BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in the little Robbinsville Township has been built by an army of more than 12,500 volunteers from across the US in over 12 years from 2011 to 2023
Robbinsville September 24 dmanewsdesk: The world’s largest Hindu temple constructed outside India in the modern era is all set to be inaugurated in New Jersey on October 8.
About 60 miles (90 km) south of Times Square, New York, or about 180 miles (289 km) north of Washington DC, the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in the little Robbinsville Township of New Jersey has been built by an army of more than 12,500 volunteers from across the US in over 12 years from 2011 to 2023.
Being currently visited by thousands of Hindus and people of other faiths every day from across the country ahead of its formal inauguration, the temple popular as Akshardham measures 255 ft x 345 ft x 191 ft and spans over 183 acres.
It has been designed according to ancient Hindu scriptures and includes design elements from ancient Indian culture including 10,000 statues and statuettes, carvings of Indian musical instruments and dance forms.
The temple is possibly the second largest after Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
The 12th-century Angkor Wat Temple Complex, the largest Hindu temple in the World, is spread over 500 acres and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Akshardham temple in New Delhi which was opened for the public in November 2005 is spread over 100 acres.
“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 people of the world, not only for Hindus, not only for Indians, not only for certain groups of people; it should be for all of the world where people can come and learn some values, universal values based in Hindu tradition,” Aksharvatsaldas Swami from BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha told PTI in an interview.
Senior religious leaders of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha rarely give media interviews.
“It was his wish, and it was his Sankalp (pledge). According to his Sankalp, this Akshardham has been built with traditional Hindu temple architecture,” he said.
The unique Hindu temple design includes one main shrine, 12 sub-shrines, nine shikhars (spire-like structures), and nine pyramidal shikhars. Akshardham houses the largest elliptical dome of traditional stone architecture ever constructed. It is designed to last a thousand years.
At Akshardham, every stone has a story. The four types of stone selected include limestone, pink sandstone, marble, and granite, which can withstand extreme heat and cold.
Nearly two million cubic feet of stone was used in the construction and was sourced from different sites around the world, including limestone from Bulgaria and Turkey; Marble from Greece, Turkey and Italy; Granite from India and China; Sandstone from India and other decorative stones from Europe, Asia, Latin America.
The Brahma Kund, a traditional Indian stepwell, contains water from over 300 bodies of water from around the world, including the holy rivers of India and all 50 states of the US. Sustainable practices of BAPS include a solar panel farm, a fly ash concrete mix, and the planting of over two million trees worldwide in the past few decades.
Volunteers from across the US helped with the assembly of Akshardham. They were guided by artisan volunteers from India. Millions of volunteer hours have been dedicated to the making of Akshardham.
Said to be a landmark of Hindu culture and architecture in the Western hemisphere, Akshardham would be formally inaugurated on October 8 under the guidance of BAPS spiritual head Mahant Swami Maharaj. It will be open for visitors from October 18.
“It (voluntarism) is our tradition. There are so many references in our traditional Hindu Parampara (tradition), or scriptures or our lineage where you can Seva in building a temple is very meritorious,” Aksharvatsaldas Swami said.
“But particularly in this temple, it has been a unique thing because of the scale of the Maha mandir. So the number of volunteers would naturally grow,” he said.
“This is a lifetime opportunity,” said one of the volunteers from Alabama, who has left her work and has been leading a team of 20 women volunteers as part of the waterproofing team. So did another volunteer Ravi Patel, an accountant from Atlanta.
“The mandir has transformed me,” he said.
BAPS officials said volunteers have devoted millions of hours of selfless service to the temple. They range from 18 years old to over 60, from students to CEOs of companies, doctors, engineers and architects. Many of them have taken leave from work for months and have rented condos near the construction site to volunteer their services in building the temple.
Source: The Telegraph online