Doors Open Toronto Event
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Toronto
May 23-24, 2009



Doors Open Toronto is a yearly event when selected buildings of architectural, historic, cultural and social significance open their doors to the public for a city-wide celebration. The program allows visitors free access to properties that are either not open to the public, or would normally charge an entrance fee. Buildings that the broader community might not know are open to the public are also included.
From heritage landmarks to modern structures, hidden gems, green roofs, places of worship, halls of learning, museums and more. Doors Open Toronto gives an opportunity for one and all to see Toronto like they have never seen it before! This year’s theme was based on Literature.  This year, 175 buildings were selected to participate in the Doors Open Event. Prior to the event weekend, the Toronto Star Newspaper and numerous websites promoted the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto as one of the premier buildings to visit for 2009.

Visitors to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir were warmly greeted at the entrance.  The tour started with a brief video presentation on the history of the making and a presentation by the children’s forum. Visitors learned that the Mandir and Heritage Museum are indeed a place to discover, experience and enjoy the traditions, heritage, values and architecture of Hinduism.

They also learned that the Mandir has been built through the vision and inspiration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual Guru of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, together with the global voluntary efforts of the organization. What makes this Mandir stand-out in Canada is the fact that more than 400 volunteers, from children to youth to adults from Canada, gave over 1 million hours of their time, talent and money towards its creation. That is why the Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty said during the inauguration ceremony “What a wonderful gift to the people of Ontario, and the people of Canada.”

Visitors were amazed to learn of the many activities that are carried out by BAPS Charities, be it educational, medical, community, environmental, or humanitarian.

Thereafter the visitors excitedly made their way to see the magnificent Mandir, intricately hand-carved out of 6,000 tons of marble and stone. In the Mandir, they learned about the Hindu mode of worship by witnessing the Arti ritual.

Following the visit to the Mandir, almost all guests took advantage of the opportunity to offer Abhishek in the the Abhishek Mandapam, where they participated with family or friends in a vedic ritual to offer prayers and wishes for themselves, their family and peace in the world. Many also paid a visit to the educational and entertaining Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians to discover the history, civilization, diversity and cultural heritage of Canadians whose ancestry originates from India. In the museum visitors also learned about Hinduism, its values and traditions. The underlying message of the museum is ‘Unity in Diversity’ - that despite our differences, we are all members of a single human family!

Thereafter, guests returned to the Haveli foyer to enjoy the intricately hand-carved Burmese teak,  reflecting the traditional wooden courtyard craftsmanship of India. The carvings in the Mandir and Haveli have special meaning and messages for humanity. Informative panels and spots guides along the way were available to give more information and answer any questions.

As the theme of Doors Open Toronto 2009 was Literature, a special display of Sacred Hindu Literature (the Vedas, Mahabharat, Gita, Vachanamurt, Shikshapatri etc) in the foyer gave guests an opportunity to see authentic scriptural works in Sanskrit which are the roots of  Hinduism, including the knowledge of mathematics, medicine, Ayurved and Yoga.

At the end of their tour guests enjoyed a visit to the Gift Shop where souvenirs, Indian instrumental music for meditation and relaxation, books about Indian heritage and Hindu modes of worship and other unique items were available for sale. Interior photographs of the Mandir and Haveli were also available. Finally the visitors enjoyed pure freshly made Indian vegetarian refreshments.

Many visitors also expressed their heart-felt feelings about visit to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and Heritage Museum by signing the opinion book at the reception counter.

After visiting the Doors Open event at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir for the first time, Karen Black the founder of Doors Open commented, "This is how I envision 'Doors Open'. Your (BAPS) message about 'Unity in Diversity' is what the message of Doors open is."

Specially trained BAPS children and youths were at hand to answer or guide the visitors at every stage. All volunteers worked extremely well together and provided an unforgettable experience for the visitors.

Visitor Opinions:

Beautiful and peaceful!!
(Leena Pancku, Argentina)
Quite easily, the most beautiful structure in the western world. Amazing!
(Loren S, Toronto)

So amazed by gorgeous architecture! Wish to keep this beauty forever and ever! Thanks.
(Chung, Korea)

It was an experience like no others. Different from how it is portrayed in schools. I believe the event to be a success and there should be more events like this to show in the future, one where people can experience the culture hands on.
(Kevin Rodriguez, Brampton)

Breathtaking, Magnificent. Volunteers were the soul of kindness and helpfulness. Learned such a lot about Hinduism. Thank you !
(D. Caimpeel, Toronto)

It was wonderful experience. The building is magnificent and for sure the most beautiful in Toronto. The idea of museum is excellent to make people aware of the rich culture of sixth biggest nation in the world! The volunteers are very helpful. Thank you to such a wonderful gift of memories and knowledge. Excellent idea to play music which is calming and bring peace to soul.
(Elena, Toronto)

I am not only amazed for awe-inspired by your beautiful mandir, but also appreciated the courtesy and knowledge of your many volunteers, including young children.
(Norma Inch, Toronto)

One of the best cultural spots that Canada should be proud of. Great place to visit!
(Edwardo ONG, Toronto)