Akshardham Temple Complex
It took me and my friends a whole day to see the massive and unrealistically beautiful Akshardham. And that’s true, because it’s quite a story to get there and enter. But believe me, it’s worth it!
We were generously rewarded when we saw this architectural masterpiece, and it immediately became clear to us why it’s listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.
In the 18th century, a boy named Nilkanth was born in the city of Ayodhya in northern India. From an early age he dreamed of being a Great Yogi. At the age of 11, on June 29, 1792, he left home at night in the rain, and entered the river Saryu, and surrendered himself to the raging stream. The current carried him ashore in another province. Then he began his seven-year journey barefoot all over India.
He traveled some 8,000 miles and amazed everyone he met with his striving and asceticism. He inspired a huge number of people to spiritual development, spread knowledge of yoga and various spiritual practices, but he didn’t stay anywhere to live. He simply walked and could not stop or linger anywhere for long because he felt his “special mission.
The history of the Akshardham temple says that Nilkanth is an avatar of God Narayana (Vishnu), so they called this wandering yogi Narayana. He was believed to have been called to earth to awaken the Hindu people, to bring back lost knowledge to Hinduism, and to reform that religion. And indeed, his teachings abruptly changed the minds of the people and the life of society as a whole. Subsequently, this temple complex was dedicated to the great teacher Narayana. Akshardham translates as “House for God,” “Abode of God. The relics of Vishnu are also kept here.
Mode of operation
Akshardham is open from 9:30 to 20:00, Monday is the day off.
Entrance to the grounds and inside the main temple is free. A guided tour of the entire temple complex costs 2.5 USD / 170 INR (Indian rupees).
How to get there
The exact address is National Highway 24. There are two ways to reach the shrine.
Take buses number 347, 362, 443 to the Akshardham Temple stop.
The bus stop is near the subway station. You will see the temple immediately. So you won’t get lost here.)
I recommend to take the Metrobus. You can read more about the Delhi Metro in my review article.
When you get down the subway, look at the maps (on the walls of each station) to see where the Blue Line is. That’s the one you want. Be careful: this line splits in two.
Take the right train with destination station Noida City Centre (all directions are marked on the platform and on the train it is written too). Go to Akshardham station.
We got there from Main Bazaar, a popular part of Delhi where you can stay reasonably cheap. It’s very colorful there! It was a brisk walk (about 500 meters) in the unbearable heat to the nearby Rama Krishna Ashram subway station. When we got down into the subway, we felt like we were in heaven: clean, comfortable, and cool. We bought tokens to the Akshardham station. It’s important to remember, that tokens should be kept till the end of the trip: they are put into the turnstile machine both on the way in and on the way out! Such a double control :).
When we got out of the subway, we had an unforgettable view of the temple complex from above. It is better to take a picture right away: if you get closer to Akshardham, it is so huge and so located that it is much harder to get the whole thing in the frame.
What awaits you at the entrance
We went to Akshardham early in the morning and I’ll tell you why. I strongly recommend: don’t take a lot of things, backpacks – only the bare minimum necessary to get there and back. It will probably happen late at night.
Getting to the shrine was easy, and then begins the most difficult and tedious part, because a lot of people come to the temple (less in the morning). Before entering, we had to stand in several lines. It was necessary to turn in all the things in the luggage room: backpacks, cameras, cell phones (if we had known, we would have left it all at the hotel and avoided the terrible line at the very heat). You could only bring your waist bags with your passports and money. The second line was a special inspection with a scanner like at the airport (women and men separately). As this line progressed, everyone was sprayed with disinfectant from above.
Another line was when we entered the thorough inspection area, where we had all of our pockets and waist bags checked and men were made to take off their socks. So unless you voluntarily turned in to the locker all the things you can not take, at this stage, it (lighters, chargers, phones, etc.) will be taken away, but with the ends. It is unlikely that anything can be returned afterwards.
