Tucked-away behind some apartment complexes and industrial buildings and next to a bayou in Stafford sits one of the Houston-area’s most unique places of worship, a hidden treasure in Fort Bend County that’s the first of its kind in the United States. Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports.
It’s not easy to spot what has quickly become a destination for many in the Hindu religion, the first traditional Hindu temple, what’s known as a Mandir, in the United States. First opened in 2004, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a site to see, with towering white pinnacles, domes and pillars, all carved by hand from Italian marble and Turkish limestone. The Mandir’s Neil Patel says the process to build the place of worship in Stafford started with a sacred piece of land.
“It only happens where the land has been sanctified. On that particular land there has been no violence, has not been any type of spiritual lives. The city itself and the particular place itself must be of a different spiritually of a different level for it to deserve a structure like this Mandir.”
The construction started with a 4-foot thick foundation that contains no steel or iron, according to traditional Hindu construction codes. In fact, there is no steel or iron throughout the entire structure, just 33,000 pieces of marble and limestone pieced together using mortar. The numbered stones were carved in India by 2000 craftsmen.
“Their livelihood is to create this beautiful thing. To them it is their God-given right to do it. There are no classes for that. It is passed from one generation to another generation. It is more like a spiritual craftsman.”
The stones were shipped to Stafford in 150 huge containers, and then pieced together by volunteers, like a giant jig saw puzzle.
“It was a team in India and when it was exported here by containers the jig saw puzzle started to be put in place.”
The finished product is 73 feet high, 125 feet long and 95 feet wide, full of intricate carvings of symbols important to the Hindu religion.
“Our intention was not to impress the public. That has never been and still is not our objective. Our objective is to spiritually purify our own lives and our own children and leave them a legacy for the next 500 to 1000 years. To me, that is the honor. What this Mandir creates, it creates a better person.”
Two other similar traditional Hindu Mandirs have been built since 2004, one in Chicago and one in Atlanta. The Stafford Mandir is open to the public. You can see pictures and find out more through a link on our website, KUHF.org.