That little corner where God resides….

Update, Jan 2016: This post of mine has been my most popular one in 2015. I thank the readers profusely for all the love and appreciation. Many have been kind enough to share pictures of their mandirs which were inspired from what they saw here. Please visit Reader’s Gallery to view them. If you have pics that you’d like to share, please post them to me at thebakerhomemaker@gmail.com

For most people from India, the home’s pooja mandir  (altar) is a very pious corner of the house.  It could be a corner in the kitchen counter, a single shelf in a bookcase or a special piece of furniture we call pooja mandir, where we house our favorite idols. Most of these idols are passed on from one generation to the next, revered and respected by each one of them. Idol worshipping goes back a long way in the Indian culture. I would think most of the world finds this concept alien and maybe doesn’t even agree with it, but for us it is holy corner of the house which pulls together all the positive auras of the house .

A pooja mandir is a place to gather, to bow, to worship, to pray, to hope, to dream, to focus, to meditate, to chant, to learn, to teach, to thank.  Every god/goddess is not merely a statue, but a virtue the devotee aspires to imbibe.  At the heart of this mandir is the diya (lamp) that symbolizes the happiness in the home – the triumph of good over evil , the light to conquer all darkness in the hearts and outside.

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In India, most homes typically have a tiny room dedicated to house the gods.

People living in apartments/smaller homes buy a small piece of furniture( that looks like a decked up wardrobe) . This piece of furniture called the pooja mandir is available in all different sizes and designs. It mostly mimics an actual temple with a garbha gruha ( inner sanctum) where the primary idol is housed and a pyramidal roof that extends several stories high.

I live in the USA and finding a mandir here is possible, but a very expensive affair (about $500 to $1000) and so is buying the product in India and shipping it. For years, I used a few shelves on a bookcase as my mandir. My home needed a better one. Space wise I didn’t have much room. I had to work with a corner in the kitchen, which needed to double up as storage, had to ensure that the diya and incense sticks were at a height my toddler couldn’t reach. I like DIYs, but  not the intense kind. Mine mostly are the decorative DIYs with simple tweaks to store bought stuff to suit my needs.

The budget I had for this was about a $200 including the storage cabinet. I spent about $150 and was glad to be under budget. For the expenses split, scroll across to the end of the post.

IKEA has rescued me several times and it didn’t fail to this time either. During one of my several visits to the store, I found a specific book case which fit my requirements. The good part about this bookcase was it covered both my needs –  lower closed shelf for storage and an upper open display shelf for my mandir. I took off one of the adjustable shelves since I needed one of my shelves to be high enough to hold the bigger idols. This formed the basic mandir structure that I needed.

Image from IKEA wesite
Image from IKEA wesite

Now,  the next step was to indian-ise it.

I used a fabric pen to draw these handmade murals (rangolis/kolams) on the inside of the bookcase. A fabric pen,  you ask? Yes, I experimented with several markers and even a paint brush. What I discovered was that the fabric marker was opaque enough to show the drawing well with one coat. It was wipeable when wet and  once dry, sturdy enough that it wouldn’t come off with a gentle wet wipe, but would if I used a plastic scrub. This gave me the freedom to correct mistakes as I went along.

(The kolam/rangoli is traditionally used to adorn the entrance of a house. The beauty of symmetry is best portrayed by the kolams. If you look closely, the basic design is extremely simple and repetitive. For more information on how to draw these beautiful kolams go here.)

While you create this backdrop, also picture roughly where you want your primary idols to be placed.  Create focal points as necessary.

It was shaping up great, except for the roof. It looked too flat for my liking. Guess what I used to create the  “shikara“/tower? I bought a tapering floating shelf and inverted it and used double sided tape to attach it to the top of the shelf.

To mimic the toppers that you see in traditional temples, I decorated the top with some wooden beads I found in Micheals. In the pictures below, you can see how they were put togther to give it the classic shape. To keep the beads from falling off I used the eye pins that I got from Micheals to try some jewelry making project ( I lietrally worked with whatever tools I had at home )

A few accessories like lighting, bells and fancy knobs and you’re done. I went with battery operated LED lights that I found in Lowes because I simply dint want to drill any holes/hide wires.

I was lucky to find the floating shelf and the beads in the same shade as my shelf. I prefer to buy furniture in common colors like brown/while so that I can co-ordinate accessories easily, though you can always paint/polish to get the shade you desire.

Supplies I used:

 Until next time. Happy Making!

Update, Mar 2016: Looks like Borgsjo book shelf is no longer available in IKEA. An alternate shelf, Brusali High cabinet, also available in IKEA looks equally good. Pls. see Padma Priya’s work in Reader’s gallery to see her beautiful work with this cabinet.

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167 thoughts on “That little corner where God resides….

  1. Hi – I love this post. I would love to make it at home as DIY project. I am not able to find the cabinet in IKEA website through the link. Is there any alternative similar cabinet that can buy anywhere else?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you think this’ll work? http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/series/20798/
      It looks customizable. It is kind of similar to the one I used (might be slightly more expensive). I am sure you’ll find better bookcases in other furniture stores, but the price difference might be big. Also, do try any consignment stores in your area. Sometimes you find real gems there. With a little tweak, you might be able to make it work for you.

