The main building at the centre of the complex is a 141-foot (43 m)-high monument to Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Designed according to ancient Vedic texts known as the Sthapatya-Shastra, it features a blend of architecutral styles from across India. Within the monument, under the central dome, there is an 11-foot (3.4 m)-high gilded image of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He is surrounded by the gurus of the sect. The building itself is constructed entirely from Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble, and features no steel or concrete. Its height and location on the banks of the Yamuna mean its presence is felt from afar, and its carved details of flora, fauna, dancers, musicians and deities covering its surfaces from top to bottom, leave most visitors in awe.
Hall 1, named 'Sahajanand Pradarshan', features life-like robotics, dioramas, and incidents from Bhagwan Swaminarayan's life, portraying his message of peace, harmony, humility, service to others and devotion to God. The hall features the world's smallest animatronic robot in the form of Ghanshyam Maharaj, the child form of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Hall 2, named 'Nilkanth Kalyan Yatra', houses Delhi's first and only large format screen. The theatre shows a movie specially commissioned for the complex that shows the journey Bhagwan Swaminarayan made during his teenage years across the length and breadth of India. An international version of the film was released in 2005 at IMAX and Giant Screen cinemas worldwide under the title 'Mystic India'.
Hall 3, named Sanskruti Vihar, takes visitors on a journey through 10,000 years of Indian history in 10 minutes. Visitors sit in specially designed peacock boats that make their way around an artificial river, passing the world's first university, chemistry laboratories, ancient hospitals and bazaars, finally ending with a message for the future of India.
The Yagnapurush Kund
The Yagnapurush Kund 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 Bharat Upavan
The Bharat Upavan, or 'Garden of India', has lush manicured lawns, trees and shrubs, dotted with bronze sculptures of contributors to India's culture, including Children of India, Women of India, and Heroes of India.
The Yogi Hraday Kamal
This sunken garden, shaped like a lotus when viewed from above features large stones engraved with quotes from world luminaries ranging from Shakespeare and Martin Luther King, to Swami Vivekananda and Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
* Nilkanth Abishek Mandapam
* Narayan Sarovar
* AARSH Centre
* Premvati Ahargruh
Guinness World Record
On 17 December, 2007, Michael Whitty, official world record adjudicator and member of the management committee of Guinness World Records, travelled especially to India to present a new world record to His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. The record presented was for Akshardham, as the World’s Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple. 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 m2). 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."
Upon presentation of the award, Micheal Whitty was quoted as saying,
"It took us three months of research, poring 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,"
The award was given in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and since then signs have since been put up around the complex in both English and Hindi to show this achievement.
Swaminarayan Akshardham was created by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the current spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS). It was created under his guidance after his guru Yogiji Maharaj expressed a wish for the construction of the complex. In addition to Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi, he has created international cultural & religious complexes like Swaminarayan Akshardham, Ghandhinagar (India), The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London (England) (Popularly known as the Neasden Temple), and similar temples in Houston TX, Chicago IL, Atlanta GA, Los Angeles CA, Toronto (Canada)and Nairobi (Kenya). His role as spiritual leader means he constantly travels and meets people throughout the world with an aim to helping them lead better lives.
Upon the opening of the complex in November 2005, Pramukh Swami Maharaj expressed the following wish:
“In this Akshardham, may one and all find inspiration to mould their lives and may there lives become divine. Such is my prayer to God.” ~Shastri Narayanswarupdas (Pramukh Swami) Inspirer and & Creator of Akshardham.
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (of whom Pramukh Swami Maharaj is the leader) is an international social, spiritual and charitable NGO affiliated with the United Nations. Through its 9000 centers, 750 sadhus (or monks), 55,000 volunteers and over 1,000,000 followers, BAPS performs over a 160 humanitarian activities. Akshardham is a part of BAPS's culture and educational activities to promote Indian art, culture, and values. BAPS also has a charitable arm, known as BAPS Charities.
Main article: Akshardham (Gandhinagar)
Akshardham Gandhinagar in the Western state of Gujarat is the sister complex to the one in Delhi. Opened amidst great fanfare in 1992, Akshardham Gandhinagar comprises a monument to BAPS, exhibition halls, a vast colonnade, contemplative gardens, and a restaurant, much like its sister in New Delhi.
This Akshardham has attracted millions of visitors from all over the world, including the likes of Bill Clinton, who commented "Akshardham is not only a unique place in India but in the whole world. It is even more beautiful than what I had imagined. Taj Mahal is definitely beautiful, but this place, along with beauty, has a beautiful message."