Akshardham is a Hindu temple complex in Delhi, India. Also referred to as Delhi Akshardham or Swaminarayan Akshardham, the complex displays millennia of traditional Hindu and Indian culture, spirituality, and architecture. The building was inspired and developed by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual head of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, whose 3,000 volunteers helped 7,000 artisans construct Akshardham. The Temple, which attracts approximately 70 percent of all tourists who visit Delhi, was officially opened on 6 November 2005.
It sits near the banks of the Yamuna adjacent to the 2010 Commonwealth Games village in eastern New Delhi. The temple, at the center of the complex, was built according to the Vastu Shastra and Pancharatra Shastra. In addition to the large central temple crafted entirely of stone, the complex features exhibitions on incidents from the life of Swaminarayan and the history of India, an IMAX feature on the early life of Swaminarayan as the teenage yogi, Nilkanth, a musical fountain on the message of the Upanishads, and large landscaped gardens. The temple is named after a belief in Swaminarayan Hinduism.
The main monument, at the center of the complex, is 141-foot (43 m) high, 316-foot (96 m) wide, and 370-foot (110 m) long, and is covered top to bottom with carved details of flora, fauna, dancers, musicians, and deities. Designed in accordance with ancient Vedic text known as the Sthapatya Shastra, it features a blend of architectural styles from across India. It is constructed entirely from Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble, and has no support from steel or concrete. The monument also consists of 234 ornately carved pillars, nine domes, and 20,000 murtis and statues of Hinduism’s sadhus, devotees, and acharyas.
The monument also features the Gajendra Pith at its base, a plinth paying tribute to the elephant for its importance in Hindu culture and India's history. It contains 148 scale sized elephants in total and weighs a total of 3000 tons. Within the monument, under the central dome, lies a murti or statue of Swaminarayan which is 11-foot (3.4 m) high. The murti is surrounded by similar statues of the gurus of the sect. Each murti is made of paanch daatu or five metals in accordance to Hindu tradition. Also within the central monument lie the murtis of other Hindu deities, including Sita Ram, Radha Krishna, Shiv Parvati, and Lakshmi Narayan.
- Hall of Values: Also known as Sahajanand Pradarshan, the Hall of Values features lifelike robotics and dioramas which display incidents from Swaminarayan's life, portraying his message about the importance of peace, harmony, humility, service to others and devotion to God. The Sahajanand Pradarshan is set in 18th century India and displays of 15 dioramas through robotics, fiber optics, light and sound effects, dialogues, and music. The hall features the World's smallest animatronic robot in the form of Ghanshyam Maharaj, the child form of Swaminarayan.
- Theatre: Named Neelkanth Kalyan Yatra, the theatre houses Delhi's first and only large format screen, measuring 85-foot (26 m) by 65-foot (20 m). The theatre shows a film specially commissioned for the complex, Neelkanth Yatra, to recount a seven-year pilgrimage made by Swaminarayan made during his teenage years throughout India. Mystic India, an international version of the film, was released in 2005 at IMAX theatres and giant screen cinemas worldwide. A 27-foot (8.2 m) tall bronze murti of Neelkanth Varni is located outside the theatre.
- Musical Fountain: Known as the Yagnapurush Kund, it is India's largest step well. It features a very large series of steps down to a traditional yagna kund. During the day, these steps provide rest for the visitors to the complex and at night, a musical fountain show representing the circle of life is played to an audience which is seated on the same steps. The fountain is named after the founder of the Hindu organization, Shastriji Maharaj. The fountain measures 300 feet (91 m) by 300 feet (91 m) with 2,870 steps and 108 small shrines. In its center lies an eight-petaled lotus shaped yagna kund designed according to the Jayaakhya Samhita of the Panchratra shastra.
- Boat Ride: Named Sanskruti Vihar, this ride takes visitors on a journey through 10,000 years of Indian history in approximately 12 minutes. Visitors sit in specially designed peacock shaped boats that make their way around an artificial river, passing through a model of Takshashila, the world's first university, chemistry laboratories, ancient hospitals, and bazaars, finally ending with a message expressing hope for the future of India.
- Garden of India: Also known as the Bharat Upavan, this garden has lush manicured lawns, trees, and shrubs. The garden is lined with bronze sculptures of contributors to India's culture and history. These sculptures include children, women, national figures, freedom fighters, and warriors of India, including notable figures such as Mahatma Gandhi.
Guinness World Record:
- Yogi Hraday Kamal
- Neelkanth Abhishek
- Narayan Sarovar
- Premvati Ahargruh
- AARSH Centre
On 17 December 2007, Michael Whitty, an official world record adjudicator for Guinness World Records, traveled to Ahmedabad, India to present a new world record to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, for the Akshardham complex. The record was presented for Akshardham as the World’s Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple (certificate). The certificate states,
"BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, India, is the world's largest comprehensive Hindu temple. It measures 356 ft (109 m). long, 316 ft (96 m). wide and 141 ft (43 m). high, covering an area of 86,342 sq ft (8,021.4 sq mt). The grand, ancient-style, ornately hand-carved stone temple has been built without structural steel within five years by 11,000 artisans and volunteers. His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, revered spiritual leader of BAPS, consecrated the temple on 6 November 2005. Akshardham showcases the essence of India's ageless art, borderless culture and timeless values.
Upon presentation of the award, Michael Whitty stated, "It took us three months of research, pouring over the extensive architectural plans of the Akshardham and also those of other temples of comparable size, visiting and inspecting the site, before we were convinced that Akshardham deserved the title."