Largest Hindu temple opens in New Jersey

The BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham temple, the largest Hindu temple in the United States, opens its doors in Robbinsville, New Jersey, marking a significant cultural milestone. Built over 183 acres, this temple, inspired by the BAPS Hindu organization, stands as a majestic symbol of faith and a bridge between Eastern tradition and Western modernity.

BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham: A New Cultural Landmark in New Jersey

Set for its grand inauguration on October 8, with public access starting October 18, this temple is not just an architectural wonder but a dream realized for the Indian and Hindu American community. As noted by Yogi Trivedi, a temple volunteer and religious scholar from Columbia University, the temple feels like a slice of India nestled in central New Jersey.

A Blend of Volunteerism and Controversy

The construction of Akshardham, a decade in the making since 2011, is a story of global volunteerism, with over 12,500 volunteers from around the world contributing. However, it’s also been marred by controversy. A lawsuit filed against the global BAPS organization alleged severe labor conditions and caste discrimination, claims that have been partly contested and partly dismissed.

The Temple’s Unique Design and Cultural Integration

Akshardham’s design is a testament to cultural integration. It features carvings of global figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, symbolizing a fusion of Indian heritage with American values. The temple’s exterior, built with Bulgarian limestone to endure harsh winters, and an interior with stones from Greece, Italy, and India, including a traditional Indian stepwell, represent a global collaboration.

The temple has faced challenges, particularly regarding the labor practices during its construction. Allegations of labor exploitation and caste-based discrimination brought against BAPS have sparked discussions on the intersection of religious service and labor rights. The organization, however, assures that the temple is a space embracing all castes and creeds.

The Temple as a Symbol of the American Dream

For many in the Hindu and Indian American community, the temple is a symbol of the American Dream, a place where the sacred geography of India and beyond is brought to life. It’s seen as a future pilgrimage site for Hindus worldwide, offering a unique blend of spiritual and cultural experiences.

From Ancient India to Modern New Jersey

Akshardham in Robbinsville is more than a temple; it’s a cultural bridge. The temple’s structure and community approach reflect a melding of ancient Indian traditions with the sensibilities of modern America. This temple is not just a place of worship but a symbol of cultural harmony and mutual respect.

A New Community Emerges

With the opening of Akshardham, a new, hybrid community is expected to emerge, where people of diverse backgrounds can experience and appreciate the richness of Hindu culture and Indian traditions. The temple is poised to become a landmark not just for those of Hindu faith but for all who appreciate cultural diversity and architectural grandeur.

The BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in New Jersey is a significant addition to America’s cultural and religious landscape. While its journey has seen both celebration and controversy, the temple stands today as a symbol of faith, resilience, and the fusion of diverse cultures, promising to be a beacon of spiritual and community life in the USA.

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