Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – India chapter Gujarat has to say about the Akshardham Temple:
“In the eastern suburbs, the Gujarati Hindu Swaminarayan Group’s Akshardham Temple was built in 2005, and is breathtakingly lavish. Artisans used ancient techniques to carve the pale red sandstone into elaborate reliefs, including 20,000 deities, saints and mythical creatures. The centrepiece is a 3m-high gold statue of Bhagwan Shri Swaminarayan.
The complex includes a boat ride through 10,000 years of Indian history, animatronics telling stories from the life of Swaminarayan, and musical fountains.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We visited the Akshardham Temple for the first time about a year after it opened. It left a very strong impression on me because I couldn’t quite believe that such a magnificent structure could be built in our modern age – the number of handcrafted sculptures were astonishing and it seemed to me that the attention to detail that was given to the ancient temples was no longer in evidence in India’s modern architecture.
Apart from the stunning architecture, what I remembered vividly was the fact that visitors were not allowed to take anything into the temple with them. Fortunately, we had arrived by car in 2006 and were able to lock up our valuables and take a small bundle of rupees in with us to purchase snacks during our visit. It was more awkward this time because we planned to travel across Delhi on the metro and there would be no place to stash our phones or backpacks.
We decided that I would be the only one to take a phone along because we needed access to the Uber app for transportation and we wanted to be able to keep in touch with our family back at Ajay’s home. I took my day pack along as well because I always have to take some medicines along in case I developed a migraine. I was pleased to see that the site has become more accommodating to visitors now that almost everyone in India carries a mobile phone.
I joined the queue for the bag deposit area and the others waited for me to check my belongings. I was so impressed with how things were organized, and was doubly impressed when I was asked to place my phone in a tray on the counter in front of me, with the home screen visible. The attendant then asked me to look up at an overhead camera. The camera took a photo of me along with my camera in the tray, and my backpack beside it. I was given a metal tag with a number on it that I would be required to present when leaving the site.
When I returned at the end of our visit, the attendant typed in the number on my tag, my photo appeared on a screen and he confirmed that I was the rightful owner of both my backpack and the phone in the photo. People were pouring out of the temple grounds in the thousands, but all went smoothly and at no point did we feel things were being handled inefficiently.
Here is a link to the Akshardham Temple’s website where you can see exquisite photos and read about the 300,000,000 volunteer hours that when into its creation. It’s really a must see when visiting India, a lovely complement to seeing the UNESCO World Heritage sites throughout the country.