As we were leaving Delhi and continuing on to Agra, the second city of our tour, we stopped at Swaminarayan Akshardham. This is a magnificent Hindu temple on the outskirts of New Delhi that was built in 2005
As I begin writing this blog post, I am conflicted for several reasons. There are very few places in the world that we have traveled where we were not permitted to take any photos (except for inside a temple). All of the images on this post (except for the first image, taken from the road) are from the Akshardham website or by their photographer.
The second reason is a bit more complicated. While the buildings and their artistry are AMAZING and not to be missed, I had to take pause at the ostentation amid all the poverty we had seen considering this property isn’t even 15 years old. But please understand that neither India or Hindus have a corner on this market.
What Is Akshardham
The only way to fairly describe what we experienced is with a direct quote from their own site:
Akshardham’ means the divine abode of God. It is hailed as an eternal place of devotion, purity and peace. Swaminarayan Akshardham at New Delhi is a Mandir – an abode of God, a Hindu house of worship, and a spiritual and cultural campus dedicated to devotion, learning and harmony. Timeless Hindu spiritual messages, vibrant devotional traditions and ancient architecture all are echoed in its art and architecture. The mandir is a humble tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781- 1830), the avatars, devas and great sages of Hinduism. The traditionally-styled complex was inaugurated on 6 November 2005 with the blessings of HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj and through the devoted efforts of skilled artisans and volunteers.
Hight Tech Meets Culture and Spirituality
Entrance to the Akshardham’s immense facility begins with a checkpoint entering the parking lots, followed by a security screening and frisking. No mobile phones, cameras, USB / Pen drives, music devices, or any electronic devices. To say they take their security and privacy seriously would be an understatement.
Prior to entering the temple, you are required to take off your shoes, so many people bring an extra pair of socks or just walk in barefoot. Seeing the entire site would require an extensive amount of walking and many stairs to climb to get in and out of the temple. So be prepared, bring extra water, and a good walking stick might come in handy.
In addition to the incredible temples, thematic gardens, and water shows, the facility includes cultural displays, a giant screen film, and a cultural boat ride. Unfortunately, our day did not allow for time to explore everything.
The Mandir and Gajendra Peeth
The Mandir, carved of pink sandstone and marble, is the spiritual center of the property. The building boasts 234 carved pillars, 9 ornately decorated domes, incredible spires, and 20,00 statues. To say that it is massive and awe-inspiring is an understatement. Even though our knowledge of Hinduism is limited, you could not help but feel an inspired reverence from the breathtaking artistry you are surrounded by.
The Gajendra Peeth, along the lower portion of the temple, is carved of pink sandstone and showcases a remarkable relief wrapping entirely around the base of the building, showcasing stories related to elephants and humans.
The entire complex took nearly 8,000 volunteers more than 300,000,000 hours to create and is truly not to be missed if you are visiting Delhi.
With the exception of the stairs to enter the temple, a majority of the property is fairly flat and easy to navigate. There are a good number of benches and walls to take a little break as well as shaded tables near the food court.
As with a majority of temples, you will need to remove your shoes, so shoes that are easy to slip on and off are recommended.
The main portion of the property is wide open and often in the direct sun, umbrellas are not permitted so be sure to have some kind of hat and don’t forget to bring a bottle of water.