THE SWAMINARAYAN TEMPLE in Mandvi (Kutch, Gujarat) was constructed between 1991 and 1999 to replace a smaller Mandir on the site. Without going into the details of its very fine architectural and decorative features, this edifice was financed by local Kutchi followers of Swaminarayan. The Rajasthani Marble that forms the temple’s structure was hand carved by workmen, all of whom were followers of Swaminarayan. The stones that make up the building were carved in Rajasthan, transported to Mandvi where they were put together to make the edifice. This is similar to how the great temple in London’s Neasden was constructed.
The temple at Mandvi looks very similar to ancient Hindu temples I have seen elsewhere in India. As you look around it, you can see how the very old temples looked when they had just been built many centuries ago. Apart from the fact that Mandvi’s Swaminarayan Mandir looks recently built, a layman like myself, would find it difficult to age the building.
In 19th century England, many new churches were built in the gothic style. Like the newish temple at Mandvi, may of them faithfully reproduce the churches built in mediaeval times. The only thing that differentiates the 19th century Gothic Revival churches from their mediaeval predecessors is that they look too new to be as old as them.
In a book about Gothic Revival written by the art historian Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), he suggests that in England the use of gothic style in architecture never actually died out, and this suggested to me the Gothic Revival was really gothic survival. As far as I can gather, the same is the case for Hindu mandir architecture. If this is really the case, new temples such as Mandvi’s Swaminarayan Mandir is not the revival of the use of an ancient style of architecture, but an example of its survival. Put another way, the new temple at Mandvi is a reincarnation of its predecessor.