Everywhere you look at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is hand carved marble.
The columns, the fence posts, the secondary buildings and the Mandir... inside and out... are covered with hand carved stone. And when we visited, we sat and watched the craftsmen make repairs with the sander and delicate tools, for quite a long time.
The Mandir is the first traditional Hindu Mandir of its kind in North America and is made from 33,000 pieces of Italian marble and Turkish limestone... and it is open to visitors, for free, 9:00am-8:00pm daily (and you can see the latest information HERE).
We went to the Mandir on a weekday morning at opening time. We drove through an industrial area off the highway, and then next to apartment complexes, and then out of no where were bright white pinnacles, topped with flags.
It was pretty easy to see that we were in the right place, so we drove around until we found an entrance and found a parking spot in the lot.
Here we saw the Mandir and the surrounding buildings. And the gift shop and restrooms were not made from a cheaper material... every thing was covered in hand carved stone.
We walked around the property, just trying to take in the scale of this place.
We then went to the Mandir to figure out the proper etiquette for going inside. A tour guide was there, waiting for a field trip to arrive, and told us to leave our shoes in women's room and to go in with bare feet or socks.
We were wrapped in jackets, but the rules also say that clothing must cover shoulders and knees (and wraps are provided). Also, the rules say that photography is allowed outside, but not inside the Mandir. Cell phones must also be switched off.
We walked up the steps with bare feet, which was cold and bumpy and fun for my youngest son. Inside we were greeted with a visitor guide and told about the Mandir. This is also where we saw the craftsmen.
We stood at the side of the Mandir and watch the amazing work. The craftsmen waved and were happy to have an enthusiastic audience.
Just like the outside, the entire inside was covered in carvings. The columns, the ceiling, the walls. It was really amazing.
As we were watching the carving, a Christian high school came in with the tour guide and learned about the Mandir. We listened for a while and then headed back outside.
Afterwards we went across the yard to the gift store. This store smells delicious with many Indian food supplies. It looked like at lunch time they would also have a cafe to feed hungry visitors.
We picked up some banana chips, spicy dried chickpeas and a drink before heading out for the morning.
The trip to the Mandir was really unlike anything else in Houston. It is open every day, it is free and there was really no reason for us to wait so long to go.
If your kids can take a hand for a few minutes, I encourage you to visit the Mandir as well. (And if you are still in a wild-run-and-touch-everything-stage wait a month or a year and then go to the Mandir. It will be there.)
See more pictures below and go HERE to learn more about BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Houston!
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Houston:
Address: 1150 Brand Lane, Stafford, Texas 77477