The largest Hindu temple in North America is reported to be the massive Swaminarayan Akshardham located in Robbinsville, New Jersey. If one is interested in exploring the rich Hindu culture without actually visiting India, then considerhttps://www.thetravel.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=328878&action=edited visiting this new and intricate temple. But if one does go to India, there are many historic and UNESCO-listed temples that everyone must see there - as well as the new and eye-catching Lotus Temple in New Deli.

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Not far away in New York City is one of the largest cathedrals in the world and the largest in North America. It is the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and is only two-thirds complete - it is fully functioning and construction first started in 1892.

Background Of The Swaminarayan Akshardham

"The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is a spiritual, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to improving society through individual growth by fostering the Hindu ideals of faith, unity, and selfless service."

- BAPS

The Swaminarayan Akshardham is a Hindu mandir (or temple) complex. Mostly complete now with the first component of the campus being opened to the public on August 10, 2014. It is mostly built now although some parts are still under construction like the Akshardham Mahamandir and a visitor's center. The visitor center is to include an exhibition of the Hindu faith and culture.

The proposal for the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Robbinsville, New Jersey was first made in 1997 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. 13 years later in 2010 ground was broken and construction got underway. There was a lot of volunteer work dedicated to the creation of this massive Hindu temple.

  • First Opened: August 10, 2014
  • Visitor Center: Under Construction but Will Exhibit Hindu Faith and Culture

When it opened there was a great three-day celebration with over 20,000 visitors participating in various events. There was also a grand yagna in which the participants prayed for world peace.

The temple has been built by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha - a fast-growing Hindu denomination that was founded in 1905 by Yagnapurushdas (Shastriji Maharaj) and is of the Swaminarayan branch of Hinduism. Like Christianity (that has various Protestant denominations, Catholicism, etc.) are many Hindu denominations.

Related: 15 Temples In Asia That Are Way More Impressive Than Cambodia's Angkor Wat

Visiting The Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple

The mandir or temple is open daily to all visitors from all faiths and walks of life. It is open to both visitors and for worship.

"Individuals and families are not required to book their visit in advance. On arrival, please inquire at the reception desk for the availability of a guide. If one is not available, the Audio Tour Guide should always be on hand for your visit."

- BAPS

As one enters the temple, one will see it richly adorned with carvings of peacocks, elephants, and celebrated Hindu devotees of past eras.

  • Address: 112 N Main Street, Robbinsville, NJ
  • Opening Hours: 9:00 am - 7:30 pm daily
  • Who Can Visit: The Temple Is Open to All

There are many more BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha Hindu temples around the United States to visit. There are major centers in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Robbinsville, Toronto, and many smaller centers.

To see the schedules for the many rituals, prayers, and hymns in the temple, see their website and schedules. There are also a number of guidelines for visiting - including taking photos. Photography or filming inside the mandir (temple) is strictly prohibited. 

These can be a taste of Hinduism and the cultures of India. But still, to really understand and experience the bewildering diversity of India, nothing ever makes up for visiting it in person.

Related: Visiting The Valley Of The Temples: One Of The Most Outstanding Examples Of Greater Greece

Construction of The Temple and Rituals

Interestingly, it uses 68,000 cubic feet of Italian Carrara marble. But this marble wasn't first shipped to the USA. Instead, it was shipped to Rajasthan in India (Rajasthan is a very historic part of India boasting much of its most well-known forts and Raj palaces).

In Rajasthan, the marble was carved by hundreds of artisans and the finished pieces were then assembled and sequentially numbered and sent to New Jersey.

  • Marble Origin: Europe
  • Carving: The Carvings Were Made By Artisans In India And then Shipped To the USA

The temple has been built in accordance with the principles stipulated in the Shilpa Shastras (the Hindu texts related to the standards of sacred architecture). It is a shikarbaddha mandir and has sacred images of Hindu deities - which have also been consecrated.

The Swaminarayan swamis (aka monks) offer devotional worship to these deities throughout the day.

These rituals begin before dawn by awaking the deities by singing morning hymns. Afterward, the deities are bathed and offered food as well as garments depending on the time of day and season. There are various rituals carried out throughout the day including singing hymns. At night they are redressed and retired for the night.

Next: You Can Stay For Free At One Of The Most Sacred (And Famous) Temples In India