We persevered through the whole ordeal to finally see this miracle! And when we emerged all scanned, scanned, and irrigated, Akshardham appeared before us in all its majesty. After walking through several arches and vaults, we reached the main staircase, before which we had to take off our shoes. To get inside, we had to run up and down the stairs like on coals, as they were unrealistically hot from the forty-degree heat.
The temple was right in front of us, breathing in our faces with all its might. Do not hurry to run straight into it, pause and first look at it from the outside, embrace the whole, because of its enormity simply takes your breath away.
The architecture of the temple.
Rich and architecturally complex, the Akshardham temple complex was built relatively recently, in 2005. I can’t believe it, because its extraordinary architecture reeks of deep antiquity. It was built by 7 thousand people for 5 years. The main material was sandstone, and the interior halls were carved from white marble.
The mandir (Hindu temple) stands on 234 pillars decorated with the finest hand carvings. It has nine huge domes and 20 spires. In all, there are about 20,000 statues of various spiritual followers of Hinduism. On the walls outside the temple are bas-reliefs and high reliefs with scenes from parables and holy scriptures. On the domes, vaults, and pillars are stories of saints, devotion to Narayana’s teachings, and hagiographies of Nilkanth.
Inside the temple, a 3-meter gold statue of Nilkantha-Narayana is placed beneath the central dome. On either side of it are the followers of his teachings.
When we went inside, we were just stunned by the beauty of the interiors, the subtlety and elegance of their execution, by the incredible amount of tiny details of skilled handiwork.
The entrance to the main temple is free, but we decided to take a guided tour (I wrote the price above in the “Mode of Operation” section). Tickets for it are sold to the left of the entrance to the main part of the temple, and there, of course, is a huge line. The tour is comprehensive and consists of four stages. There are two options for the tour: the full 4 stages or just a pass to the evening Fountain Show.
First, we were led through the first museum like a labyrinth and introduced to sacred knowledge. One of the installations shows how a god begins to incarnate and carves his physical body out of stone. In the second museum, we sailed on boats and listened to ancient stories about the development of Indian culture over 10,000 years.
In the third museum-cinema we were shown a film with many state-of-the-art sound and visual effects about the great teacher Narayan, in whose honor this temple was built.
On the left side of the temple complex is the beautiful Lotus Garden. In the spring it is fragrant with all kinds of flowers and greenery. But in the summer it is all withered to death, and the gardeners of the temple are trying their best to keep the plantings alive. We were here during just such a period, it was so hot that it was time to save not only the plants, but also the people.
On the right side of the temple complex you will see the most beautiful Fountain Garden. All the fountains are elegantly made in the form of lotuses and grouped in one huge stone bowl. There are stairs descending to the bowl, where hundreds of spectators of a spectacular light and music show are seated.
For us, this was the finale of our day in Akshardham. We admired the incredible dance of the three elements – fire, air and water – against a backdrop of a starry sky and a grandiose temple.
At the end we wandered around the temple for a while and looked at its walls lavishly decorated with frescoes from the ancient book of proverbs “Panchatantra”.
We returned wildly tired, but full of emotions. The impression was so strong that that night we all had the same dream about the abode of Vishnu, at whose lotus feet all souls find shelter, source and support of life.
Akshardham in Delhi – India’s record-breaking temple
Akshardham, Delhi is the largest Hindu temple that took 5 years to build and took half a billion American dollars. It impresses with its beauty and grandeur, strict safety rules and altruistic “approach to business”, because it is completely free to enter the complex.
The Akshardham Hindu temple complex, whose name translates as “the abode of God that cannot be moved,” is located on the banks of the Yamuna River. It is not only the largest but also the most significant monument erected to celebrate the culture and spirituality of India. In addition to the prayer house, which is the central part of the entire composition, there are magnificent parks, its own movie theater, an artificial river canal, as well as numerous cafes, food courts and souvenir shops on the territory of the complex. Well, the most impressive element of the shrine is a small lake filled with water from all the reservoirs of India.
