is the shape of the temple, like a space rocket. One of my friends has already built a collection of pictures of these rocket temples all over India. You can follow his example and start with this wonderful structure :). The architecture of the temple, of course, is very interesting and sacred, especially my friends and I like to delve into deciphering the symbolism, the shapes of the columns and wall frescoes.
Inside, just close your eyes and immerse yourself, no one will disturb you. The locals believe that after spending a couple of hours here in meditation, one can realize the connection and meaning of events in one’s life, purify karma and find a new self.
After meditation, one can take a stroll in the inner park with a large stone cascade fountain. In addition to the Lakshmi Narayan Temple itself, there are shrines of Shiva, Durga, Buddha, Ganesha, and Hanuman. You can walk up to each and make an offering, such as flowers, and ask the gods to bless your journey for good luck.
Adjacent to the temple is the small Gita Bhavan Palace, where a large statue of the god Krishna is set up in the open air. There we found a very interesting totem, the likes of which we haven’t seen anywhere else in India (pictured below; unfortunately, I only have a picture of this quality, taken on the sly :)). It is for the worship of the nine planets-gods: Sun, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Saturn (Shani), Rahu (Dragon’s tail) and Ketu (Dragon’s head). We saw that the most offerings (money, flowers, fruit) and incense lay before Saturn, Rahu and Ketu.
The brahmin (temple attendant) who was doing the puja (worship ritual to the gods) near this deity saw our interest and told us something about these deities:
- Saturn sends people (in their incarnation on Earth) trials and cuts off everything superfluous.
- Ketu sheds light on our previous incarnation and shows what exactly binds us to the past, points out old mistakes.
- Rahu describes the development program for the current life – what we must strive to improve ourselves.
- Rahu and Ketu are two invisible planets, and they are on the side of the north and south nodes, where the imaginary axis runs through our Earth.
After that, it became clear to us why these planets are worshipped the most by Hindus. They believe that not only the Moon has a powerful effect on every person on Earth, but also the other planets. By making offerings and reciting mantras, locals hope to soften their impact on their lives.
My friends and I made offerings as well. We all left in thoughtfulness, because there are no random words from random people.
On a personal note, I’ve been there twice. And each time, as if someone invisibly, but insistently and carefully touches my soul, opening new doors in it. I want to believe it, because the temple was built on a place of power, a place that helps people to know themselves.