ONE of the largest Hindu temples in the world was inaugurated at the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Jersey, Robbinsville. Spread over 185 acres, it is said to represent India’s heritage and culture in modern America.
Revered saint, His Holiness Pujya Mahant Swami Maharaj, led the dedication ceremony of Akshardham in Robbinsville on Sunday (8), following a nine-day celebration that began on September 30.
HH Pujya Mahant Swami Maharaj performed the ‘Pran Prathistha’ ceremony at the temple amid rituals and traditional ceremonies. Deputy commissioner at the New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, Dilip Chauhan, said the inauguration and dedication of the Akshardham temple is a “dream come true” for devotees, volunteers and followers across the US.
He said the Akshardham in Robbinsville is not just for any one community, but a “cultural complex (that) is going to bring all communities together” and will be a bridge between the local, state, and federal government and the faith-based community.
“We can see real diversity here,” Chauhan said.
US Congresswoman Grace Meng has dedicated October 8, 2023, as ‘Akshardham Day’ in the Congressional District 6 of New York City borough of Queens, including west, central, and northeast Queens. Chauhan said though Akshardham is based in New Jersey, “New York, New Jersey, and the entire United States want to celebrate the significance of Akshardham”.
He noted New York City mayor Eric Adams’s message of “breaking bread and building bonds” and said the temple underscores the message of unity in diversity and harmony.
The construction of the temple, dedicated to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, started in 2011 and concluded this year. It also involved the efforts of 12,500 volunteers from around the world, who took a break from their jobs and studies and dedicated themselves for days and months to help build the temple. Among the unique features of the temple is the largest elliptical dome ever constructed from stone.
“We were waiting for this moment for the last several years,” BAPS volunteer Lenin Joshi said. People from all around the country, irrespective of their faiths and religions, will be able to visit the temple and see the grand symbol of Hindu tradition, peace, devotion, and architectural marvel, he added.
Highlighting some of the unique aspects of the temple, Joshi said 1.9 million cubic feet of stone was used in its construction. Stones were sourced from 29 sites around the world, including granite from India, sandstone from Rajasthan, teakwood from Myanmar, marble from Greece, Turkey and Italy and limestone from Bulgaria and Turkey.
There are 10,000 statues, carvings of ancient Indian musical instruments and dance forms in the temple design. Yogi Trivedi from New York, a scholar of media and religion, said the spirit of selfless service and devotion are the foundations of the temple.
“This spirit will speak to not just Hindu-Americans, Indians, and Indian Americans, but also to America and the world at large. It is that sense of inclusivity and the sense of bringing people together that will speak to those who visit the temple,” said Trivedi, who is also an author specialising in Bhakti Studies and a volunteer at the temple.
“Akshardham Mahamandir is embedded in tradition and at the same time embracing innovation,” he said.
Visitors will see messages from the lives of Sri Krishna and Lord Ram, the Vedas and Upanishads as well as those of democracy, liberty, equality and freedom from iconic leaders of US society and the western world. These include Socrates, Albert Einstein, Rumi, former US president Abraham Lincoln and civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
“These messages which are universal now speak to the Americans, the Hindu Americans and the international visitor that comes here in a way that is familiar to them. This is a Sanatan Hindu Mandir with an articulation of that universal message that speaks to the world,” he said.
A BAPS statement said, “Akshardham in New Jersey marks the third such cultural complex globally. The first Akshardham was created in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, India, in 1992, followed by Akshardham in New Delhi in 2005.”
During the week, India’s Permanent Representative at the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj led a delegation of ambassadors and representatives from the United Nations to the temple ahead of the grand dedication ceremony on Sunday (8).