There is a lotus garden on the left side of the complex and a fountain garden on the right. All this is surrounded by many different figures, from miniature caryatids to life-size monuments. The Swaminarayan Akshardham in Delhi is now one of the most visited attractions in India. Moreover, it has long surpassed not only the legendary Taj Mahal but also many other world-renowned structures in its grandeur. For this peculiarity the temple was included in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The history of Akshardhama could be traced back to the 1970s when Yogiji Maharaju, the head of the BARS spiritual center, decided to build a unique sanctuary in Delhi dedicated to the great yogi and preacher Swami Narayan. However, he was never able to realize his idea – Yogiji died of a sudden illness, and his project lay in dust in one of the drawers of the center for many years.
The next time it was remembered was in 1982, when a successor of Maharaja got hold of the file of drawings. But this attempt failed as well, because the construction of the temple required a simply exorbitant sum of money – not less than $500 million. It took another 18 years to raise this sum, gained through voluntary donations. And then finally it happened!
In 2000, the project’s management bought 12 hectares of land on the bank of the Yamuna River and began construction of one of India’s most beautiful landmarks. At that time about 10 thousand masters, stonemasons and laborers came to Delhi and toiled there for 5 years. The result of their labor was a majestic temple complex, which was officially opened in November 2005.
The architecture of the temple.
Looking at the photos of Akshardham in the tourist brochures, it is impossible not to notice the 10 huge gates, from which the acquaintance with the modern monument of Hindu architecture begins. After passing through these gates, visitors enter the Mandir, a majestic house of worship with a height of 43 meters, a length of 108 meters and a width of 96 meters.
The Akshardham Mandir, whose foundation rests on 147 elephant figures, is built of unique Rajasthan sandstone, pink granite and white marble, symbolizing peace, purity and love for God. The first thing that catches your eye when you look at this structure are the exquisite pilasters located all around the perimeter of the temple. All 234 columns are decorated with hand-carved patterns and scenes from Indian mythology.
Another feature of the house of worship is a huge number of statues erected in honor of the numerous Hindu deities (murtis) – there are as many as 20,000 of them. The walls of each of them are decorated with graceful figures of birds, animals and dancers. The mandir itself is divided into several parts that have spiritual and symbolic significance. Crowning all this splendor are 20 quadrangular spires and nine domes, decorated with exquisite carved patterns.
It is noteworthy that the construction of the temple complex was carried out without metal skeleton, and cement mortar is present here only in the foundation. But in this case one could not do without it, as Akshardham stands on the bank of a river. The rest of the constructions in Mandir are prefabricated – they have not only been put together as a huge jigsaw puzzle, but also turned them upside down by 90°, creating a solid and incredibly accurate drawing.
Akshardham Mandir can be divided into 3 mandapams (thematic spaces) connected by a chain of mazes. The first is a modern cinema hall with a huge multimedia screen, broadcasting an entertaining 40-minute film about the life of the great teacher Narayan. And to make the spectacle even more interesting, the picture on the screen is accompanied by a number of visual and sound special effects.
The next mandapam, called the Hall of Values, allows you to immerse yourself in the history of the Indian people and feel like a direct participant in the events of long ago. Here at every corner you can see “living installations” with realistic robotic mannequins as their protagonists. Among them, the most curious is the “Swaminarayan child”, represented by the smallest in animatronics. Thanks to their ability to move, speak and gesticulate in sync, the “electronic people” successfully demonstrate individual scenes from the life of the famous Indian guru.
In the third hall of Akshardham, visitors are welcomed by an artificial river on which there are regular boat rides. The ride is accompanied by soft music and the guide’s unhurried account of the development of ancient Indian culture. The boats, which are tied together by ropes, leave after 10-15 minutes. Each of them can be no more than 15 people.
No less worthy of attention and the interior decoration of the temple. Thus, the front door Akshardham carved incarnations of Sri Vishnu, the walls are decorated with illustrations of ancient parables and images of Hindu deities, and the walls are made of white marble, inlaid with gold and natural stones. The arched ceilings of the halls are supported by multiple columns reflecting in the mirror-like surface of the polished floor, and the domed vaults are striking with elaborate openwork weaving.
