Thursday, September 22, 2011

Swaminarayan Akshardham New Delhi

Swaminarayan Akshardham means the eternal abode of Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830 CE) – a torchbearer of Indian culture and spirituality.
In just five years, a dusty, barren patch of land near the banks of the river Yamuna in New Delhi was transformed into Swaminarayan Akshardham, a grand 100-acre cultural complex. It showcases India’s glorious traditions of art architecture, wisdom and spirituality.
The grand cultural complex was inspired by His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj (Swamishri) to fulfil the wish of his guru, Yogiji Maharaj. It was completed in only five years – the foundation-stone laying ceremony took place on 8 November 2000 and the opening ceremony on 6 November 2005. Swaminarayan Akshardham is a glowing testimony to what volunteerism, talent and spiritual faith can accomplish. It took 300 million man-hours to carve 300,000 stones and create the entire complex!
Satish Gujral, an internationally renowned architect of India, opined, “It would have taken 50 years to build such a thing”. Swaminarayan Akshardham is an increadible feat of management – from acquiring the land in New Delhi to the logistics of construction: the stones were quarried in Bansipahadpur (400 km away), and carved in Pindvada (600 km), Sikandra (250 km), and 24 other rural workshops in Rajasthan. After being transported to Delhi, each stone was assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Millions of hours of dedication and hard work by 11,000 sadhus, volunteers and artisans had gone into the concept and making of the monument, exhibitions and the large format film.
The focal point of the entire complex is the grand Akshardham Monument, built of pink sandstone and white marble. It is 141 ft high, 316 ft wide and 356 ft long, and has 234 intricately carved pillars, 9 magnificent domes, 20 pinnacles and over 20,000 superbly sculpted figures. At the centre of the monument is the serene 11-ft high golden murti of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The monument is surrounded by a sacred water body called the Narayan Sarovar. The 2.2 km long, double-storeyed parikrama garlands the monmment. The two exhibitons halls, large format film theatre, spectacular musical fountain, cultural gardens, ornate gates, and foodcourt provide a riveting and enlightening experience of India’s increadible heritage.
The message of India’s heritage is wonderfully presented in its exhibitions halls. The hall of values or Sahajanand Dardhan brilliantly shows the values of ahimsa, courage, endeavour, honesty, harmony and faith from the life Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The messages are presented through films, light and sound shows with robotic figures, and experiential effects. The second hall, the Boat Ride Exhibition or Sanskruti Vihar, is a spectacular 14-minute boat ride through 10,000 years of Indian culture which flourished on the banks of the river Sarasvati. Based on authentic research, 800 statues bring India’s glorious heritage to life. See the world’s oldest vedic village and bazaar. Sail through Takshashila, the world’s first university. And learn about discoveries and inventions of India’s ancient rishi-scientists, and much more. The third hall, Neelkanth Darshan, features a large format film on an 85 ft + 65 ft giant screen. The 40-minute film portrays an exciting and inspiring true story of an 11-year-old child-yogi’s journey across India. The period film was shot in 108 locations of India, taking the viewers on an exciting journey through the majestic Himalayas, sacred places, festivals, traditions and values of India.
The cultural garden has 22-acres lush lawns and trees and flowering plants nurtured in the on-site nursery. More than 900,000 saplings and shrubs of 250 varieties were planted to create and environmental delight.
Swaminarayan Akshardham was inaugurated on 6 November 2005. In the inaugural assembly HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj said, “Akshardham is a place of faith and peace that will inspire, enrich and provide strength to man-kind in its endeavour towards eternal happiness.”
Experience the spirit of India’s great culture at Swaminarayan Akshardham. It celebrates the past, addresses the present and blesses the future.
Ten Gates
India’s priceless heritage is characterized by unity in diversity, freedom of thought, and countless discoveries. India is respected by many as the mother and cradle of all languages and civilizations. Its rich tradition of metaphysical knowledge, rituals and practices have proclaimed it as one of the greatest nations on earth.
Along the welcome pathway are the Ten Gates, representing the ten directions, symbolizing freedom of thought Sanatan Dharma as revealed in the Rig Veda, “Let nobel thoughts come to us from all sides.”
The water screen in each of the gates calms the mind of all mundane thoughts and agitations, and provides a soothing and tranquil experience. The welcome pathway from the Ten Gates gradually leads the visitors into a cultural oasis – both ancient and modern.
Bhakti Dwar
A sight of traditional architecture, culture and nature inspires inner tranquility and aesthetic joy. The smaller traditional shrines of bhakti are harbingers to the large ornate Bhakti Dwar (Gate of Devotion).
Sanatan Dharma prescribes the path of bhakti as the simplest and most exuberant means to attain spiritual liberation. The Bhakti Dwar celebrates the Indian tradition of devotion with 208 sculpted dual forms of God and His ideal Devotee.
Mayur Dwar
The two Mayur Dwars (Peacock Gates) pay tribute to the joy and beauty peacocks contributes to nature. A total of 869 stone peacocks in different shapes and sizes adorn each of the beautiful gates.
Ceilings and Domes
A saga of more than 300,000 stones, each shaped and carved in brilliant and intricate array of sculptures and designs. In the monument, domes spanning 32 ft, pillars rising to 100 ft and the mandovar wall totaling 600 ft in length were all hand carved by craftsmen endowed with a legacy thousands of years old.
Swaminarayan Akshardham exemplifies Indis’a ancient art and sculpture, that is unrivalled in the world.
