Hinduism is the most dominant religion in India. The country is the birthplace of Hinduism, where it has flourished and spread to nearby nations. Across India, there are numerous beautiful Hindu temples that are worth a visit. And situated in the capital, New Delhi, one temple that deserves to be on your travel itinerary is Swaminarayan Akshardham or simply Akshardham. Spread across a vast area, Akshardham is more than just a temple; it is a cultural complex filled with the best of Hindu culture and Indian heritage. It was opened in 2005 and honored with a Guinness World Record as the ‘World’s Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple’ in 2007. Inside the complex, you will find different attractions, beautiful gardens, and breathtaking architecture that will surely enthrall you. To learn more, check out our guide to Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi.
Things to do/ highlights
As a vast cultural complex, there are several things to do and see at Akshardham. Beautiful temples, structures, and gardens await you as you step through the Swagatam or Welcome Gates.
Visit the Mandir
The Mandir is the heart of Akshardham and is the complex’s central temple. A majestic structure in its own right, the Mandir stands tall at 43 meters (141 feet) and is made of marble and pink sandstone from Rajasthan state. One of the unique features of the Mandir is that no metal was used in its construction and it is designed according to Hindu architectural guidelines or Shilpa shastras. It has been designed to theoretically last for a thousand years.
The Mandir houses over 20,000 statues of Hindu deities and spiritual figures, and is believed to be made as a religious offering to God as his home on earth. As a place of worship, the Mandir has a prayer area called Narayan Peeth, which is lined with symbolic panels that allow you to reflect while walking past the images. You will also notice that the temple “sits” on a parade of elephants, called Gajendra Peeth, which is also symbolic as elephants are believed to be creatures of peace and gentleness in Hindu culture.
Witness a Hindu ritual at Abhishek Mandap
Water has played an important role in Hindu culture since ancient times and it is part of the culture to respect bodies of water like rivers and lakes. Hindus also perform several rituals that require the use of water and one of these is called abhishek. You can participate in such ritual at the Abhishek Mandap inside Akshardham. The ritual is a sacred tradition that involves the bathing of the image of a deity by the name of Neelkanth Varni. While pouring the sacred water, the participant chants mantras and prays for prosperity, harmony, and happiness among their loved ones. It is a symbolic practice in Hindu culture and visitors are invited to witness this unique practice during their visit.
See a water show and exhibitions
One of the top tourist highlights at Akshardham is the Sahaj Anand Water Show. It’s a spectacular 24-minute show held at night at the Yagnapurush Kund, Akshardham’s musical fountain, and one of India’s biggest step wells. The arena surrounding the fountain is composed of 2,870 steps. The show itself is a colorful presentation that tells stories from Kena Upanishad. It wittingly mixes the use of water and light in its special effects, and along with the story, it is quite a spectacle to witness. If you have kids, you should definitely bring them to see this show. It’s also important to note that though Akshardham does not have any entrance fee, there is a fee to watch the water show.
Aside from the water show, there are several interactive exhibitions at Akshardham that allow visitors to get a glimpse of ancient India. You must take some time to see Sahajanand Darshan (Hall of Values), Neelkanth Darshan, a film broadcast in a large format, and Sanskruti Darshan, a cultural boat ride. Don’t miss the different thematic gardens on the complex, which will allow you to be one with nature, history, and culture.
Where to eat
If you’re concerned about where to eat at Akshardham, don’t worry because you will not have to leave the complex at all! Akshardham has a food court on site, Premvati Food Court. It offers a variety of vegetarian meals and snacks. Some of the standout items include Swaminarayan khichdi and parantha. Visitors love the wide and tasty variety of vegetarian dishes and the well-maintained eating area as well.
Respect local culture and traditions
Visitors and tourists must remember that Akshardham is a religious place. Certain actions and behavior are permitted and some that are prohibited while in the complex, and tourists should be aware of them. For example, there are some areas where you must remove your footwear, such as at the Mandir. You must also observe silence in certain prayer areas. There is also a strict dress code at the Mandir, wherein your garments should cover your shoulders, chest, navel, upper arms, and should be at least below knee-length. Don’t worry though in case your outfit doesn’t meet this standard because there is a rentable sarong with a refundable deposit of 100 INR (1.31 USD) at the entrance of the temple.
Wheelchair-accessibility and security
There are certain areas that are accessible to those in a wheelchair. For example, Gajendra Peeth, the entrance to the Mandir, is wheelchair accessible. However, once you step inside, that is no longer the case. Should you need one, the complex rents out wheelchairs at the entrance at a refundable deposit of 100 INR (1.31 USD). Akshardham is also very strict about its security measures. At the entrance, all visitors have to pass through metal detectors and will be searched by security personnel. There are certain items that are prohibited within the complex, and you may check the complete list on their website. Facilities like an ATM, several restrooms, and paid parking are also available at the complex.
How to get there
Akshardham is a popular tourist attraction in New Delhi, so it won’t be difficult to find.
The nearest railway stations to Swaminarayan Akshardham are Hazrat Nizamuddin, New Delhi, and Old Delhi. However, it will be more convenient if you take the metro. You can alight at Akshardham Metro station, which is only 350 meters or less than a mile to the attraction.
If you’re coming from the airport or your accommodation and you prefer to travel in comfort, you can opt to hail a taxi or hire a private car to take you to the attraction. From the airport, it’s about one and a half hour’s drive away.
Whatever mode of transportation you decide to take, Akshardham’s website provides a complete guide on how to get to their attraction depending on your transportation.
Swaminarayan Akshardham information
Address: Noida Mor, Pandav Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi 110092, India
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9:30am - 6:30pm (closed on Mon)
Official website: Swaminarayan Akshardham
Department of tourism: Visit Delhi
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Duration: 4 to 6 hours
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