The largest hand-carved Hindu temple outside of India is set for its grand inauguration in the U.S. this month.
Majestic temple complex: After 12 years of meticulous planning and construction, the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) Akshardham temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey, is set to welcome visitors when it is officially inaugurated on Oct. 8.
Over 12,500 volunteers from diverse backgrounds, cultures and faiths reportedly came together to contribute to the construction of the monumental project.
The religious site, covering a sprawling 183-acre property, is only the third Akshardham (abode of the Divine), following its predecessors in Gujarat and New Delhi. The New Delhi temple is the biggest Hindu temple complex in India, spreading over 100 acres.
The New Jersey temple is set to be the second largest in the world overall after the UNESCO World Heritage site Angkor Wat
in Cambodia, which spans 500 acres.
About the BAPS community: BAPS, a Hindu denomination within the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, was established in 1905 by Yagnapurushdas (Shastriji Maharaj). The community follows the conviction that Swaminarayan remains present on earth through a lineage of gurus, starting with Gunatitanand Swami. The BAPS community, which has already established 100 temples across the U.S., is set to mark 50 years of history in North America in 2024.
An architectural marvel: The Akshardham complex houses a Maha Mandir, a traditional temple, a welcome center, a museum, and event spaces. It boasts an intricate design, crafted from white sandstone, limestone, marble and granite, all meticulously carved by temple artisans in India. Nine shikharas (spires) adorn the temple, each symbolizing different aspects of Hindu scriptures, including Vedic astrology. Notably, it is the first structure to showcase all 108 poses of Bharatanatyam, a classical Hindu dance form.
As visitors step into the Akshardham through the Nilkanth Plaza, they are greeted by a 49-foot statue of Nilkanth Varni, representing his 49 years on Earth. Inside, the temple complex immerses visitors in Indian culture with thousands of diyas (lights), Sanskrit chanting and a Brahm Kund pond, featuring waters from rivers that touch all 50 U.S. states.
Controversial construction: In 2021, the temple’s construction garnered significant attention due to a lawsuit alleging forced labor within the BAPS organization. The lawsuit was reportedly withdrawn but the case remains under investigation, according to a BAPS representative. Despite controversies and challenges, the temple is considered by the community as a symbol of unity, humility, compassion and harmony, embodying the core values of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.