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Akshardham temple Also known as Swaminarayan Akshardham and Delhi Akshardham

by Nilutpal Gogoi
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Akshardham temple: Also known as Swaminarayan Akshardham and Delhi Akshardham, this imposing cultural monument is situated near National Highway-24 at Nizamuddin adjacent to the 2010 Commonwealth Games village on the banks of the Yamuna in East Delhi. It has been christened according to a belief in Swaminarayan Hinduism or the Swaminarayan sect or Swaminarayan faith – a modern Vaishnava Bhakti sect in the Gujarati tradition. Here, followers offer devotion to Swaminarayan. This wing of Hinduism is known not only for its devotion to the personality of Swaminarayan as the ultimate lord and also the basis of all avtars, but also for its dedication to social service, a mandatory ethical code of conduct along with obdurate segregation of the sexual categories and perpetuation of Gujarati heritage including culture and language. It attracts about 80 percent of the tourists visiting Delhi.

Spread over an area of 100 acres of land, the Swaminarayan temple located at the centre of the complex is 43 m (141-foot) high, 96 m (316-foot) wide, and 109 m (356-foot) long. An arresting aspect is that the walls of the temple are covered with carved minutiae of deities, musicians, dancers, flora, and fauna, from the top to the bottom. The principal monument is a marvel in Rajasthani pink sandstone and white marble (of the Carrara marble – Italian species). It is 141 feet high, 316 feet wide and 370 feet long.

It was built in five years at an estimated cost of Rs 200 crore. The construction work was carried out 24 hours and it took 300 million hours of human effort to complete this splendid monument. Altogether 3,000 volunteers of the organization lent their helping hands to the 7,000 skilled sculptors during the construction of Akshardham. The beautifully designed sprawling structure has been crafted out of a single stone. The temple was opened for public on November 6, 2005.

An 11-foot (3.4 m) high murti or statue of Swaminarayan lies under the central dome within the monument. This murti is surrounded by similar statues of the Hindu deities including Shiv-Parvati, Lakshmi Narayan, Radha-Krishna, Sita-Ram. In fact, there are 20,000 lifelike representations or statues of prominent Hindu saints (sadhus), teachers (acharyas), and dedicated followers. Each statue is made of paanch dhaatu (the five pure metals in accordance to Hindu tradition).

The Akshardham temple is a reflection of the ancient Indian values and wisdom, traditional stone art and architecture, Indian culture and civilization, and the best of modern technology. There is a wide-spread landscaped garden and a musical fountain attuned to the Upanishadic messages. You will also be able to have a glance at the following other typical features within the complex: Exhibitions on the life of Swaminarayan as well as features in IMAX on the early life of Swaminarayan as Nilkanth – the teenage yogi, besides the significant incidents from Indian history.

The temple belonging to the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha is open to all. The blueprint of the structure was developed by the spiritual head of the Sanstha – Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Designed in accordance with the ancient Vedic ‘Immlan Sthapatya Shastras’ (the ancient architectural practices), the Pancharatra Shastra – another ancient Vedic text – and the Vastu Shastra, it features a blend of architectural styles from across India.

A notable point about the architecture is that it does not have any support from concrete or steel. The main temple is made up of a plinth featuring Gajendra – the elephant-headed Hindu God of wisdom, Lord Ganesh (the younger son of Lord Mahadev and Goddess Parvati). He also symbolizes the power to ward off any problems from our Life. There are148 pachyderms engraved on the Gajendra plinth which weighs 3000 tons. Besides, there are nine domes, and 234 pillars – all ornately designed. In other words, the monument stands on the shoulders of those 148 massive stone elephants depicting tales from the ancient Puranas and the Panchatantra. A double-storied verandah (parikrama) of red sandstone – with more than 155 pyramidical roofs (samrans) and 1,160 pillars – encircles the monument.

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