BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn, Georgia, is worth every minute of the bumper-to-bumper traffic you’ll have to endure to get there. Located about an hour northeast of downtown Atlanta, the Hindu temple complex is the largest of its kind outside India. Opened in 2007, it comprises 32,000 glorious square feet of intricately carved Turkish limestone, Italian Carrara marble, and Indian pink sandstone. Even more mind-boggling is that the rock was quarried abroad, shipped to India in 34,000 separate pieces, carved by hand, and then transported in 346 separate shipping containers to metro Atlanta, where it took 17 months and 1.3 million volunteer hours to assemble. Damn.
The results are spectacular—particularly the gleaming interior dome, exhibited under a cast of blue and purple lights. Beautifully manicured grounds and long reflecting pools draw courting couples, multi-generational families, and newlyweds with photographers in tow. The temple grounds are free to enter, but visitors are encouraged to bring one vegetarian non-perishable item for donation to the community food drive. To tour the inside, guests must remove their shoes, wash their hands, and put away their cameras.
Time your visit to the hour before sunset for the best light and don’t forget to browse the BAPS Shayona gift shop/grocery on your way out. You can get so much good stuff here. Incense and cosmetics imported from the motherland, books about Hinduism, delicate amulets, and an array of tasty Indian street snacks. The sweets were our favorite though—specifically the anjir bahar, a heavenly matchup of fig, cashew, sugar, almond, clarified butter, poppyseed, cardamom, saffron, rosewater, and pista.
460 Rockbridge Rd. NW, Lilburn, GA; 678-906-2277.