It was 1:30 pm, we made our way to the Swami Narayan temple at Pramukh Swami road, Barlett in Chicago. The huge parking lot was full of cars that indicated a massive attendance. It seemed like there was some festival inside the temple. Most of the devotees were Gujarathis. I tried talking to few, but they seemed distant.
We entered the main building that had beautifully carved white peacock perched on wooded windows in the patio. The carvings on the windows and on the walls were mesmerizing.
“Gods are sleeping,” announced the priest as we entered the main hall.
My cousin wrinkled her brows, “How can Gods sleep?” She wanted to know.
We had been driving since last two hours to reach this place, she was offended to learn that she would not be able to see the idols. The small carved, wooden doors were shut but we could see the idols on TV that were placed outside in the hall just near the donation boxes.
“Gods don’t sleep, He is supposed to listen to our problems 24/7” she grumbled.
“Its okay, maybe Gods need rest too”, I said. “Come lets admire the architecture instead”.
In the basement, there were group of ladies who poured cup of water over the idols (giving bath (perhaps) before putting Gods to sleep.) on the other side was a long corridor where big posters adorned the wall. The pictures were of India saints, who had contributed to science, technology and natural healing methods through yoga and other therapies.
Whether the Gods lived in this temple or not, I was awed by its architecture. The pillars, the interiors walls, the exterior had been carved meticulously. There was wood and marble carving and it was splendid. I admired the artists’ craftsmanship. The one who had worked on this must be truly blessed.
Rumor has it specialists were imported to etch out the engravings in the doors and interior/exterior marble.
The limestone and marble stones for the temple were quarried from Turkey and Italy and shipped to Gujarat, India. From here, the stones were transported to Rajasthan where they were hewn and carved by 2000 craftsmen. Once the stones were sculpted, they were shipped to Chicago and then assembled like 3D jigsaw puzzle.
The temple is surrounded by beautiful landscape with fountains and statues spread across 27 acres. It was a pleasant walk outdoors and the weather was perfect. We walked back to the main building that had Shayona (cafeteria), there was a big queue for buying simple and tasty Indian food at discounted rates. There was a small supermarket too that sold Indian snacks and sweets. It did quite a good business because every devotee patronized this store to purchase India goodies for their family at home.