Delhi is the Capital of India. If you are visiting India for the first time, you will probably land in Delhi or Mumbai – Delhi for those who want to see North India’s fancy palaces, forts, citadels and temples or go to the Himalayas; Mumbai for those who want to see the spiritual Ashrams, Dravidian temples, and natural attractions of the South.
If you are here on an India tour and just a few hours to stay in Delhi, you must visit Akshardham Temple. There are many reasons why I recommend you to visit Akshardham as the single best place to visit in Delhi:
World’s Largest Hindu Temple
Akshardham literally means the ‘Abode of God’. It is in the Guinness World Records book for being the biggest Hindu Temple in the world. It is built on the basis of Vastu Shastra (a traditional Hindu science of architecture) and Pancharatra Shastra (which believes in five possible manifestations of God), and believe me when I say that it simply gorgeous!
Built in Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble, the Akshardham Mandir (the main structure in the temple complex) is 141-ft high, 316-ft wide, and 356-ft long. It does not use any ferrous metal, which means that it does not use any steel or concrete.
Visiting Akshardham is like viewing a number of architectural styles across India. It has 234 very ornate pillars, nine domes and about 20,000 sculptures depicting different deities, saints and devotees. The Gajendra Pith (Elephant Back) plinth acts at its base – which has 148 life-sized elephants to dazzle those who care to pay attention to them.
Besides Swaminarayan (to whom the temple is dedicated), you will see idols of Gurus of the faith, and popular gods like Sita-Rama, Radha-Krishna, Shiv-Parvati, and Lakshmi-Narayan here too. All these idols are built in five metals or panchdhatu – as per Hindu traditions.
Tickets at Akshardham in Delhi
Visiting Akshardham is free but you do have to buy tickets to see its exhibition. And no matter how beautiful you think the Akshardham is, you miss it all if you do not see its exhibition. If you are not a local and are in Delhi for just a few days, you must not miss these exhibitions at any rate.
The ongoing rates for exhibitions at Akshardham is:
- Rs 170 for all the three exhibitions,
- Rs 80 for the Water Show, and
- Rs 50 for Donation (only if you choose to see the exhibitions).
In all, you have to pay Rs 300 for all that is to see there.
Unlike most other tourist places in India, at Akshardham the ticket rates are same for Indians and foreigners. So, if you are a budget traveler, you must still visit it.
Five Major Attractions of Akshardham
As soon as you enter Akshardham, you are welcomed by ornately carved gates. There are ten gates in all the ten directions – and each of them has a theme. There is Bhakti Dwar or the Gate of Devotion, and Mayur Dwar or the Peacock Gate. They signify opening our hearts and minds to good and auspicious vibes from all the directions. You will also see Charnavind or Holy Footprints where devotees make wishes too.
Besides the main temple, the five major attractions of the Akshardham Temple include the three exhibition halls, the Water Show, and its thematic gardens.
Sahajanand Darshan: Hall of moving puppets narrating the life story of Bhagwan Swaminarayan
Even if you don’t believe in Swaminarayan, the multimedia technologies used here make for a very interesting narrative of his life story. You see immersive projections, audio-animatronic figures, and 3D dioramas here.
You will be able to identify with universal messages of non-violence, perseverance, and morality that the teenage yogi Swaminarayan preached about.
Neelkanth Darshan: Excellent Movie on Lord Swaminarayan
The movie that plays in this giant screen theater is about Neelkanth Yatra – the physical and spiritual journey of a young boy who eventually became Lord Swaminarayan. The screen is 85-ft wide and 65-ft tall and shows panoramic scenes from all over the Indian subcontinent – from the icy peaks of Himalayas to the tropic beaches of South India.
If you are here on an Indian tour, you will love this movie just for the bird eye’s view it offers of India’s natural and cultural diversity.
This is the first large-format film on India, and has been shot at 108 different locations, including the Rath Yatra of Jagannathpuri, the Ganga Aarti at the Ghats of Varanasi, and the Rameshwaram Temple. It also showcases the 18th-century lifestyle in India quite accurately including the dress they wore and their hairstyles.
Sanskruti Darshan: A Boat Ride to Indian Culture
This is my favorite part of the exhibition. The Vedic lifestyle, as depicted here, is priceless. It actually offers you glimpses into the glory of ancient India. The 12-minute boat ride shows you the oldest university of the world, the first eye surgery that ever happened, and all the various contributions of India in world history.
Even I was surprised to see how democracy existed in India thousands of years ago, even before the entire sub-continent was referred to as ‘one nation’. It made me feel proud of our heritage. Now I know, why we Indians are so hungover about our ancient past. It was just incredible!
These 12 minutes will certainly change your views about India!
Sahaj Anand: Multimedia Water Show
The Sahaj Anand Water Show is conducted in Yagnapurush Kund, designed like the grand traditional step wells of ancient India. These step wells measure 300-ft by 300-ft, and has 2,870 steps! In the center, there is a pool shaped like a ritual arrangement used in sacred ceremonies of Hindus, flanked by 108 small shrines. There is a 27-feet tall bronze idol of Lord Swaminarayan at the head of the step well too.
The Water Show starts at the sunset. During the 24 minutes of the show, you see a beautiful presentation which uses live actors as well as video projections, water jets, multi-colored lasers, underwater flames and a surround sound effect.
The story that unfolds here is taken from Kena Upanishad. It shows how children playing around a lake inspire the water to create a flower for their merriment. However, the devas (gods) who are celebrating victory over the demons, get disturbed by the noise children make and want to destroy the delicate flower. The story showcases how the delicate of innate innocent bliss holds up against the powers of egoistic devas.
Two Thematic Gardens: Bharat Upvan and Yogi Hriday Kamal
At Bharat Upvan, you can see the role models of India such as freedom fighters and other great men and women of India.
Yogi Hriday Kamal is a lotus-shaped garden where each petal houses wisdom quotes sprouted by the great leaders across the world.
Hot Tips for those visiting Akshardham
- Akshardham remains closed on Monday, so keep that in mind while you plan your itinerary.
- The temple has a paid parking facility for visitors. So, you can take the taxi to the temple.
- You need to wear at least a knee-length dress (one which covers your chest, navel, shoulders, and upper arms) to visit the temple. However, if you are dressed in a short dress, you can get a free sarong to cover yourself inside the temple complex. You do have to deposit a fee of Rs 100 but it is refundable (which means you get your money when you return it).
- You can also get a free wheelchair at the entrance for those who are elderly, unfit, or physically challenged. Remember, you have to walk a lot inside the temple complex. So, if you are not fit enough for long walks, you will probably need an attendant to push your wheelchair.
- Clean restrooms and toilets are available throughout the campus, and so are food courts which offer fresh vegetarian food prepared in hygienic conditions.
- While you can carry your money, passport, and jewelry with you, you are not allowed to take mobile phones, cameras, pen drives, music or other electronic devices, toys, weapons, umbrellas, luggage, pets, and tobacco or alcohol with you. It will be advisable to keep these items at the free cloakroom inside the temple complex before going for security check.
- For souvenirs, you can buy books, photo albums, audios and videos here along with puja materials and Ayurvedic supplements. You can get your photos clicked inside the campus, which you can pick up 20 minutes later (or at the time of exit from the Books and Gifts Center).
Here’s a hot tip for you: Visit Akshardham Temple around 2 to 3 pm. It takes about 3-4 hours to see all its exhibitions and you will be free just in time to see its Water Show which plays only in evenings.