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It is said Hindu temples are built to last one thousand years, and to be a source of peace and serenity.

The one that oversees a busy highway in Toronto was built to withstand the bluster of one thousand Canadian winters - and its inauguration Sunday gathered under the same roof two sworn political foes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Opposition Leader Stéphane Dion.

Mr. Harper led a column of dignitaries inside the Swaminarayan Mandir, the first Hindu temple of its kind in Canada, located near Highway 427 and Finch Avenue West.

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The mandir was built along ancient rules of traditional Hindu architecture from 24,000 hand-carved pieces of Turkish limestone and Italian Carrara marble that were shipped across the ocean and assembled in Toronto.

More than 2,000 Indian craftsmen and about 400 volunteers from Toronto's Hindu community worked on its construction for more than a year, bringing the cost of the project to $40-million.

Its inauguration yesterday gave politicians of all stripes an occasion to court the immigrant vote in the Greater Toronto Area, a critical swath of voters which has yet to warm to Mr. Harper's Conservatives.

But the celebration, blessed by balmy weather and clear skies, also gave thousands of proud members of the Indian community the chance to add their own colours to Toronto's multicultural tapestry.

On the lawn outside the temple, women in saris and Sadhu monks in traditional orange garb mingled with suit-clad politicians and curious onlookers as the Indian tricolor mixed with Maple Leaf flags.

"The mandir ... is our contribution back to the country of Canada," said Aarti Patel, activity co-ordinator for the temple.

"I'm extremely proud to be an Indian, to be a Canadian and to be an Indo-Canadian."

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Mr. Harper tapped in to that feeling during a short speech to the several thousand Hindu faithful assembled for the occasion.

The Prime Minister likened India to Canada, saying both countries are animated by the same quest for the accommodation of ethnic diversity.

He also described the temple as a "testament to Canada's and India's proud traditions of pluralism."

Yesterday, Mr. Harper was offered the place of honour during the inauguration ceremony, sitting on a lush armchair to the right of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of the BAPS Swaminarayan organization.

The group has built temples around the world, including in London, England, and in Houston.

All the Swaminarayan Mandir's columns, arches and cupolas are covered in carvings of deities.

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But as an added bonus of modernity, the marble floor is electrically heated to make worshipping in winter a bearable experience for the barefoot devotees.

"It's pretty unique," said Mitesh Badiwala, a guide to the temple. "It's more modern. We've melded the ancient architecture with modern amenities."

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