      Like

  2. Hello It was of great help in doing this project. I am planning to put doors on the above section as well. Since, I have kept my puja mantap in a living room / dinning room. And my home is an open concept. So, a door would help to create some privacy for the God mantap. Can you please tell me an idea for this, since this bookcase is no more available at ikea? I have been thinking of taking the measurements and then build doors from home depot or loews. What do you say?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, that does sound like a good idea esp if you’d like glass doors. Another thing I can think of is to use a roll down screen in bamboo or the like. It’ll add an ethnic look to the shelf. You can may be draw some rangolis or sketch a traditional drawing on it.
      Hope you work something out. Would love to see/feature your project (with your permission). Do send the pics to me.

      Like

      1. The bamboo screen you mentioned , sounds interesting. Can you please just give me a hint of what it is like?

        Like

    1. Thanks Jayanthi. I actually poked equidistant holes in a newspaper, placed the sheet against the backdrop and drew the dots. Actually, depending on your rangoli design, once you mark the center, its pretty easy to map the rest. Just start building your design
      from the center. Hope that helps!

      Like

  3. Hi, Love this idea. So beautiful and elegant. Can you please tell me how did you hang the picture in the center of the top section. Also what was used to hang the bells. eye hooks?

    Like

  4. Hi,

    I’m trying this with a smaller cabinet. Excellent idea. Can you please let me know where to buy the bells in India since I’m planning to get it from there.

    Like

  5. I have been reading this blog over a year and loved loved loved the idea. Now its time for us to start on it. BTW, my husband wow..ed
    Question though, how did you bring IKEA cabinet home? I calculated the shipping cost as I do not have IKEA near. First one is 50 miles.It will be 300$ If I give meager tip to drive. It sad for 1 piece of furniture But I really want to do it. Any suggestions

    Like

  6. Amazing idea. I have been looking through internet for simple and traditional set for Puja mandir. Your design is awesome. Thanks for the idea.

    Like

  7. Namaskaram. Really nice. I actually bought this exact IKEA bookshelf on March because my old pooja place from 2010 had cheap wood and broke. I have a lot of murtis from my last bookshelf, should i put them on the bottom portion of the cupboard?

    Like

  8. here’s a tip, put foil paper on shelves and under every murthi, put a plate that will be big enough that the murti will have a 1 finger distance from the front corner of plate, and small enough that the plate won’t take up to much space. that way, when you offer flowers or put kumkum and it falls, it will fall on the little plates and you can just pick up the murti and take the flowers and etc. without staining anything and easily slipping everything off.

    Like

  9. The problem with the ikea shelves is that they come with a thin cardboard like back . If I need to hang some pictures using pins or nails,I dont think the back can support the weight. I noticed in your image that you have indeed hung or stuck an image of the great Lord Balaji there. How did you manage that ? Like you have updated Borgjso is not available at Ikea anymore :(. Brusali is a good alternative.

    Like

  10. i have three big pictures-8×10 with frame-of krishna, murugan, laxmi ganesh saraswati. plus 4 extra photos from when we lived in a basement.
    the big pictures with frames take up so much room, what can i do with the extra ones, please help

    Like

  11. Just awesome. I was hunting for puja mandap in Google. When I came across your article. It is like a treasure found. Thank you. Will sure give it a try

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi,

    This is wonderful and perfect, thank you so much. I am going to do this and have already found a good enough cabinet on IKEA website. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40302289/#/40302289
    http://www.wayfair.com/South-Shore-Vito-3-Shelf-Bookcase-with-Doors-103-TH4349.html
    I am going to choose one of the above.

    I loved the rangoli design,but I have absolutely no clue as to how I can do the same. Can you please share some videos or anything simple that I can practice on paper first. Because without the design, the mandir would not look as awesome. Another Idea I was thinking might be good kundan rangoli stickers.

    will let you know how it goes. But kindly do share some tips about the rangoli design.

    Regards
    Preeti

    Like

    1. Thanks Preeti. Both the cabinets seem like great options. Sorry, I havent found the time to do a write up about the rangoli. I’ll try to put up one soon. To give you an idea, i just punched equidistant holes in a newspaper and used that as a stencil to mark the dots. After that, i’ve drawn freehand rangoli.

      Like

  13. This bookcase is no longer available in IKEA anymore! 😦 . Any suggestions for an alternative? Also, I am curious to know the idea of implementing a cabinet door for this? Please feel free to pour in any suggestions?

    Like

  14. Hi ya, this is a brilliant idea for pooja mandir. Just wanted to check where in India did u buy the hanging bells???? Is it available online???

