If you are looking for an easy half-day trip out of Claremont where you can feel as though you are in another country, head to Chino Hills for a visit to the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. This Hindu Mandir, sitting on 17 acres with great mountain views has been open since 2012. It is the fifth traditional Hindu Mandir in North America.
Visitors first enter the Haveli (the Visitors Center) with a great façade of intricately-carved teak which you can photograph. (There is no photography allowed in the Haveli or Mandir, but you can see photos on the website.) Our tour group met with a guide, a retired engineer who helped with the building of these structures.
The highlight of the tour, though, is entering the Mandir which looks on the outside, from a distance, like the most amazing sandcastle ever. It is made of sandstone, and covered all over with all kinds of carvings.
After removing your shoes, turning off your phone and putting cameras away, you walk up the staircase into the temple with more of the most intricately-carved walls, this time of white marble. (Again, more photos online.) It feels as though the sunlight is coming through the windows, but there really aren’t many windows. The small lights shining on the marble produce that effect.
We sat through a blessing ritual which lasted about 5 minutes, which was a good thing since we were sitting on the hard marble floor. Then we filed past the main shrines with the Murti which are statues of deities or people of Indian culture.
Rounding out our time, we enjoyed a lunch in the café on site, and then I browsed the grocery store and brought home something for dinner.
View from the site: