About Swaminarayan Akshardham
Swaminarayan Akshardham is the world’s largest comprehensive Hindu temple. Opened in 2005, it is located on the outskirts on New Delhi, India.
History of Swaminarayan Akshardham
Hinduism is the religion with the biggest following in India: approximately 80% of the population are adherents. The temple complex of Swaminarayan Akshardham had been planned since 1968: it was originally a vision of the Yogiji Maharaj, the spiritual head of a Hindu denomination known as BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Little progress was made on completing this grand temple before in death in 1971.
In 1982, Yogiji Maharaj’s successor, Pramukh Swami Maharaj submitted a plan to the Delhi Development Authority to build a temple on the Yamuna. 18 years later, in 2000, 90 acres of land was offered to fulfil the project by the Delhi Development Authority and the Uttar Pradesh Government. Construction began the same year, and took around five years to complete.
The building’s foundations are comprised of 30 foot of rocks, sands, concrete and bricks in order to provide a stable foundation on which to build the monument. The main body of the building is made from 6000 tons of pink Rajasthani sandstone, much of which was carved by some of the seven thousand carvers employed. On average, around 4000 workers a day were on site for a large proportion of the five years it took to build.
The carvings are based on 8th-12th century Indian craftsmanship at sites in South India, Rajasthan and even as far a field as Angkor Wat: there are 20,000 deities, saints and mythical creatures to look for.
Swaminarayan Akshardham today
It is hard to find a sense of spirituality in Delhi’s largest temple, and whilst it is still very much used as a place of worship, security is tight and it is often swarming with tourists. Be prepared to leave virtually all of your belongings, including cameras, at the bag drop near the entrance.
However, this doesn’t detract from how beautiful the architecture of the main building is: reminiscent of Angkor Wat in style and design, it is incredibly ornate and the craftsmanship is awe-inspiring. Take some time to wander round and soak up the detail – including the 3m high gold statue of Bhagwan Shri Swaminarayan.
Entrance is ticketed, and includes a slightly bizarre theme park-esqe boat ride through 10,000 years of Indian history, including tales from the life of Swaminarayan.
The complex is also home to India’s largest step well and the lush gardens known as the Bharat Upavan, which is lined with bronzes sculptures of some of the most important figures in India’s history (according to the Sikhs at least).
Getting to Swaminarayan Akshardham
The temple lies east of the Yamuna River, and is easily accessible via the Akshadrham Metro station (Blue line). Otherwise, you should be able to get a tuk tuk or taxi from the other side of the river: the site is well known and any driver will be able to get you there easily enough.
With a history dating back to the 10th century, and the 3rd largest city in the world today, Delhi remains a popular starting or finishing point for travellers exploring Northern India. Beyond the chaos and the smog, Delhi is crammed with rich and varied historic sites which help tell the story of this remarkable city.