When it tops 60 degrees in January, how do you not go for a bike ride? And so we did, riding a loop of nearly 20 miles with the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Robbinsville as our midway destination.
A mandir is a Hindu temple, and this one is immense — I would call it the equivalent of a cathedral. It’s been open for about 5 1/2 years and is part of a five-building complex still under construction. Like a cathedral, you can come in for services, pray on your own or just gawk at marble carvings.
There’s a short video about the construction and another short one about Hinduism, or get the free audio tour to learn more about the temple.
One thing that stands out is how friendly everyone is toward strangers like us. We rolled through the gates on our bikes — not the usual sight. The guard at the gate just put his palms together and nodded in greeting.
As we walked our bikes along the side of the building, worshippers encouraged us to come in and even suggested where to leave the bikes (no racks in sight). The greeter inside the temple had driven about 1 1/2 hours from Westchester County to pray and volunteer for six hours — and comes down once a month because this place is so special for her. She told us there are about 30 temples for this branch of Hinduism in the tri-state area but that this is a big draw.
If nothing else, come for the non-stop intricate marble carvings, both inside and on the outside. They were hard-carved in western India and then shipped for assembly to New Jersey. Just stunning.
We also wanted to check out the cafeteria at the back of the temple building. Turns out it’s more of a snack bar, with prepackaged fresh food plus sweets all properly blessed and mostly Indian vegetarian, though you can get a personal-size cheese pizza if you must have something more standard American. There’s a room off to the side where you can eat. (Water fountains and bathrooms — cycling essentials — are no problem.)
If you’re looking for a full-blown Indian meal, there’s no shortage of Indian restaurants within a few miles. The same goes for Indian supermarkets.
We decided to try Kesar Shriikahand, a sweet yogurt dish that felt custard-y, and Dahivada, which is fried dumplings made from urad dal covered with a creamy yogurt sauce. Thumbs up on both.
Near the temple is Windsor Industrial Park, home to David Bradley chocolates — a stop on another bike ride. They are generous with the samples. Just sayin’.
If you’re coming from the Princeton Junction train station, don’t follow everything Google Maps suggests. Take North Post Road to South Post Road to the end, then Conover Road to Edinburgh Road (neighborhood cut-through possible at Galston Drive), past Mercer County Park (campsite information here) and through the light onto Windsor-Edinburgh Road. (You can take Village Road but turn onto South Lane toward Windsor-Edinburgh Road so you don’t end up on Rooute 130.) When you get to Windsor (just before Route 130), turn left onto Main Street until you reach the left turn for the temple. There’s no reason to bike alongside the traffic of Route 130.