America’s Incomparable Akshardham: Triveni Confluence of Art, Culture & Spirituality at BAPS Temple, Robbinsville

I find myself at the world’s second-largest temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey, USA, accompanied by Brahmavihari Swami. His profound insights reveal the essence of Akshardham’s construction. He meticulously guides me through the temple grounds, unraveling the purpose behind every sculpture. Brahmavihari Swami aptly describes this place as a Triveni Sangam on American soil – a confluence of Indian culture, art, and spirituality. Akshardham isn’t merely a stone temple; it’s a rich heritage of Indian traditions thriving on foreign ground.

President Swami Maharaj’s vision has become a reality with the establishment of Mahamandir Akshardham on American soil, near New Jersey. Today, as we prepare for the Pran Pratishtha festival, it’s evident that Pramukh Swami’s resolution is being fulfilled. In 2012, Pramukh Swami finalized the architectural design, performed the Bhumipujan in Robbinsville in 2014, and the construction spanned from 2015 to 2023, thanks to the dedication of 12,500 volunteers who completed this monumental task in just a decade.

Despite the long, cold winters and snow in America, these volunteers persevered. Brahmavihari Swami and I continued towards the temple premises, where he explained that while Cambodia’s Angkor Wat is the world’s largest temple, this is the second largest and the largest built in the modern era. It stands as a testament to the triple confluence of art, spirituality, and culture. Let’s delve into the realm of art.

Dance Art: Akshardham has been meticulously constructed following the principles of Vastu Shastra, a tradition dating back a thousand years. Upon closer examination, one can discern a Bharata Natyam posture within the central belt of the structure. What’s truly astonishing is that Bharata, the ancient sage, had only studied one verse from Rishi’s Natya Shastra. In contrast, the ancestors of B.M. dedicated 800 years to the study of Bharatanatyam Shastra.

To bring this ancient art to life, Sundaram was summoned, and each verse was meticulously translated. Mudras, or symbolic hand gestures, were performed live by a Bharat Natyam dancer. These intricate steps and expressions came together to form the breathtaking dance artistry seen in the temple’s sculptures.

Music Arts: India boasts a rich classical music tradition with singing and playing at its core. Musical instruments in India can be categorized into three types: wind instruments, solid instruments, and stringed instruments. Puranic depictions portray Saraswati holding the Vipanchi Veena, while Sri Krishna is often depicted playing the flute. While we commonly associate two or three such instruments, the research team at BAPS made a remarkable discovery – there are as many as 700 distinct musical instruments in use in India today.

From this vast array, they meticulously isolated 151 different musical instruments, including various types of flutes and Sharnai. These instruments, spanning diverse sounds and traditions, were skillfully immortalized in stone, with a total of 150 unique instruments adorning the temple’s sculptures.

The temple itself stands as a profound symbol of India’s spiritual tradition. However, there exists a distinction between constructing a temple of stone and nurturing the essence of faith within individuals. This distinction becomes strikingly evident within Akshardham.

The central pathway between the Akshardham structures is aptly named the “Vedic Path.” Remarkably, it houses representations of all four forms of Vedas, a pioneering inclusion within a temple. The very concept of the Vedic path leading to Akshardham embodies a deeper spiritual meaning, and every corner of this sacred space holds its unique significance. Notably, there is the Paramahansa Mandapam, a testament to the intricate spiritual tapestry woven throughout Akshardham’s design.

Akshardham represents the reawakening of eternal awareness, encompassing the essence of the Sanatan civilization. This civilization is a harmonious fusion of the Sanatan Hindu tradition, the Hindu Vedic tradition, and the broader tapestry of Sanatan Indian culture. The journey to bring these sacred stones to this site was no small feat.

A staggering 2 lakh cubic feet of stones were meticulously employed in the temple’s construction. While stones from various corners of the world were utilized, including those from Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, China, and India, they were all sent to Rajasthan for expert carving before making their way to New Jersey. Despite the geographical diversity of these stones, one can unmistakably sense the vibrations of unwavering faith etched into every facet of Akshardham.

The confluence theme extends to Brahmakund as well. As one enters the Swaminarayan temple through the main gate, a striking statue of Nilakanthavarni captures the attention. Adjacent to this statue stands Brahmakund, embellished with a graceful fountain. What sets this Brahmakund apart is its representation of the confluence of numerous rivers, including Mahi, Ozat, Bhagirathi, Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Gandaki, Godavari, and Hooghly. Just like the rest of Akshardham, even here, the essence is the union and confluence of spiritual significance.

Jnanpith, the base layer of Akshardham Mahamandir, holds a special significance with its impressive height of 20 feet. It bears seven profound messages and showcases images of Vedic sages, Upanishads, Lord Veda Vyasa, Sri Krishna, Lord Buddha, Lord Mahavira, and Swaminarayan. Additionally, it features sculptures of global icons like Albert Einstein, Socrates, Martin Luther King, and Rumi. This monumental base, aptly named Jnanpith, serves as the foundation upon which Akshardham stands.

Akshardham, an incomparable masterpiece, is a testament to art, architecture, and spirituality. On October 8, 2023, it will host a grand opening ceremony in Robbinsville, NJ. Constructed with the dedication of over twelve and a half thousand volunteers from across the globe over a span of twelve years, this modern-era Hindu temple stands tall as a beacon of spirituality and culture, welcoming pilgrims of all faiths and backgrounds.

Spread across 185 acres, the Akshardham complex is a magnificent showcase of ancient Indian craftsmanship. Within its hallowed grounds lie over ten thousand sacred idols, intricate carvings of 151 Indian musical instruments, representations of 108 traditional Indian dance forms, and the depiction of more than 300 sacred Indian rivers, alongside the waters representing each of the 50 US states. This awe-inspiring creation stands as a testament to the unwavering dedication and expertise of the countless individuals who volunteered their time and skills in its construction.

Beyond being a place of worship, the temple is envisioned as a vibrant center for cultural, educational, and community activities. It will serve as a catalyst for fostering unity, peace, and spirituality among people from all walks of life.

Niyati Rao

Niyati Rao is a seasoned writer and avid consumer who specializes in crafting informative and engaging articles and product reviews. With a passion for research and a knack for finding the best deals, Niyati enjoys helping readers make informed decisions about their purchases.