My fascination with Asian temples started when my husband took me to the Malibu Hindu temple a few years ago. From the very first look at the temple I was smitten by its magnificence. I remember thinking that it looked exactly like the temples in Bollywood movies. It was so surreal. With all respect to all religions and not trying to offend anybody, I would like to make some clarifications before I continue to write further. When I use the term “Asian temples”, I mean first of all the stunning architectural styles and the cultural traditions that are inherent parts of each of the temple. I’m amazed by incredible details that make you wonder how in the whole world it’s possible to create something magnificent and majestic. I don’t go to the temples to worship the gods. I consider these gorgeous temples true masterpieces that deserve recognition and admiration.
Let’s check them out.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chine Hills
15100 Fairfield Ranch Rd, Chino Hills, CA 91709
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayn Mandir, one of the largest Hindu temples in Southern California and the first earthquake-proof temple in the world, is located in the City of Chino Hills about one hour drive from the Downtown Los Angeles. The temple is so beautiful and amazing that it’s hard to describe it in words. Everything about this temple is unique. In the construction of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir were used only two materials: Carrara marble, the white marble of high quality quarried in the city of Carrara, Italy, and Indian Pink sandstone. Before sending the marble and sandstone to Chino Hills, each piece was meticulously hand carved by artisans in India. You recognize the full amount of work, love, and dedication of Indian craftsmen only when you see the temple for yourself. Everything from the external walls and domes to internal pillars and ceiling is completely covered with spectacular carvings in marble and sandstone. The temple is open for people of any religion. However, while visiting the temple, show respect and adhere to the dress code accepted here. You can find the details about the dress code on http://www.bapschinohills.org/visitorinfo.html.
Malibu Hindu Temple
1600 Las Virgenes Canyon Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302
Despite the name, the temple is located in the city of Calabasas near Malibu. The temple was built in 1981 in accordance with the traditional South Indian style. The walls of the temple are completely white and covered with beautiful carvings of the Hindu gods. Untypical for the Hindu temples, the Malibu Temple has shrines not just for one but for many Hindu gods with two presiding gods Venkateswara and Shiva. The temple with two complexes offers many gatherings for ceremonies and spaces for meditation. Be sure to come here on weekends and try some delicious Indian vegetarian food.
Hsi Lai Temple
3456 Glenmark Dr, Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
Hsi Lai Temple (“Hsi Lai” means “Coming West”) is the largest Chinese temple and monastery in the United States. The temple is affiliated with a Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist organization from Taiwan, and focuses on Buddhist outreach and unity. The temple is design in accordance with the traditional Chinese architecture and consists of several temple building, gardens, and statuary. Take a walk through the temple and enjoy its beautiful complexes and gardens. If you want to know more about the His Lai Temple and Chinese culture, you can always request a guided tour, which is available for a group of 15 people or more, or take a class on Buddhism or Chinese culture and language. The classes are provided by the monks and nuns that live and work here. Don’t forget to stop by at temple’s cafeteria and have Chinese and Taiwanese home-style cooking vegetarian lunch.
Thien Hau Temple
756 Yale St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Located in Chinatown Los Angeles, Thien Hau Temple is one of the most popular temples for worship among Asian residents of the Los Angeles area. The temple is dedicated to Mazu, the goddess of the sea. Originally the building belonged to the Italian Christian Church and was purchased in the 1980s. Thien Hau Temple is especially festive before and after Chinese New Year. On Chinese New Year’s Eve many people come to the temple to receive blessings and burn incense. During this time you will see lion dancers’ performances and popping firecrackers, which are the traditional rituals to scare away evil spirits.
Wat Thai of Los Angeles
8225 Coldwater Canyon Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91605
Not as big and impressive as other temples, Wat Tai Buddhist Temple deserves to be mentioned here as the place where you can get the best Thai food in the city. Sounds surprising? The Thai Temple of Los Angeles started serving the food from an outdoor food court in its parking lot almost four decades ago and has been doing it ever since. Every weekend you can get taste of the real Thai street food without traveling all the way to Bangkok. Green curry, boat noodles, chicken curry dumplings, mango sticky rice… Just to name a few of them. Everybody, vegetarians as well as meat-eaters, will satisfy their taste buds here. Make a plan and head out to Wat Tai Temple next weekend and try it yourself.
What other temples would you suggest to see in Los Angeles region?