How We Transformed a Walk-in Closet into a Mandir

Can you believe this Mandir used to be a walk-in closet? 
In honor of the launch of our latest children's book, "Let's Go to the Mandir," we're sharing a peek behind our very own.

One of the things I love about the homes in India is their dedicated space for mandir. Not just a wall or a miniature temple, but an alcove of Zen. That was exactly the inspiration behind this little oasis. Keeping it simple and minimalistic, with a signature arch, was the vision.
The only thing I wish I could have changed about this space was where it's located in our home. I would have loved it to be located in the "heart of the home" -- that spot where everyone gathers everyday. But then again, I did say I wanted it to have Zen-like vibes, which I suppose is only possible in a space removed from all the chaos. 
What was truly important to me though was ensuring I was following "protocol" in terms of what Vastru Shastra dictates. Similar to the Chinese practice of “feng shui,” Vastu Shastra are principles of design, layout, measurements, ground preparation, space arrangement, and spatial geometry. If you're a believer, then there are guidelines you can follow when it comes to the exact placement and direction of murthis -- or even the types of items to avoid including in your mandir. For example, did you know that while it's OK for public mandirs to have a bell, it is "forbidden" for private home mandirs. Similarly, did you know that you should never have more than one murthi of a given deity in a mandir?
Keeping these do's and don'ts in mind, I took out a compass and found the most auspicious direction to place the murthis, and then planned everything else accordingly. The first thing I bought were the murthis since they are main attraction. Luckily, my parents were traveling to India so I had given my Mom a brief of exactly what I wanted. She Facetimed me at 2am to show me what she had found at a local shop before purchasing the items. 
After I received them, the vision started to become a bit more clear. I knew I wanted the murthis placed on individual floating shelves, and also wanted a storage unit to keep all pooja related items placed within reach. Once I took the room measurements and decided on the color theme (white, brass and brown), it became a lot easier to begin searching for products. 
When I originally found these brass bell wall pieces, I had planned on using them as a backdrop for one of the walls. It was actually our handyman that placed it directly behind the murthi that gave me that light bulb moment. (By the way, the pieces come in a set of 12, so if anyone wants the remaining six pieces I still have in a box, please reach out. Happy to ship them to you at cost). 
Here's where you can find some of the items seen:
  • Jute round rug - I had originally purchased a brown round rug, but it was way too overwhelming and my eyes went directly to it instead of the murthis. I'm so glad I replaced it with this one instead. I especially loved how the design has Indian mandala-life motifs. 
  • Sheer curtains - my Mom always told me that it's important to have some sort of an enclosure for a Mandir, whether a door or curtains. Since this used to be a closet, we had the door removed, and broken down the adjacent wall by a couple of feet to widen the entrance to the "closet" (but note, we did not need to expand the closet size itself). 
  • Bell wall pieces 
  • TV Console - the only thing I changed from the original were the handles. I swapped them out with brass ones and couldn't be happier how the little touches go a long way.
  • Hanging Urlis - One was purchased from Spundhann and the other was purchased on Etsy. I definitely plan on filling the Urlis with marigold garlands, rose petals, etc. once the holiday season kicks off!
  • Murthis - from India
  • Plant & Planter from Home Goods - I had bought this a couple of years ago, and it came as a set. It was placed in a different corner of the house prior to this Mandir, but in retrospect, it was truly made for this room.
  • Stool from Home Goods - another purchase I had made a couple of years ago because it just looked so bohemian with its natural soft edges. I knew I wanted to have some form of seating (for one) in the Mandir, and while I was originally searching for a floor cushion, I love how the wooden stool blends in with the overall theme.
  • Chandelier - yet another purchase I made years ago. A white crystal chandelier wouldn't have been my first choice, but it had been sitting in a box for so long that it felt like the perfect opportunity to install it. 
  • Arch - fun fact: I hand drew the arch on a large piece of cardboard for our contractor to trace and cut out for the wooden piece he installed. Arches are like these are a quintessential part of Indian architecture and knew that without it, our mandir would feel incomplete. The arch was made to measure to work with your handyman to create the one that works for you. I showed him a couple of photos for inspiration to ensure we were on the same page. 
  • Floating shelves - Once we decided on making the bell wall pieces the backdrop for the murthis, our contractor was able to buy wooden shelves and cut them to measure, and stain them to match them to the color of the bell pieces. Contrary to popular belief, the floating shelves (the piece that the murthi sits on top of) and the bell wall piece (the piece that the murthi sits in front of) are actually two different pieces. 

If you're in the central Jersey area, I'm happy to refer our handyman to you. As you can tell, he's really resourceful and skilled at his job. Hopefully this blog post was helpful as you think about how to design your own mandir at home. Drop me a question or a comment below if there's anything I missed!

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