A Slice of India in Chicago – BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

September 16, 2019

I was scrolling through Instagram one night when I came across this Instagram post from @travelwithtalia. Immediately after seeing it, I assumed that the location was somewhere in India. After reading the caption, I was shocked. That beautiful, ornate temple was located just 45 minutes outside of Chicago, Illinois. When I flew into Chicago for a music festival, I knew I had to go. 45 minutes {give or take a quick Noodles stop}, we reached a true hidden gem outside of Chicago, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.

I wasn’t sure what to expect – if BAPS would even allow us to take photos. As it so happens, BAPS welcomes visitors and offers tours of the temple. They also have an Indian café on the grounds as well.

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DRESS

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Photos can’t do this place justice. It’s beyond intricate, and incredibly detailed. According to our tour guide, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is constructed entirely from Italian marble. That marble was flown from Italy to India, where artisans handcarved every single piece of the temple. The temple pieces were then flown to Illinois where they were pieced together “like a jigsaw puzzle,” in the words of our guide.

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THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING BAPS SHRI SWAMINAYARAN MANDIR

A shoutout to a friend of a friend in Chicago, who grew up going to BAPS every weekend and could fill us in on some temple etiquette before we stepped foot in there.

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TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES

No shoes in the temple. BAPS has lockers where you can store your shoes for the duration of your visit.

NO PHOTOGRAPHY

Photography outside of the buildings is totally okay, and encouraged so long as it’s not disruptive. There is absolutely no photography inside either the main building or temple. BAPS Shriswaminayaran Mandir will ask you to lock your cameras in your locker with your shoes.

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NO EYE CONTACT

Ladies, don’t make eye contact with the men in robes. According to our friend mentioned above, if one of them makes eye contact with a female, he has to fast for several years.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY

This is more common sense than anything, but temples frown upon short or revealing clothing. Dress conservatively, and cover your shoulders.

DRESS

DON’T WORRY ABOUT GOING EARLY

As this temple is a little more off the radar, it won’t be somewhere that you need to go at the crack of dawn to avoid crowds. I went around 2pm and although there were people there, it wasn’t overcrowded. A little patience and I was able to get shots with no one in them at all! We were worried that we wouldn’t be welcome or that the temple wasn’t meant for outside viewers, however there were several other tourists at the temple and employees made us feel very welcome.

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Looking for somewhere to stay in Chicago? Read my review of the Radisson Blu Aqua here, or of StayPineapple Hotel here.

xx,
E

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