This massive Hindu temple is a beacon of peace and has been under construction since 2010. It is open to the public and welcomes all.
The largest Hindu temple in North America is said to be the huge Swaminarayan Akshardham located in Robbinsville, New Jersey. If you want to explore the rich Hindu culture without visiting India, consider visiting this new temple complex. But if one goes to India, there are many historic and UNESCO-listed temples that everyone must see there – as well as the new and eye-catching Lotus Temple in New Deli.
Not far away in New York is one of the largest cathedrals in the world and the largest in North America. This is the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and it is only two-thirds complete – it is fully functioning and construction began in 1892.
Background of the Swaminarayan Akshardham
“The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is a volunteer-run spiritual organization dedicated to the betterment of society through individual growth by promoting Hindu ideals of faith, unity and selfless service.”
The Swaminarayan Akshardham is a Hindu mandir (or temple) complex. Almost complete now with the first component of the campus open to the public on August 10, 2014. It is mostly built up now, although some parts are still under construction such as the Akshardham Mahamandir and a visitor center. The visitor center should include an exhibit on Hindu faith and culture.
The proposal for the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Robbinsville, New Jersey was first made in 1997 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. 13 years later, in 2010, the ground was broken and construction began. There was a lot of volunteer work that went into creating this massive Hindu temple.
- First opening: August 10, 2014
- Visitor Center: Under construction but will exhibit Hindu faith and culture
When it opened, there was a big three-day party with over 20,000 visitors taking part in various events. There was also a big yagna in which participants prayed for world peace.
The temple was built by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha – a fast growing Hindu denomination which was founded in 1905 by Yagnapurushdas (Shastriji Maharaj) and belongs to the Swaminarayan branch of Hinduism. Like Christianity (which has various Protestant denominations, Catholicism, etc.), there are many Hindu denominations.
Visit to Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple
The mandir or temple is open daily to all visitors of all faiths and backgrounds. It is open to visitors and worship.
“Individuals and families are not required to book their tour in advance. Upon arrival, please inquire at reception for the availability of a guide. If there is not one, the audioguide should always be at hand for your visit.”
Upon entering the temple, one will see it richly adorned with carvings of peacocks, elephants and famous Hindu devotees of past eras.
- Address: 112 N Main Street, Robbinsville, NJ
- Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. daily
- Who can visit: The temple is open to all
There are many more BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha Hindu Temples to visit in the United States. There are large centers in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Robbinsville, Toronto and many smaller centers.
To see times for the temple’s many rituals, prayers, and hymns, check out their website and schedules. There are also a number of guidelines for visiting – including taking photos. PPhotography or filming inside the mandir (temple) is strictly prohibited.
These can be a taste of Hinduism and the cultures of India. But still, to truly understand and experience India’s bewildering diversity, nothing ever beats a visit in person.
Temple construction and rituals
Interestingly, it uses 68,000 cubic feet of Italian Carrara marble. But this marble was not first shipped to the United States. Instead, it was shipped to Rajasthan in India (Rajasthan is a very historic part of India that is home to many of its best-known Raj forts and palaces).
In Rajasthan, the marble was carved by hundreds of artisans and the finished pieces were then assembled and sequentially numbered and sent to New Jersey.
- Origin of marble: Europe
- Sculpture: The sculptures were made by artisans in India and then shipped to the United States.
The temple was built in accordance with the principles stipulated in the Shilpa Shastras (the Hindu texts related to the standards of sacred architecture). It is a shikarbaddha mandir and has sacred images of Hindu deities – which have also been enshrined.
Swaminarayan swamis (aka monks) offer devotional worship to these deities throughout the day.
These rituals begin before dawn by awakening the deities by singing morning hymns. Then the deities are bathed and offered food as well as clothing depending on the time of day and the season. There are various rituals performed throughout the day, including the singing of hymns. At night they are straightened and removed for the night.
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