Spending on religion on behalf of the governments seems like a rather impossible scenario today, but the Hindus don’t joke when it comes to ritual. The architectural marvel of the Swaminarayan Akshardam goes far beyond any expectation, rising just a bit outside the center of the chaotic Indian capital. Set in a vast 100-acre expanse and inaugurated very recently-only in 2005, it is an exquisite showcase of Indan art, culture and wisdom- tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830), a master of intellect and spirituality. “Akshardham” means “the divine abode of the God”, and is dedicated to virtue, devotion, purity, learning and peace. Traditional architecture is echoed not only onto the facade and exteriors but also the indoor marble decorations. 869 peacocks-symbols of beauty and purity, to decorate the interiors and 148 sculpted stone elephants-symbols of might and wisdom are the proud motifs of the edifice. Seated in the center of the Mandir lies the serene 11 ft-high, gold plated murti Bhagwan Swaminarayan, surrounded by 24 Kesha forms of the Divine, sculptures of sadhus and devotees, as well as 500 paramhansas on the pillar tops supporting the circular main chamber. The Akshardham might not be as iconic as the Taj Mahal in Agra is, but can definitely stand as the pride of New Delhi, equal among some of the most significant modern architectural complexes globally…and if the country appears stagnated and struck by poverty and pollution, may it be culture and spirituality that will rise as a glimmer of hope for the future!
- Murti: Any form or embodiment, usually refers to idols or just sculptures of the Indian culture.
- Sadhu: Religious or ascetic person.
- Paramhansa: Title of honor addressed to Hindu religious teachers.
- Photos are not original. Photography is strictly forbidden in the Akshardham site.