In a historic moment for devotees of Hinduism and lovers of art and culture, the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in Robbinsville Township, New Jersey, was inaugurated on 8th October 2023, under the guidance of its spiritual head, Mahant Swami Maharaj. This monumental temple, constructed outside of India, became the second-largest Hindu temple in the world, following the majestic Angkor Wat in Cambodia. With its intricate design, spiritual significance and commitment to sustainability, the Swaminarayan Akshardham stands as an evident to human dedication, tradition and artistry.
An Evident to Ancient Wisdom
The temple’s design is a true evident to ancient wisdom, featuring elements drawn from Hindu scriptures and culture. Among its awe-inspiring features are 10,000 statues and statuettes, intricate carvings of Indian musical instruments and dance forms and more. This architectural masterpiece is a reflection of the rich heritage it represents.
A Glimpse of Grandeur
Measuring an impressive 255ft x 345ft x 191ft, the New Jersey Akshardham temple is the second largest temple globally, only surpassed by Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. The temple complex boasts one main shrine, 12 sub-shrines, nine shikhars (spire-like structures) and nine pyramidal shikhars, with the largest elliptical dome of traditional stone architecture ever constructed.
Materials from around the World
The construction of the Akshardham temple utilized an impressive two million cubic feet of stone sourced from different corners of the globe. Limestone from Bulgaria and Turkey, marble from Greece, Turkey and Italy, granite from India and China and sandstone from India were among the materials used. Four different types of marble sourced from Italy and limestone from Bulgaria made an extensive journey, traveling first to India before covering a distance of over 8,000 miles to reach New Jersey.
A Vision of Inclusivity
Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader behind this endeavour, envisioned a place of universal significance. It was his wish to create a space not just for Hindus or Indians but for people from all corner of the world. This Akshardham serves as a hub for learning and embracing universal values rooted in Hindu traditions.
The Power of Voluntarism
The temple’s construction is an evident to the power of voluntarism, with over 12,500 volunteers from across the United States dedicating more than 12 years to its realization. Guided by artisan volunteers from India, they brought this monumental project to life, embodying the rich tradition of Seva (selfless service).
A Lifetime Opportunity
Volunteers from various walks of life, such as the dedicated team of women volunteers from Alabama and Ravi Patel, an accountant from Atlanta, have poured their hearts and souls into the temple’s construction. They attest to the transformational impact this endeavor has had on their lives
Symbolic Water Reservoir, The Brahma Kund
A highlight of the Akshardham Temple is the Brahma Kund, a traditional Indian stepwell containing water from over 300 bodies of water worldwide, including the holy rivers of India and all 50 states of the U.S. This sacred water source adds to the spiritual significance of the temple.
Use of Sustainable Practices
In keeping with modern values, the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha has incorporated sustainable practices into the temple’s construction. These include a solar panel farm, the use of fly ash concrete mix and a commitment to planting over two million trees worldwide in recent decades.
A Global Legacy of Temples and Centers
This temple represents the third Akshardham, meaning the ‘abode of the divine,’ constructed by the organization, following two others in New Delhi and Gujarat, where BAPS is headquartered. The New Delhi complex holds the distinction of being the largest Hindu temple complex globally. As the sect approaches its 50th year in North America next year, it manages a network of over 1,200 temples and 3,850 centers worldwide.
World’s Largest Hindu Temple outside India: Angkor Wat
The world’s most extensive temple complex, Angkor Wat, was initially built during the 12th century in Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu by King Suryavarman II but is now considered a Hindu-Buddhist temple. It holds the distinction of being among the 1,199 UNESCO World Heritage sites.