This phenomenal monument is Swaminarayan Akshardaham. This is a 100 acre site which features this huge central monument which is 141 feet high, 356 by 316 feet square with a perimeter of 1050 feet, constructed entirely of carved stone with absolutely no steel or mortar. Inside is a statue of Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830) The base of the perimeter of the main monument or mandir contains 148 life sized elephants each carving unique, falling into one of three categories: elephants interacting in nature, elephants interacting with man, and elephants interacting with deities. Each life size elephant is carved from a single block of pink sandstone. The monument and the other buildings of the complex are made of this same pink sandstone and white marble. The mandir is surrounded by a 2 story covered walkway which surrounds a pool of water which contains the holy waters from some 151 sacred rivers and lakes in India, which were visited by Bhagwan Swaminarayan during his ministry. There is an indoor boatride which passes diaramas demonstrating the 10,000 year history of India. A Hall of Values has robotic scenes which demonstrate the culture of India. A huge meditative garden in the shape of a lotus contains 10s of thousands of plant species that exist through out India. There is a film telling the true story of a young 11 year old boy who left his family and walked the length and breadth of India learning and helping other people. This film is reportedly extremely moving. There is also a muscial fountain which centers in a portion of the garden.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan is a sadhu who lived from 1781 to 1830. He founded a religious sect in India that is dedicated to the ancient Vedic scriptures and which became organized as a sociospiritual NGO in 1907. It now consists of 12,000 centres worldwide, 775 sadhus, 55,000 youth volunteers, and 1 million devotees. One of the sadhus who purportedly follows in Swaminarayan's footsteps, Yogii Maharaj declared in 1968 that this monument would be built on the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi. The current leader of this movement Pramakh Swami Maharaj, the fifth guru who has led this organization since Bhagwan Swaminarayan, inaugurated this complex in 2005.
This complex is huge and very impressive. As we walked around this complex during our short visit, I could not think of a word to express what this place was like. I just kept saying "Amazing! Amazing! Amazing!" to our guide as we walked. But the most "Amazing" thing about Akshardham is that it was built entirely by volunteers and it took only 5 years to contruct all parts of the buildings and the gardens. The corner stone was laid in the year 2000 and the finished monument was dedicated in the year 2005. Our visit was short and we did not see the film, or take the boatride. We only walked around a small portion of the gardens and went inside the Mandir, and walked around the walkway that surround the sacred water pools just beyond the Mandir. You can view more of this magnificent place by accessing the following website. At the website there are 3 videos that you can choose to view -- a 3 minute one, a 7 minute one and a 17 minute one. This will give you a better idea of what India has accomplished with this site in New Delhi.
At the entrance to this complex you must surrender all camaras, mobile phones and other electronic devices, so photos are not allowed inside. Therefore we do not have many photos of the place, only those taken from a distance, outside the main gates. But do access the website to get an idea of the extent and magnificence of this complex.
The following URL takes you directly to a brochure which lists and describes the various features of this complex.