BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

A Hindu place of worship in a modern building, beautifully decorated with traditional designs, welcomed many eager visitors over Heritage Open Days for the first time this year. Careful planning to engage a large new team of volunteers, ranging in age from 11-70+, meant they could spend more time with visitors enriching the experience for all.

Arial view of large 2 storey modern white building surrounded by car park and then woodland. With ornate colonnaded entrance.© Paul Harris HODs 2023 -

Written by... Manni Dhokia, Volunteer, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Manchester 

Why we take part

Two small groups of people in a large room with brightly patterned carpet and golden shrine at one end.

Visitors were queuing up before the doors even opened for this special chance to visit the temple and learn more / © Paul Harris HODs 2023

One of our aims is to be a part of the community and by opening and welcoming visitors we can build relationships, share information and provide a community service.

Whilst initially it felt daunting and the uncertainty of whether anyone will visit or numbers – as soon as the doors opened we had visitors! The enthusiasm and engagement by our volunteers was brilliant. The respect and care taken by visitors and their genuine appreciation of being able to visit made our involvement rewarding. We will definitely take part again.

Close up of the decorative detail on a pillar in a colonnaded walkway. Showing a dancing figure, dragons? and flowers.

Intricate traditional artwork is a key part of the building / © Paul Harris HODs 2023

What we do for HODs

A modern building incorporating traditional design and artwork with guided tours provides an insight into Hindu beliefs and practice. (2023 Event directory description)

Working with volunteers

We host school and other group visits. I used this as a starting point and working with other volunteers we planned how we could receive visitors, what information we need to share and logistics such as number of hosts for the day, hospitality, set up and wind up. Once details were finalised I asked for volunteers to host visits and help on the day.

I wanted to particularly engage younger volunteers as this is a great way for them to develop people skills and confidence. Each volunteer was briefed and if they needed they could pair up and host. A final schedule of volunteers, time slots, and task responsibility was created to manage the day. We had about 30 volunteers over an 8 hour period. The good number of volunteers meant that we could spend more time with visitors.

Mosaic of images of volunteers talking to visitors at a Hindu temple.

Volunteers are key to the festival, and a wide ranging team made all the difference here / © Paul Harris HODs 2023 + BAPS/Manni Dhokia

The difference it makes

The event provided an opportunity to engage volunteers from across the temple community who previously had not worked with visitors. Our oldest volunteer was over 70 years and we had a strong group of children aged 11-16. It’s rewarding to think beyond a usual pool of volunteers - new volunteers bring energy and provide flexibility in how we set up and manage this kind of event. This is the key learning I will take forward.

Quotes: 'my first visit but not my last' / 'We were able to take around lots of families and individuals who had never been inside a temple before'

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Best bits

  • Seeing school aged volunteers hosting visitors and providing information like seasoned pros. To see them grow with each group they hosted and their enjoyment was inspiring.
  • The range of visitors travelling from across Greater Manchester and beyond.  We even had a person from New Zealand who was visiting family!

Man wearing glasses and a pink lanyard in front of ornate colonnade

Manni enjoyed working with a new team of volunteers to share their stories with more people / © Paul Harris HODs 2023

Manni's Top Tip!

Plan and then just go for it – The HODs team are very supportive and the appreciation you will get from visitors is extremely rewarding.

Inspired?! Find out more...