Temple a Bridge for Tolerance

BY: STAFF CORRESPONDENT



Nov 7, NEW DELHI, INDIA (NEW KERALA TIMES) — One of the biggest Hindu temples of modern times has been opened by political leaders in Delhi. The pink sandstone Swaminarayan Akshardham temple, dedicated to religious tolerance, was opened by Abdul Kalam, the Muslim President, Manmohan Singh, the Sikh Prime Minister, and L.K. Advani, the Hindu nationalist opposition leader. The temple was built at a cost of $45 million (£26 million). It is the length of a football field and 12 storeys high.

Spread over about 100 acres of land on the banks of the Yamuna, the complex took more than two years in the making and cost around Rs two billion - funded out of donations and contributions from about 10 million of BAPS' followers worldwide.

The 141-foot high main monument, an architectural marvel in pink sandstone and white marble, has a 11- foot tall statue of lord Swaminarayan, the presiding deity, in the sanctum sanctorum along with statues of other Hindu deities.

The whole monument rises on the shoulders of 148 huge elephants, circled by a double-storied colonnade depicting tales from the epics.

Designed and sculpted entirely according to ancient Indian traditions, the structure consists of 234 ornate pillars, nine domes, over 20,000 statues of Hindu gods and goddesses and decorative arches and is surrounded by a thick folliage.

The complex follows the pattern of the popular Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, and comprises the main monument, ‘experiential exhibitions', exhibition halls, an IMAX theatre and a musical fountain , surrounded by a garden, apart from a Swaminarayan temple.

Temple authorities say they want the complex to be a place of education, experience and enlightenment rather than just a pilgrimage centre, adding that it would aim to provide an opportunity to understand and appreciate the great Indian culture.

Designed by architect Virendra Sompura and conceptualised by Pramukh Swami Maharaj of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam (BAPS), construction of the complex was completed in just five years with over 7,000 craftsmen working day and night.



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