Suitcase and World: In the land of temples. Akshardam.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In the land of temples. Akshardam.

Iwas talking earlier this afternoon with a couple of my Indian colleagues, one of whom had just returned from a three week trip to his homeland, about my upcoming return visit to India. Naturally, they asked me where I would be going on my trip and so I rattled of the list of places, including Sikkim which Varun gave two thumbs up on.  When I mentioned that I would be spending a few days in Delhi, Veronica's eyes lit up. 

She excitedly told me that I should visit Akshardam.  Where?  Akshardam.....a beautiful temple.  A new temple.  In the land of temples.  Before I could even blink an eye, she pulled up  picture of the temple and pointed out the beautiful carvings and fountains.   Okay, I'm starting to get interested.  Before I could do a second blink of my eyes, she had pulled up pictures of its grand interior.....filled with gold statues and topped with ornately decorated ceilings.   Hmmm.....I have to admit, it looks nice but it's still a new temple.  Why go new when you're in a country with a cultural heritage that dates back 5000 years? 

And, there's a light show at night and a "muscial" fountain show, boat rides and meticulously landscaped grounds. I asked Veronica if she was sending me to the Indian version of Disneyland! She laughed and replied that this truly was a temple.

I have to admit, at that point, I was really skeptical BUT....., my motto is "have an open mind" and so I have decided that I will pay a visit to Akshardham.

Akshardham is a Hindu temple complex that was built to display centuries of traditional Indian and Hindu culture, spirituality, and architecture.  

In the center of the complex is a mandir that stands 141.3 ft in height, is 316 ft wide and 356 ft long.  The mandir is constructed entirely from Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble, and has no support from steel or concrete.  The pink sandsone symbolizes devotion and white marble that of absolute purity and eternal peace.

Gajendra Pith

The beautiful mandir was built without steel, consists of 234 ornately carved pillars, 9 ornate domes, and is covered top to bottom with carved details of flora, fauna, dancers, musicians, and deities. At its base is the Gajendra Pith which pays tribute to the elephant for its importance in Hindu culture and India's history. It contains 148 scale sized elephants in total and weighs a total of 3000 tons!

The interior of the mandir is suppose to be as equally exquisite as its exterior - adorned with ornately decorated ceilings and filled with gold statues.

Carved, domed ceiling.

The entire complex building was inspired and created by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual head of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, whose 3,000 volunteers helped 7,000 artisans construct Akshardham in the course of just 5 short years.  The complex was officially opened on November 6,  2005. 

I have to admit, the more I read about Akshardam, the more captured I am by its beauty.  I have to give credit to the Indians.  They know how to create beautiful looking buildings.

According to Veronica, Akshardam is located very near to Red Fort so I should be able to easily hop into a taxi and get there.  It also happens to be situated across the Yamuna River from where a new sports stadium has been built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games which are scheduled to start just as I'm about to leave India for home.  I'm just hoping that all of India that will be coming to town for the Games won't also be descending on the temple at the same time as I.  We'll see how this turns out!