Address: 161 Deane Road Bolton, Greater Manchester, BL3 5AH
Tel: +44 1204 533 558
The Mandir on Deane Road, officially known as the Shree Swaminarayan Temple & Art Gallery is one of two Hindu Mandirs in Bolton which affiliate to the Swaminarayan tradition. The mainly Gujarati Swaminarayan disciples who established this particular mandir were inspired by Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa of the Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan who established Swaminarayan Temples all over the world. Arriving in Bolton during the 1960/70s congregations were initially held in houses. As numbers increased, the devotees purchased a property at 164 Deane Road, which was converted into a Temple and inaugurated in 1974.
In 1991, as the congregation grew, the building was renovated and enlarged. While this renovation was taking place, the congregation used the ground floor of a church across the road at 161 Deane Road. Having this relationship meant that when the church officials decided to sell in 1996, they gave the Swaminarayan congregation first refusal. In 1996, the Swaminarayan community bought the church, allowing the church congregation to continue using it for 12 months until they found a new location. On Sunday the 15th June 1997, following a three-day Festival, the Temple was inaugurated by His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree Purushottampriyadasji Maharaj.
As this old Unitarian church was not a listed building, the pews and stained glass windows were removed by the sellers when it was sold. The Swaminarayan congregation, then built a function hall in the downstairs of the church while continuing to use 164 Deane Road as the mandir.
Following its inauguration as a mandir in 1997, in 1998 the congregation moved in to the building from across the road. Once they had moved in, marble murtis (statues) were ordered, while artists from India were employed to complete the ceiling. Over two years, from 1998 to 2000 sketches were drawn in India, canvases brought to the UK and then fixed on the ceilings. The Soni family from Nahbard in Gujarat were responsible for the paintings.
The ceiling of the mandir is a 3000 square foot canvas, with paintings of Lord Swaminarayan and Jeevanpran Swamibapa. The mandir contains the murtis of Lord Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Abji Bapashree and Jeevanpran Swamibapa along with those of Lord Hanuman and Lord Ganesh.
The Grand of Opening of the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Arts and Culture Centre, the Murti Pratishtha Mahotsav took place on the 16th August 2000.
The intricate artwork has led to this temple being known as the Shree Swaminarayan Temple & Art Gallery. As our interviewee explained:
“When we bought the place the ceiling was in need of repair. We want to put a false ceiling, tiles, and then why? It’s a beautiful structure, why put a false ceiling? You losing the beauty about the place. So we flew the artist from there in 1997, he came over here in 1998. He came with the plans to do this, and then came up with …
The paintings on the ceiling are all scenes from the life of Lord Swaminarayan. Our interviewee described the process of choosing the scenes as follows:
“The artists and the gurus, or the swamis, they’ll sit together and draw the sketches that they go off and they’ll decide, ‘Yeah, this story meets …’ Because sometimes they’ll tell the story to an artist and an artist will start drawing sketches from the story they told. And once the meat of the story, they put extra figures onto it, the scene, but it has to tell a story.”
So, why Bolton? How has Bolton become a key site for British Hindus in the North West of England? For our interviewee:
Bolton was easy because housing was cheaper and there were already people in Bolton so they came. And the jobs were easy to find in textiles. Even though in Africa they were builders, over here they didn’t want to go in building site, I don’t know why. In Bolton nobody went in building site, they all went into textiles.
Indeed, the paintings enabled the Mandir to fundraise as each painting was sponsored. The total renovation cost of £2.6 million was underwritten by a Bolton business man allowing individuals and families to pledge money and then pay this back over a longer period. The mandir now attracts members from Oldham, Manchester and beyond.
The biggest annual function held is Diwali, with the largest weekly event being the Sunday evening aarti at 5:30pm which attracts over 300 people. Aarti takes places every day, in the morning and evening run by the priest living on the site. In addition, the mandir runs a number of classes including Indian dhol classes and meditation.
One of the main things that the Swaminarayan Mandir in Bolton is known for is the Shree Swaminarayangadi Pipe Band Bolton. Established in 2002, the Band has over 40 members and regularly performs at charitable fundraising events, at the Reebok stadium in Bolton and at events held in nearby Windermere. The band was also invited to play at the Olympic Torch event in Bolton in 2012 highlighting its importance to the city.
Going forward, there are plans to make the Mandir look “more like a Hindu Temple”. The building will be clad in fibreglass. In terms of planning permission and regulations, our interviewee explained that the council had been very supportive in the development of the building, primarily as the mandir has led to the development of derelict land. The mandir regularly hosts local, national and international dignitaries (including representatives from Bolton’s twin town of Le Mans and Paderborn) and also works very closely with Bolton Interfaith Council. Regularly hosting school children and members of the local community it is clear that this Mandir is an important presence in Bolton, both for local Hindus and for the population of Bolton as a whole.