Another feature of the Mandir is the huge number of various sculptures, among which the 3-meter tall statue of Swami Narayana, installed under the central dome of the temple and surrounded by small statues of his disciples, occupies a special place. In accordance with Hindu tradition, five different metals were used to make them – copper, tin, iron, zinc and gold, silver or nickel (the latter metal was chosen depending on the sacred significance of the piece). A little further away you can see rosaries, shoes and footprints of the great sage, as well as more than a dozen artistic paintings, telling about his earthly existence. Also in the alcove of the temple are the remains of the guru.
While looking at the photos and descriptions of Akshardham in Delhi, you will surely come across information about the Sahaj Anand water show, which is held in the open air after dark. The main participants of this spectacle are musical fountains made in the form of a lotus and placed inside a huge stone amphora. The inner surface of the bowl serves as steps (there are 2,870 of them) and seating for several thousand spectators.
The design of the main pool, decorated with nine lotus fountains, is an exact replica of the ritual yantra, a special pattern used in sacred Hindu ceremonies. In the center of this well is a bronze statue of Murti, which reaches a height of 8.5 meters.
The show, which lasts about 20 minutes, combines several special effects – video projection, multicolor lasers, glowing water jets and underwater flames. Combined with the skillful performance of real actors, all this creates a fascinating and incredibly entertaining presentation.
Cost of admission:
- Adults (ages 12 and up) – $1.2;
- Children 4-11 years old – $0.7;
- Children under 4 years of age – free.
Rules of conduct
When visiting the Mandir, certain rules of conduct must be observed:
- Backpacks, bags, cell phones, as well as photo and video equipment must be left in free storage lockers. Do not worry about their safety. Firstly, each visitor is given a special badge and secondly, an employee of the depository will certainly take a photo of you together with your luggage.
- The security system in Akshardham provides not only the passage of the frame with a metal detector, but also a personal examination of each tourist. Pockets are searched very carefully, so that hidden prohibited items in them are unlikely to succeed.
- Mandir, like any sacred place, requires an appropriate dress code. Thus, both female and male clothing must fully cover the shoulders, chest, upper arms, abdomen and knees. Those whose appearance does not meet these requirements can take a free sarong (you pay $1.50 and get it back when you return the sarong at the exit).
- When entering Akshardham, not only do they remove their hats, but also their shoes.
- All offerings in the temple are served with the right hand.
- If you want to rest or pray, never sit with your feet to the altar – take a lotus pose or tuck your legs under you. And one more point – men sit on the left side of the hall and women on the right.
- All shouting and loud talking is forbidden in the house of prayer.
- Akshardham Temple, located at Nh 24 | Akshardham Setu, New Delhi 110092, India.
- It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 09:30 to 20:00.
- Entrance to the complex is free. But tours, water shows and photographers are available for a fee.
- For more information, please visit the official website – https://akshardham.com/.
When deciding to visit Akshardham, Delhi, take note of some useful tips:
- When going to see the temple, limit yourself to your purse or a small handbag. Trust me, no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to sneak a phone or a video camera into the shrine. If you come light, you can avoid the huge lines to the lockers. By the way, the largest number of people gather in front of it before the start of the water show.
- The best way to get to Mandir is by metro – look for the station with the same name.
- Despite the hot climate, the temples are quite cool. Your feet are especially cold – it’s worth grabbing socks.
- There are official photographers on site, so if you really want to bring at least 1-2 pictures from Akshardham, you can use their services.
- Tours of the temple are conducted in two languages, Hindi and English. There is one English-speaking group for every 4-5 Indian groups. You may have to wait about half an hour for its formation, but it is worth it – you can hear many curious stories from the life of Bhagawan Swami Narayan.
A visit to the Akshardham temple and the Indian bazaar:
Author: Olga Sheiko
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