The United States of America is getting its largest Hindu temple. Being dubbed as the world’s largest temple built outside India in the modern era, the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham temple will be formally inaugurated in New Jersey on October 8, 2023. The temple is already attracting Hindu devotees and visitors from other faiths daily, as per news reports.
All About the Temple
Touted as the second largest Hindu temple in the world, the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple is located in Robbinsville Township in New Jersey, about 90km south of Times Square, New York. Popularly known as just Akshardham, the grand temple is dedicated to Swaminarayan, a revered 19th-century spiritual leader.
Built over a span of more than 12 years between 2011 to 2023, the temple complex is spread across 183 acres. The temple will be unveiled in the presence of BAPS spiritual head Mahant Swami Maharaj and other dignitaries on October 8, 2023. It will be reportedly open for visitors from October 18, 2023.
Aksharvatsaldas Swami from the Swaminarayan Sanstha said: “Our spiritual leader Pramukh Swami Maharaj had a vision that in the Western Hemisphere there should be a place, which can be a place for all the people of the world not only for Indians, not only for Hindus, not only certain groups of people; it should be for all the world where people can come and learn some values, universal values based in Hindu tradition.”
“It was his last wish, and it was his pledge (Sankalp). According to the Sankalp, this Akshardham temple has been built with traditional Hindu temple architecture,” he added. As per a news agency, the week-long celebration will be held, which is likely to be attended by governors, statesmen, and Biden administration officials.
Features of the Temple
The temple was designed by a group of BAPS Swamis and volunteers. Around 12,500 volunteers aged between 18-60 years old from across the US have helped in building the temple and shrine. Four types of stones, including limestone, pink sandstone, marble and granite sourced from different parts of the world.
Limestones were acquired from the Balkan nations of Bulgaria, granite sandstones were brought from India and China, whereas marble was acquired from Greece, Turkey, and Italy. Other ornamental stones were acquired from Europe, Asia and Latin America. Guided by artisans from India, volunteers from the US worked together to construct the temple.
The design of the Akshardham Temple is inspired by ancient Hindu scriptures as well as Indian culture. The temple has more than 10,000 statues, along with the carving of Indian musical instruments and dance forms. Stones and figurines from the temple pay homage to sages, saints, and spiritual personalities of India and Hinduism.
Housing the main shrine, twelve sub-shrines, nine shikars (spire-like structures) and nine pyramidlike shikars, the Akshardham temple also boasts a huge elliptical dome of traditional stone architecture. A golden pot or kalash sits atop the main shikar of the shrine, representing a sense of wholeness and excellence, and above the “Kalash” stands a tall flag that symbolises the victory of good over evil.
There is also a Brahmakund, or traditional Indian stepwell, inside the temple premises with water from more than 300 water bodies from around the world, including all the holy rivers of India and America. A 49-foot-tall statue of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, portrayed as a yogi, graces the entrance of the shrine. Known as Nilkanth Varni, during his teenage years, he was the founder of the Swaminarayan faith and Hindu tradition, according to the website of BAPS.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is a global Hindu organisation that has constructed over 1000 temples across the world, including India, Canada, South Africa and Australia. Notably, the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in New Delhi is spread across a hundred acres and is among the world’s largest temples. The Sanstha has adopted a number of sustainable practices over the years, such as a solar panel farm, a fly-ash concrete mix and planting more than two million trees in the world, reported a media agency.