It has been several years now since I’ve been to India, but there is something about that country that once you’ve been there, sticks with you. There is an ancientness and mystery to it. When we moved away from Florida decades ago, people said that once you live in Florida, “you never get all the sand out of your shoes” – meaning a part of it stays with you. The same could be said about India.
Near Atlanta (a bit north-east in the town of Lilburn), sits a 32,000-square-foot Hindu temple, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. The structure rests on a 30 acre site and has hand-carved stone spires that reach a height of 75 feet. It is the tallest building in Lilburn, Georgia.
It took more than 1,300 craftsmen and 900 volunteers to put together this beautiful 34,450-piece stone building together. Over 4,500 tons of Italian Carrara marble, 4,300 tons of Turkish limestone, and 3,500 tons of Indian pink sandstone was quarried and shipped to the craftsmen in India. Then, all of the nearly 35,000 pieces were shipped to the United States. It serves members of the Swaminarayan branch of Hinduism, which originated in India more than 200 years ago. The traditional design features custom-carved stonework, a wraparound veranda and five prominent pinnacles reminiscent of the Himalayan hills.
The Lilburn location is the largest such temple in North America and was built at an estimated cost of $19 million, the temple complex is only the third of its kind in the country, surpassing similar, but smaller temples in Houston and Chicago. It also surpassed the temple in Toronto, Canada to become the largest Hindu temple outside India.
A week ago I was eager to shoot pictures of anything and had heard about this mandir (which is sort of like the name for temple or church). It is truly a fascinating site – beautiful on both the outside and inside. You can go a somewhat self-guided tour that tells you a bit about the particular branch of Hinduism that is associated with the temple, but the most beautiful part of the entire structure is in side the area where they hold their worship services. The carving in the stone is magnificent and very precise. It was definitely worth spending some time there to take photos. The only drawback, however, is that no pictures are allowed inside the building, and even pictures from outside are prohibited within about 100 feet of the entry to the mandir. Still…I had fun and will share some of the pictures with you in the next few days!
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1942, in one of the greatest defeats in British military history, Britain’s supposedly impregnable Singapore fortress surrendered to Japanese forces after a week long siege. More than 60,000 British, Australian, and Indian soldiers were taken prisoner, joining 70,000 other Allied soldiers captured during Britain’s disastrous defense of the Malay Peninsula.
On December 8, 1941–the day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor–the Japanese moved against British-controlled Malay, rolling across Thailand and landing in northern Malay. The Japanese made rapid advances against British positions, capturing airfields and gaining air superiority. British General A.E. Percival was reluctant to leave Malay’s roads and thus was outflanked again and again by the Japanese, who demonstrated an innovative grasp of the logistics of jungle warfare. The Allies could do little more than delay the Japanese and continued to retreat south.
By January, the Allied force was outnumbered and held just the lower half of the peninsula. General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s 25th Army continued to push forward, and on January 31 the Allies were forced to retreat over the Johor Strait to the British base on the island of Singapore. The British dynamited the causeway behind them but failed to entirely destroy the bridge.
Singapore, with its big defensive guns, was considered invulnerable to attack. However, the guns, which used armor-piercing shells and the flat trajectories necessary to decimate an enemy fleet, were not designed to defend against a land attack on the unfortified northern end of the island.
On February 5, Yamashita brought up heavy siege guns to the tip of the peninsula and began bombarding Singapore. On February 8, thousands of Japanese troops began streaming across the narrow waterway and established several bridgeheads. Japanese engineers quickly repaired the causeway, and troops, tanks, and artillery began pouring on to Singapore. The Japanese pushed forward to Singapore City, capturing key British positions and splitting the Allied defenders into isolated groups.
On February 15, Percival–lacking a water supply and nearly out of food and ammunition–agreed to surrender. With the loss of Singapore, the British lost control of a highly strategic waterway and opened the Indian Ocean to Japanese invasion. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called it the “worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.” Many thousands of the 130,000 Allied troops captured died in Japanese captivity.
Later in the war, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the supreme Allied commander in Southeast Asia, made plans for the liberation of the Malay Peninsula, but Japan surrendered before they could be carried out.
TRIVIA ON THIS DAY: Grover Cleveland was the only president in history to hold the job of a hangman. He was once the sheriff of Erie County, New York, and twice had to spring the trap at a hanging.