Akshardham Temple New Delhi
Akshardham Temple New Delhi is a huge temple complex in East Delhi; about 40km NE of Gurgaon. Built in 2005 on about 100 acres, it propagates the word and values of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, an 18th century Hindu saint. We decided to make this our destination for the day.
The family car dropped us off at the entrance of the temple complex around 11am in the morning. No bags, cell phones or cameras are allowed into the premises. We knew this in advance so we hadn’t carried anything along except for cell phones – that’s one thing we couldn’t leave home without. We deposited these at the entrance and proceeded in to the complex. Strangely no entrance fee was charged.
The magnitude of the place and the perfection with which it was laid out, astonished us. The entryway itself was extremely beautiful and it led out to a fantastic, landscaped area in the center of which was the Akshardham temple. This is the focal point of the complex and is absolutely stunning – words cannot describe it. We regretted not being able to capture it with our cameras.
We bought tickets (Rs.125 each) for an exhibition on the history and origin of the Swaminarayan sect. This consisted of 3 parts – first was an audio-visual presentation, second was an IMAX movie and 3rd was a 15-minute boat-ride. In total, this was to last about 1 hour 45 minutes. We figured that we could escape the afternoon heat with this and then explore the grounds later in the day. There was a long queue for the audio-visual and we sat around for over an hour waiting to get into the auditorium. Our expectations were quite high for these presentations but unfortunately, it wasn’t all that great. Of course a lot of effort had been put into creating these presentations but the audio-visual and the movie were repetitive, which wasn’t fun. The boat ride was interesting but that didn’t last long. By the time we were done with all of these, we were bored and a little disillusioned – the whole place felt a little commercial and not very temple-like. To make things worse, we could only see the main temple from the outside – the interiors were closed to the public as it was under maintenance.
We walked around the main temple, explored a bit and then ate at a food court (nothing much to write about) within the premises. We noticed that facilities were pretty well maintained – bathrooms were relatively clean and there were trash bins every few feet to ensure that the grounds are litter-free. With nothing left to do, we called for a Smart Cab and left around 5pm. Overall, we left a little disappointed. It’s beautiful, no doubt! But it felt strange that such a grand and ostentatious complex was built to celebrate and commemorate the life of a saint who renounced everything material to attain his sainthood …