BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha has said the Swaminarayan Akshardham at Robbinsville Township in New Jersey will be formally inaugurated under the guidance of its spiritual head Mahant Swami Maharaj on October 8 and will be opened for visitors from October 18, PTI reported on Sunday.
The world’s second largest temple constructed outside India measures 255 ft x 345 ft x 191 ft and spans over 183 acres. It has been designed according to ancient Hindu scriptures and includes design elements from ancient Indian culture including 10,000 statues and statuettes, carvings of Indian musical instruments and dance forms.
The New Jersey Akshardham temple is possibly the second largest after Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The 12th-century Angkor Wat Temple Complex, the largest Hindu temple in the World, is spread over 500 acres and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The temple design includes one main shrine, 12 sub-shrines, nine shikhars (spire-like structures), and nine pyramidal shikhars. Akshardham houses the largest elliptical dome of traditional stone architecture ever constructed. It is designed to last a thousand years.
“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," Swami Aksharvatsaldas from BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha told PTI in an exclusive interview.
“It was his wish, and it was his Sankalp (pledge). According to his Sankalp, this Akshardham has been built with traditional Hindu temple architecture," he said.
The temple is built by an army of more than 12,500 volunteers from across the US in over 12 years from 2011 to 2023. They were guided by artisan volunteers from India.
“It (voluntarism) is our tradition. There are so many references in our traditional Hindu Parampara (tradition), or scriptures or our lineage where you can Seva in building a temple is very meritorious," the Swami said.
“But particularly in this temple, it has been a unique thing because of the scale of the Maha mandir. So the number of volunteers would naturally grow," he added.
“This is a lifetime opportunity," said one of the volunteers from Alabama, who has left her work and has been leading a team of 20 women volunteers as part of the waterproofing team. So did another volunteer Ravi Patel, an accountant from Atlanta.
“The mandir has transformed me," he added.
Nearly two million cubic feet of stone was used in the construction and was sourced from different sites 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, Latin America, the report said.
The Brahma Kund, a traditional Indian stepwell, contains water from over 300 bodies of water from around the world, including the holy rivers of India and all 50 states of the US. Sustainable practices of BAPS include a solar panel farm, a fly ash concrete mix, and the planting of over two million trees worldwide in the past few decades, the report added.
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