The BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in the tiny Robbinsville Township of New Jersey has been built by an army of more than 12,500 volunteers from across the US in more than 12 years from 2011 to 2023. It is located about 60 miles (90 km) south of Times Square, New York, or roughly 180 miles (289 km) north of Washington, DC.
On October 8, the world's largest Hindu temple built outside of India in the modern era will be dedicated in New Jersey.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in the small Robbinsville Township of New Jersey has been constructed over a 12-year period, from 2011 to 2023, by an army of more than 12,500 volunteers from across the US. It is located about 60 miles (90 km) south of Times Square, New York, or about 180 miles (289 km) north of Washington, DC.
The temple known as Akshardham measures 255 feet by 345 feet by 191 feet and covers 183 acres. Thousands of Hindus and members of different religions from all around the country visit it every day before it is officially inaugurated.
It has features from old Indian culture, including 10,000 statues and statuettes, carvings of Indian musical instruments, and dancing styles. It was created in accordance with ancient Hindu texts.
The temple is arguably Cambodia's second-largest structure after Angkor Wat.
The 500-acre Angkor Wat Temple Complex, built in the 12th century, is the biggest Hindu temple in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. 100 acres make up the Akshardham temple in New Delhi, which welcomed visitors in November 2005.
"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.
Rarely do senior BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha religious figures grant interviews to the media.
It was both his wish and his Sankalp (promise). This Akshardham was constructed using conventional Hindu temple architecture, according to his Sankalp," he remarked.
One main shrine, 12 sub-shrines, nine shikhars (spire-like structures), and nine pyramidal shikhars make up the distinctive Hindu temple design. The largest elliptical dome ever built in traditional stone construction is found in Akshardham. It is made to last for a millennium.
Each stone at Akshardham has a unique narrative. Limestone, pink sandstone, marble, and granite are the four types of stone chosen because they can tolerate intense heat and cold.
Stone for the construction project totaled nearly two million cubic feet and came from various locations 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, and Latin America.
The Brahma Kund, a customary Indian stepwell, is filled with water from more than 300 water sources from all around the world, including the holy rivers of India and all 50 US states. A solar panel farm, concrete made with fly ash, and the recent planting of over two million trees worldwide are just a few examples of BAPS's sustainable practices.
Akshardham was assembled with assistance from volunteers from all over the US. Volunteer Indian artisans served as their leaders. For the creation of Akshardham, millions of volunteer hours were put in.
Under the direction of BAPS spiritual leader Mahant Swami Maharaj, Akshardham, which is regarded as a cornerstone of Hindu culture and architecture in the Western Hemisphere, will be formally inaugurated on October 8. As of October 18, it will be accessible to guests.
"It's part of our tradition to volunteer. There are numerous references in our lineage, texts, and traditional Hindu Parampara (custom) that show that service to build a temple is exceedingly meritorious, according to Aksharvatsaldas Swami.
But because of the size of the Maha mandir at this specific temple, it has been something special. So logically, the number of volunteers would increase, he continued.
One of the Alabama volunteers who has quit her job and been in charge of a group of 20 female volunteers working on the waterproofing project remarked, "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Another volunteer, Atlanta-based accountant Ravi Patel, did the same.
According to BAPS administrators, volunteers have given the temple millions of hours of altruistic devotion. They range in age from 18 to over 60, and include doctors, engineers, architects, CEOs of businesses, and students. Many of them have taken months-long leaves from their jobs and rented condos close to the construction site in order to offer their services in the temple's development.