Most people are surprised when I claim this. After all, the open gardens of Akshardham do not appear so inviting when the sun is shining furiously. However, it surely turned out this way for us.
On Sunday, 22nd April 2007, we (Me, My Husband, Parent-in-laws) had our lunch and then thought of visiting the Akshardham Temple. We were reluctant at first as it was really hot outside but then just decided to go. By the time we were out of our house, it was already 2:30 PM.
Before entering Akshardham complex, our vehicle was searched thoroughly by the security people. The parking space in the temple is quite big and was fairly empty that day. We parked our car and headed towards the gate of the temple. Mobile phones and Camera had to be left behind as both these things are not allowed inside the complex.
Entry to the complex and the temple is free but you have to buy tickets for the three exhibitions that are hosted in air-conditioned halls and also for the musical fountains. Tickets for exhibitions cost Rs. 125 for adults and the tickets for the musical fountains cost Rs 20. There are some discounts for children and Senior Citizens.
For more details on timings, ticket costs, and discounts, you can refer: http://www.akshardham.com/visitorinfo/index.htm
For the exhibitions, all visitors were divided into batches of about 50 each.
This is the first exhibition and is spread across 6-7 halls with the audience moving from hall to hall to view various aspects of the Swami’s life. It includes a short movie, some robot shows (with some very good robots), and a virtual rain forest with real water where Bhagwan Swaminarayan performed his 7 yr long prayer. The rain forest has real water pouring down into artificial ravines, drenching the lifelike statues of Swamiji in various mudras of Sadhana. It looked and felt so real that I started sneezing as soon as we entered this area. And I am not joking. :-)
One useful tip for this exhibition is to get a seat near the exit in every hall. This will help you get a seat in the next hall. If there is a lot of crowd and the batches are big, some people have to remain standing, which can be a pain.
‘Nilkanth Kalyan Yatra’
Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s real name was Nilkanth. The second exhibition is a 40-minutes long movie about Swamiji’s journey across
India. He apparently raveled 12000 kms on foot starting from Ayodhya->Haridwar->Hrishikesh->Badrinath->Mansarover->Orrisa->Kanyakumari->Maharashtra->Gujarat where he finally joined Ramanand Swami’s Ashram. He started this journey when he was all of 11 years old. The movie is projected on Delhi’s first and only large format screen. It is a well made movie with breathtaking shots of various shrines. I especially like the cast. The actors playing Bhagwan Swaminarayan as a child and a teenager have both acted very well.
This exhibition is my favorite. It included a boat ride across 4 halls that covered various parts of Indian History. They displayed statues and robots of various scientists, Mathematicians, Doctors, Surgeons, Poets, and Artists of Ancient India that make the country’s heritage so rich. The boat was made in the shape of a peacock and sailed through the halls in a narrow water canal. A speaker installed in front of the boat delivered a commentary on the scenes that we were passing. It felt like another world.
By the time we were over with the third exhibition, it was 5 PM and the hottest part of the day was over. We had our tea on one of the tea stalls and went to visit the temple. It is a huge structure that sports high, domed ceilings with intricate carvings. The temple itself rests upon a platform. On all sides of this platform, there are hundreds of carved elephants in various postures. It was the most beautiful modern structure that I have seen till date.
‘The Yogi Hraday Kamal’
Akshardham temple is surrounded by well-manicure lawns. One of them, known as the Lotus garden, looks like a lotus from above. It has stones with quotations by various wise-men. The one I liked the best went something like “Every new baby born shows that God has not lost hope in Mankind”.
‘The Yagnapurush Kund’ and the Sound and Light Show
The Yagnapurush Kund is India’s largest step well that leads down to the Yagna kund. At night, a mesmerizing sound and light show in the Kund provides a perfect way to conclude the evening. People sit on the steps of the kund and musical fountains dance to the tunes of Bansuri (Flute), Veena (An Indian String instrument) and Tabla. The theme of the show is Birth, Life, and Destruction.
The show was spectacular but what was most surprising was that more than 10,000 people were sitting all around the Yagnakund but no one made a sound. Simply beautiful!
Shopping and Dinner
After the show, we bought some books at the center and had our dinner at ‘Premvati Ahargruh’ within the Temple’s complex. It was so crowded that one had to wait in queue for about half an hour to be able to order. The food was just okay. Not really worth the wait.
We left Akshardham complex with a happy heart. I think I am going to remember the visit throughout my life and may be I will never go there again. It may spoil my memories of the first visit. I would urge people visiting Delhi not to miss Akshardham as it may be one of the most fulfilling days of their lives.
Do go… :-)