    Like

  15. Hi I came across your post when I was searching for DIY Puja mandir. I like your creativity turning a book shelf into beautiful puja mandir with reasonable cost. It’s looking awesome and we are thinking of doing the same. Thank you for posting such a beautiful creation.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you so much for this brilliant idea! I live in Singapore, where traditional pooja shelves and cupboards cost an arm and a leg. My husband and I just moved into our first home and we did not want (or more accurately, did not have) that much money to be spent on an altar. I went trawling online for DIY ideas and I’m SO grateful to have come upon your post! We had a blast creating a customised altar for our Gods. Took us about a week to put it all together and we could not be happier. Thank you very much for being so generous with your ideas and tips!

    Like

  17. Hi – Your blog has inspired us to make a similar mandir. One quick question – Where did you buy the idols like Ram, Sita, Lakshman & Krishna ? Was that something you got from India?

    Like

  18. Beautiful work 🙂 I loved the bamboo blind idea that you had suggested for cabinet without door, but can you install it on a cabinet? I am checking before I start working on this. Thank you 🙂

    Like

  19. Awesome work on this DIY mandir. I loved this idea so much that I finally bought the shelf from IKEA couple of weeks back and am very excited to start this project. Had a couple of questions, if you could help clarify.
    1. Did you draw the kolam patterns after or before the shelf was assembled?
    2. Could you provide me some more information (brand/type/point) of the fabric pen you used for the kolams and the glue you used to stick the beads? I tried searching online/stores but got overwhelmed with the n number of options out there.
    Thanks so much in advance!

    Like

    1. Hi Nitya,
      Thanks! Regarding the kolam patterns, i drew them with a fabric pen I found at a local craft store. I don’t rem the brand. Let me look it up and add it in the blog post itself as it will be useful to a lot of readers. Also, the glue i used was a regular craft glue, you could use permanent clear glue with a fine tip for this project.

      Like

      1. I have the same question. Did you draw the kola score before assembly? Awesome hack! I love it!

        Like

  20. Thank you so much for the wonderful post. I really loved the idea and very excited to start the project. Thanks a ton..

    Like

  21. Hey!!
    Amazing idea for a DIY mandir!!
    For a year i have been trying different setups for a mandir at home in the US but wasn’t satisfied .
    Then one day i came across your post and was definitely impressed with your creativity.
    So following your creative footsteps got myself the Brusali high cabinet.
    For the back wall since I don’t have much time apart from weekends , i am planning to get some kundan rangoli / nice stickers OR maybe do some quilling!

    My bells are on the way from India. But my query will definitely be about the hooks for the bells.
    1. How did you push them in?
    2. Also, do they (hooks)come as a part with bell or separate?
    3. Should I arrange for the hooks separately?

    Cheers!

    Like

  22. Hi Shyama –
    Perhaps you could suggest an alternative to the challenge i have with my project.
    I do not have an IKEA nearby, so I opted for this shelf instead..
    https://www.walmart.com/ip/Mainstays-Storage-Cabinet-Multiple-Finishes/20666620?action=product_interest&action_type=title&beacon_version=1.0.2&bucket_id=irsbucketdefault&client_guid=cabdc945-63f4-4478-806f-e72ed7dd1e7d&config_id=106&customer_id_enc&findingMethod=p13n&guid=cabdc945-63f4-4478-806f-e72ed7dd1e7d&item_id=20666620&parent_anchor_item_id=20666621&parent_item_id=20666621&placement_id=irs-106-m3&reporter=recommendations&source=new_site&strategy=PWBAB&visitor_id=Xjq8wRE0jiUUrnqUAv0ld8

    After the entire assembly and finishing the gopuram piece and bells, I realized the finish on the front of the doors is somewhat vinyl/wood and no painters pen, fabric pen or sharpie writes well on it.

    I’m unfortunately left with nothing to decorate on the outside..
    Currently, i’m contemplating on ‘ rangoli stickers’ but the ones i found online are too colorful and far from my brown/gold/silver theme..

    any suggestions please?

    Like

  23. Hi, Your post is very inspiring! I have been looking for so long for ideas like this. Living in a smaller city in Canada I don’t have easy access to all things pooja related and I also lack a designated pooja area. But your post changed it! Now I am awaiting the delivery of the bookcase but in the meantime I am excitedly gathering other materials. I do have a couple of questions 1) did you glue the floating shelf on top of the shelf? 2) how did you hang the God’s picture? wondering if the back board is thick enough for nails or should i use command strips? 3) I don’t have a steady hand with kolams so would appreciate any tips to get a clean and straight kolam like yours. Thank you in advance!

    Like

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words. 1) Yes, I glued it to the top 2)I used command strips, my frame wasnt as heavy. Its been almost 4 years and its holding up well.3)Try to make a stencil with paper (punch in equally spaced holes) for the dots. Once you have the dots, working around them should be a breeze. Also, the fabric pen is pretty forgiving. If you make a mistake you could erase it with a gentle scrub with a plastic brush or even ur fingernails. Hope this helped

      Like

      1. hi Thank you for the inspiration! I have completed my mandir and I am so proud of it. I would love to share the picture with you. Please let me know how i can.
        Thanks!

        Like

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