'We're here to stay': Hindu community celebrates 10th anniversary of temple with Trudeau, Tory
Temple, near airport, a 'fitting' first sight for visitors when they arrive in Canada, prime minister says
Thousands from the Hindu community in Toronto and beyond turned out Saturday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of an iconic temple that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called "without a doubt one of Canada's architectural wonders."
The celebration of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, temple, located in Etobicoke, also saw His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj be given a key to the City of Toronto by Mayor John Tory.
Mahant Swami Maharaj is the sixth spiritual guru of Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a spiritual organization based on Hindu principles, which has hosted several charitable events in the city, including walkathons, disaster relief operations and blood donation drives.
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"I am honoured to recognize his Holiness' global and Toronto-based humanitarian, charitable, and community-building efforts through BAPS Charities Canada," Mayor Tory said in a press release. "His Holiness' great contributions have enriched Toronto."
Prime Minister Trudeau's presence at the event was something that held special meaning for many at the temple, who recalled its opening on July 22, 2007 when then-prime minister Stephen Harper was in attendance.
"Today I feel that history is repeating itself," said BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir spokesperson Nilesh Mehta. The gleaming structure is something he says symbolizes the Hindu community's love for Canada.
'Canada is our home'
Mehta says it took 6,000 tonnes of marble and stone, mined in Italy and Turkey, and 1500 people to hand-carve the pieces, which were then assembled in Canada over the span of 18 months by hundreds of volunteers.
No steel was used in its construction, Mehta said, yet the temple is designed to last 1000 years, not unlike similar structures in India that he says have been standing for much longer than that.
Speaking at the event Saturday, Trudeau remarked on both the temple's structure and its symbolism.
"How remarkable and fitting it is that when visitors come to Canada through our largest airport, Pearson International, one of the first Canadian sights people see off Highway 427 is this mandir," said Trudeau. "I for one could not be more proud."
His Holiness is the fourth recipient of a key to the city from Tory after Paul Beeston, Drake and the members of Rush.
Mahant Swami Maharaj joins fellow spiritual figures His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj as recepients of the honour.