Gajendra Peeth
A fascinating 1,070 ft long pageant of elephants in stone. It portrays elephants with nature, man and God, reflecting the message of peaceful coexistence, love faith, effort, courage and service. The Gajendra Peeth exhorts mankind towards nobler living and love of nature.
The ornate external wall of the Swaminarayan Akshardham monument is known as the mandovar. It is the largest, most intricately carved mandovar built in India in the past 800 years, and is 610 ft long and 25 f high. It features 200 sculptured stone figures of India’s great rishits, sadhus, devotees, acharyas and avatars.
The mandovar includes different levels: gajstar, sinhstar, vyalstar, kumbhstar, kalashstar, gavakshstar, jangha and chhajja with a total of 4,287 carved stones. The kumbhstar has 48 ornately sculpted murtis of shri Ganeshji in different mudras.
Deities of Sanatan Dharma
In spite of India’s mosaic of cultures, languages, boundaries and human features, its spirituality pervades from north to south and east to west. Together with Bhagwan Swaminarayan, the other deities of Sanatan Dharma, namely, shri Ram-Sita, shri Radha-Krishan, shri Lakshmi-Narayan and Shri Shiv-Parvati, are also enshrined at Swaminarayan Akshardham. Their divine presence inspires faith, devotion and values.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan
The life and work of Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830 CE) are superbly illustrated through 12 ft high colourful paintings inside the monument. They depict his childhood encounters with friends, austerities as a child-yogi, social and spiritual services in Gujrat, and his preaching of the Vedic wisdom distilled into the Vachanamrut.
Narayan Sarover
Narayan Sarovar surrounds the Akshardham Monument. It is a holy water body with ghats and lutus flowers. The sacred waters of 151 rivers and lakes of India flow from 108 gaumukhs into the Narayan Sarovar, creating and ambience of a place of pilgrimage.
Abhishek Murti
Neelkanth Varni, the child-yogi later known as Bhagwan Swaminarayan, traveled 12,000 km in seven years to many pilgrim places of India.
Visitors perform abhishek of the murti of Neelkanth Varni with the holy waters of river Ganga in the Abhishek Mandapam, and pray for spiritual progress, peace and fulfillment of wishes.
Yagnapurush Kund and Musical Fountain
The Yagnapurush Kund is a fascinating combination of a traditional Vedic yagna kund and a spectacular musical water fountain. The lotus-shaped kund measures 300 ft + 300 ft and comes alive at night with a fabulous musical fountain show themed upon the cycle of life and death. It elegantly portrays the roles of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv, as the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world, through a brilliant fusion of light, sound and water.
Exhibition Hall 1
The indoor exhibitions at Swaminarayan Akshardham are based on the concept of self-sculpting. The Hall of Values, also known as Sahajanand Darshan, showcases the values of ahimsa, courage, endeavour, service, honesty, and faith from the life of Bhagwan Swaminarayan through films, light and sound shows and audio-animatronics.
Neelkanth Yatra
Neelkanth Yatra is a superb, award-winning large format period film on the amazing 12,000 km journey throughout India of Neelkanth Varni, an 11-year-old child-yogi. For seven years Neelkanth, later known as Bhagwan Swaminarayan, arduously traveled from the Himalayas in the north to the bristing shores of kanyakumari in the south.
The film was shot in 108 locations in India and features a cast of 45,000 people. The 40-minute film depicts Neelkanth’s renunciation, encounter with a man-eating lion, pilgrimage to Haridwar, breathtaking treks in the Himalayas, Man Sarovar and Mt Kailash, perilus travels through the jungles of Assam, encounter with the evil Pibek, grand felicitation in the Rath Yatra festival in Jagannathpuri, visit to Rameshwaram mandir, and finally his entry into Gujarat. The film presents the glory of India and inspires values of determination, effort, courage, truth and spirituality.
Exhibition Hall 2
The spectacular 14-minute educational boat ride exhibition (Sanskruti Vihar) shows more than 10,000 years of India’s ancient culture and contributions to the world. Experience the sights and sounds of a Vedic village and bazaar. Sail through Takshashila – the world’s first university. And also learn about the seminal discoveries and inventions India’s ancient rishi-scientists in the fields of education, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, aeronautics, music, dance, art, architecture and much more.
Yoginriday Kamal
Yogihriday Kamal (in foreground) is an 8-petalled lotus-shapped arena the pays tribute to the auspicious sentiments of Yogiji Maharaj (the visionary behind Swaminarayan Akshardham). His prayers for the good of all find resonance through the words and wisdom shared by great people of our world.
Each petal displays quotes of distinguished sages, scientists, historians, and statesmen, inspiring faith in God and faith in man.
Cultural Garden
an environmental and cultural delight spread over 22 acress of colourful gardens and verdant lawns. Visitors draw inspiration and pride from India;s legacy of child heroes, brave warriors, freedom fighters, statesmen and women. Sisty-five larger-than-life bronze statues of India’s leading icons inspire all with a spirit of patriotism, values and spiritual faith. The lush, serene gardens offer a picture-perfect view of Swaminarayan Akshardham.
Savoury Moments
Premvati Food Court serves pure vegetarian delicious and snacks. The restaurant has a cultural décor, serving north and south Indian favourites, and savoury Gujarati items like Swaminarayan Khichdi, Khaman, etc.
Akshar Haat, the souvenir shop, offers an attractive range of gift items, and publications on Swaminarayan Akshardham.