My Yellow Suitcase

Redesign your life. Travel the world.

AKSHARDHAM TEMPLE – New Delhi

Akshardham Temple is a phenomenal architecture that epitomizes rich Indian culture dating back to around ten thousand years of cultural legacy. The construction of this grand structure took around 5 years and was officially inaugurated on 6 November, 2005. The temple is intricately hand-carved out of pink stones and white marble. It is embellished with domes, carved pillars and around 20,000 statues, making the place absolutely marvelous. It is said that around 11,000 skilled workers have contributed their expertise to beautify the complex.

To date it is the largest comprehensive Hindu Temple in the world and has been documented by the Guinness World Record, so obviously, anything of that caliber immediately goes on my “bucket list”.

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Akshardham Temple (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

What makes the complex special is its ability to showcase an enlightening journey through celebrated ancient art, traditional values, and classic spiritual messages.

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(Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

When we reached the complex it was already jam-packed with people, mostly students having their educational field trip waiting in a long queue.  We decided to have a small snack before entering because food is not allowed inside the complex.  There is a food stall outside the entrance where you can sit and eat.

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students on queue outside the complex

The security is quite overbearing and very strict.  In fact, there are two queues for security check.  One is for depositing the items you have – food, electronic devices, such as video cameras or cell phones, are not allowed inside the temple grounds. I suggest you leave all these behind in your vehicle so you don’t have to queue again to collect them when exiting the temple. It takes more than one hour to reach the other security check-in (depending on date of visit it can take more than two hours).This is the final security check.  Metal belongings such as belts, wallets, and jewelries must be placed in a box for scanning. After this you are free to explore the complex.

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Two of the ten gates. (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

One of the very first marvelous features of the temple is the ten  gates. It represents the ten principal directions of Indian culture and they are known for their exquisite beauty and appeal.

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Visitors area (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

This is how the visiting hall looks like.   At first glance you’ll think you are in a five-star hotel, it is very modern and clean. Brochures are available in Indian and foreign languages for 5Rs. We have realized that one needs at least 5-6 hours to see the whole place and check out all its attractions.

                             

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Hand carved peacock (Mayur Dwar). (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

The entrance door in the center has been fringed by a vertical layer of peacock sculptures. Looking at the magnificent design, I felt deprived and disappointed for not having my camera with me.  Wished I had sneaked one in illegally.  Wonder what would happen if they caught us.  We actually seen some people secretly taking snapshots and, as far as I know, they lived to tell the tale… and show the pics.

                      

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Pond with in the complex. (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

We walked along the path until we reached a small square pond with white marble giant feet  of Swaminarayan. People were throwing coins into this pond as they uttered their wishes and prayers.  I did exactly the same.  Have thrown three coins for the same prayer, haha talking about quantity for making the prayers come true 🙂 .

We walked some more to reach the actual temple.  Before getting inside the main Mandir (temple), shoes must be deposited in locker area. One of the workers will hand you a numbered key for identification. This service is free and very efficient.

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Portion of the Grand elephant Plith. (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

I was speechless and in a complete awe at the sight of Akshardham Temple. The exterior is covered with intricately engraved statues of Hindu gods, animals, and holy people. It was truly commendable. We strolled quite slowly trying to absorb everything and spent an hour just musing over the magnificent exteriors of the temple.

akshardham_gajendra_pith-133         Ornately carved elephants bedecked for a spiritual ceremony. (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)      

What I liked the most was the layer representing the elephant God Ganesh in various positions – dancing, playing musical instruments, meditating.

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Every detail of the external wall was painstakingly translated into art, faith and inspiration. (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

Its external walls have been designed so skillfully that they force you to stop & ask yourself if staying outside would be a much better idea.

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The lake is surrounded by imaginative faucets that resemble cow heads (“gaumukhs” in Hindi), since cow is one of the very sacred creatures in Hinduism.The sacred water creates an ambiance of a place of pilgrimage. (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

We climb to the main Mandir (temple). Upon entering there is a large golden statue of Bhagwan Swaminarayan surrounded by his gurus.

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(Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

The interior is no less spectacular, and has so much details that one can spend hours just lost in the intricacies of each design. It took us about two hours to go through all the chambers.  Everything is decorated with gold, gems and marble done in a very meticulous manner.  But for me, I guess, it was somewhat overkill and little too much.  I even become a bit dizzy from the massive assault of the visuals.

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(Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

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(Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

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View of the ceiling. (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

After so much time spent on gazing at all those rich and intricate details of sculptures and paintings, we decided to step out, take a seat and let it all sink in.  After a while we collected our shoes and walked around the temple grounds with our heads still spinning from the experience.

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Soldiers. (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

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The sun chariot and moon chariot. (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

We found a  Garden  known as the Bharat Upavan, this garden has lush manicured lawns, trees, and shrubs. The garden is lined with bronze sculptures of contributors to India’s culture, including Children of India, Women of India, and Heroes of India. The Sun Chariot and moon chariot are the most beautiful.

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sunken garden. (Photo courtesy of akshardham.com)

There’s another garden connecting the restaurant with the main temple – this one was sunken & it is said that when seen from above it looks like a lotus. It has a lake, a waterfall, a children’s park, rides and games and an herbal garden. You can enjoy and relax here.

There are other attractions aside from the temple itself. The Boat ride takes you on a journey through 10,000 years of Indian history in approximately 10 minutes.  The Musical fountain features a very large series of steps down to a traditional ‘yagna kund’.  The Hall of Values features life-like robotics and dioramas which display incidents from Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s life, portraying his message of peace, harmony, humility, service to others and devotion to God. The Theatre shows the journey of Bhagwat Swaminarayan made during his teenage years throughout India.

If you want to see any of them, you need to buy the combined ticket which is 170Rs for adults, 125 Rs for senior citizens and 100 Rs for children.  Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to visit them.

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Souvenir shot

At the end of the tour, just before entering the exhibition room, there was an official photographer available for anyone who wanted to take a picture inside the temple.  Since we were not able to take any pictures we decided to get the 50Rs photographic souvenir which could be collected at the Souvenir Shop.  After collecting the large size photograph, we wondered for a while inside the exhibition/shop area where besides souvenirs you can also buy traditional herbal Hindu medicine for about any conceivable ailment you can think of.  The closing time was announced and we had to leave with just the photographs for our souvenir.

Akshardham had a powerful and lasting impression on me and I think it’s a wonderful place everyone visiting New Delhi should see.

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