The first time you see the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple as it stands majestically at the top of the stairs along Forest Road, Nairobi it takes your breath away. The beautifully done wood carvings, the well-blended colors – you cannot help but to just stand amazed by the architectural work done on the temple. Interfaith youth were at the temple on this Monday morning for the ‘Welcoming the Other’ activity.
‘Welcoming the Other’ is an activity under the “Building Interfaith Bridges (BIB)” of IRCK in collaboration with the US Embassy. During this activity the interfaith youth visit each other’s different worship places. The aim is to increase respect and protection for religious minorities by strengthening, sensitizing and educating, as well as connecting duty bearers to claim holders from various backgrounds at county and national levels.
On this 9th of November, 2020 the youth are standing at the bottom of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple ready to draw in the experience of the different culture, faith and belief. They are given a few guidelines before they enter the majestic that is the temple. The interfaith youth leave their shoes at the bottom of the temple – women on one side and the men at a different side. The ladies and the gents stand in different sides while inside the temple, as they listen quietly and keenly to one of the priest as they chant the ritual. The youth in curiosity ask questions about the Hindu faith and the community, which they are told will be addressed as we visit the temple museum.
Right beneath the temple is a walk through exhibition (museum) which told in carvings, pictures and in a narrative form that sums everything about the Hindu history, culture, believes, contribution to the world and their faith. Before the tour begins the youth watch Abhishek which is a Hindu practice of pouring water over the sacred image of God to honour him and to attain his blessings, while chanting Vedic verses; as the water is poured one says their prayers and wishes. The youth are walked in groups, around the museum with different guides explaining to them about each and every single post, article, murals and symbolism of each model. The Indians are diverse in the language they speak, their regional locations, the way they dress and also in physical appearance.
The youth took the opportunity to take care of the environment and also leave a mark at the compound by planting trees.
Fr. Mutie the Chairman of IRCK, and Bishop Warari Executive Member were part of the team that joined the youth to take a tour of the museum. Fr. Mutie on behalf of the Inter-religious Council of Kenya thanked the Hindu Council and the Chairman of the temple for the opportunity to share their heritage with the Youth. Sujata Kotamraju the National Secretary of the Hindu Council of Kenya who was hosting the youth thanked the youth for taking their time to come visit the temple and learn about their beliefs and cultures.
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple is normally open to all visitors.