Birla Mandir
   One of the first temples built in modern India by industrialists to celebrate their faith is the Birla Mandir, built in 1938 by G. D. Birla. Appropri-ate to the status of his family as one of the most wealthy in India the temple is dedicated to LAK-SHMI, goddess of prosperity, and Lord VISHNU, her husband. It is called the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. The temple was opened by Mohandas Karamchand GANDHI with the specific proviso that there would be no caste restriction in regard to entry. At that time (and even to some extent today) Dalit (untouchables) were barred from entering temples.
   A special characteristic of the temple is that it is explicitly (in a plaque at the front of the temple) open to people of any faith or social class; the inner carvings and statuary also pay tribute to the Buddhists, Jains (see JAINISM), and Sikhs (see SIKH-ISM), as well as to the many Hindu gods.The external surface of the temple is made to resemble Delhi’s prolific Mughal architecture (c. 1500–1800 C.E.); it is made of red sandstone deco-rated with marble. As is any temple it is decorated with many carvings showing scenes from Indian myths. The ICONS of the temple were made by specialists from BENARES (Varanasi). There were 101 experts employed in its construction, led by a learned specialist, Vishvanath Shasti. The temple was built in Orissan style, which features high, curved turrets that show a ribbed motif at the top of the temple tower.
   The highest tower of the temple is 160 feet. It is eastward facing with a long stairway upward that leads to the platform in which the inner sanc-tum is situated. The inner sanctum contains God-dess Lakshmi and Lord Narayana. Other shrines display Lord SHIVA, GANESHA, and HANUMAN. In a northern section is a shrine to KRISHNA.Behind the temple there is a spacious area that children love containing a stone version of the chariot that Krishna and Arjuna rode in the MAHAB-HARATA. Several small rock temples are also found there. Included is a statue of G. D. Birla himself, facing the back of his great temple. The temple is visited by thousands of people every day.
   Further reading: M. L. Gupta, Performance Appraisal: The Birlas (Jaipur: University Book House, 2003); Medha M. Kudasiya, The Life and Times of G. D. Birla (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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