We believe that God manifests through these images. They’re not just pictures. They’re not just images of stone…We really believe that God is alive in here amongst us.— Payal Shah, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago
Geoffrey Baer tours BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago.
Roughly 40 miles northwest of Chicago in Bartlett, Illinois, sits the gleaming white BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago. Mandir is a word of Sanskrit origin that means house of worship. “Mandir literally translates to where the mind becomes still,” BAPS volunteer Payal Shah told Geoffrey Baer. The mandir opened in 2004 and, according to its website, more than 1,700 volunteers from three continents donated their expertise during its construction. The building was shipped in 40,000 different pieces from India after 3,000 artisans chiseled the traditional, intricate patterns into various stones, including Turkish limestone, Carrara marble, and granite. Shah said the mandir is built on the Shilpa Shastra, an ancient Hindu scripture that describes the principles for arts, design, and architecture. No steel was used in creating the structure. Instead, the stone pieces interlock like a jigsaw puzzle.