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Apr 24, 2007
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Maybe I'm just clued out, but I believe this is the first I've heard of this.


Museum will help build 'new Canada'

Cultural heritage of Indo-Canadians to be on view at Finch and Hwy 427 complex

by Prithi Yelaja
May 3, 2007

For those who can't afford a trip to India to learn about that country's heritage and marvel at its ancient architectural masterpieces, a new museum in Toronto may be just the ticket.

Slated to open this July, the $25 million 1,800-square-metre museum is designed to showcase and preserve the heritage of nearly one million Canadians who trace their roots to the Indian subcontinent.

Located on a 7-hectare site just off of Highway 427 and Finch Ave., the museum is part of the Swaminarayan complex, which includes a Hindu temple and Haveli (meeting hall).

Construction of the museum, which began in April 2005, is based on Vedic engineering principles, without using steel or nails, said Naresh Roy Patel, a trustee of the complex.

"It's being done using the same 10,000-year-old traditions, so it's not a replica, it's the real thing. These structures are built to survive for at least 1,000 years."

Several tonnes of Turkish limestone, Italian marble, Burmese teakwood and Indian sandstone were used in the construction of the museum.

Slabs of limestone, marble and teakwood were shipped to India where 1,500 sculptors crafted them, cutting and polishing, using techniques passed down through the generations from father to son.

The final step was hand carving intricate symbols of nature such as peacocks and elephants and lotus flowers into the stone and wood.

The pieces were then shipped to Toronto for assembly by 101 artisans, who were flown in from India.

The museum will include exhibits on the contributions of Indian civilization to the world in such areas as science, mathematics, medicine, art and language.

It will also serve to chronicle the history and the migration of the Indian Diaspora to Canada via Africa, the Caribbean and Fiji.

The aim is to educate the broader Canadian society, as well as enhance a sense of pride in Indo-Canadians in their heritage, said Patel.

"The message is one of pluralism – unity in diversity – which will have great importance for all Canadians."

The cost to build the museum was raised entirely through donations, including a $500 a ticket gala held at the Swaminarayan complex last week, which raised more than $250,000.

Sari-clad volunteers led small group tours of the complex for the 400 guests.

Many of the corporate and political leaders who got a sneak peek at the new museum declared it "awe-inspiring," including federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley, who couldn't help touching the carved stone appreciatively.

"They say great art makes you want to touch it. My tour guides noticed that I was surreptitiously reaching to touch it and they told me after, `We saw you!'"

Guests, including Opposition leader John Tory and provincial Immigration Minister Mike Colle, were entertained by sitar, tabla and bharatanatyam performances and enjoyed a four-course vegetarian meal.

"This is the new Canada," said Colle. "This is what is so special about Canada because where else in the world would you have the introduction of a civilization that goes back 10,000 years...that we as Canadians of all walks of life will forever be grateful for."

The museum, which is bound to attract visitors from across Canada and the U.S., will act as a cultural bridge, said Tory.

"I think it will address what I think will be one of our biggest challenges that we still have as a society namely improving our understanding of each other.

"As tourists come to visit, not only will they enrich our economy...but they too will learn about and join us in celebrating the diversity we have in Ontario."

Being able to build such an edifice marks a coming of age for the Indo-Canadian community, said Patel.

"Initially as immigrants, you are focused on settling down, doing a balancing act of trying to fit in while preserving your heritage.

"As the community has prospered and established itself, now is the time to think of our legacy. And that's what this is all about."
I've noticed this place from a drive-by along the 427 (heading south, trying to put distance between myself and Vaughan). It looks very interesting, and it's great to hear that there's a museum incorporated into it. I look forward to a visit. Amazing that we didn't hear of it before - I'll try to get pictures of it for the forum quite soon.

Sounds small

Isn't that a little small for a museum? There are many homes in Toronto bigger than that. Kinda sounds like a mini museum to me.
Remember that's square metres, not square feet. At almost 20,000 square feet, I guess it's smaller than a few houses on the Bridle Path, but it's pretty sizeable for a museum.
Thanks for posting this. I also had noticed it under construction but thought it was simply a place of worship.
Is this the building? Apparently it will be participating in Doors Open Toronto.

The image you posted is the hindu temple on the same grounds as the museum - it was part of Doors OPen last year - and the year before that, if I remember correctly. Quite worth seeing in and of itself - the decorative elements were similarly worked on in India by Indian craftsmen working Indian timber. I believe quite a bit of native teak went into it... I haven't heard anything about the museum until now, so I'm not sure whether its attached to the mandir itself, or if its a stand-alone building, but its definitely something I'd like to see...
Yeah, too bad it's up at Wild Water Kingdom. I can just imagine that this building, as it appears in that photo, would be the focal point of just about any downtown neighbourhood, especially Little India on Gerrard.
Most individuals of Indian extraction actually live closer to 427 and Finch (Rexdale, Brampton, etc.) than any "India" in downtown Toronto - little or otherwise. As such, a museum designed for and about them and their culture makes perfect sense there. If you want to learn more about it, go to them - don't force them to come to you.
There is a sizable Indian population around Little India/India Bazaar near Gerrard & Coxwell, but yes, a much larger population lives in the northwestern suburbs. I agree, no reason why the temple and museum should not be in Rexdale.