Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Swaminarayan Akshardham in Delhi

March 24, 2012

After eating, we went back near the Red Fort area to find another fort that's supposedly accessible to us. We went round and round till our faces burned (thanks to Kevin's sunscreen for damage control) and finally realised that the fort we were looking for is actually part of the Red Fort and can only be accessed by going through Lal Quila!

Anyway, by the time we realised that, it was already so hot that when I reminded Kevin and Rosie about my plan to go to Akshardham Temple (thanks to Brod Dwight Ronan for telling me about it), we settled to take a tuktuk instead of returning to the Chandni Chowk station and traveling towards Akshardham station (I think two train changes are required).

Akshardham from a distance
The tuktuk driver said it's 22kms so we thought the 200 rupee charge we agreed upon was fair. Of course, it wasn't. It was only about 10kms away, which means we could have paid just a little more than 100 rupees. Argh. Anyway, it was hot, we were tired, and we were clueless. So I guess the 100 rupee difference compensated for him appearing right when we needed him!

Anyway, so we got to Swaminarayan Akshardham about 15-20 minutes from Old Delhi. The entrance to the temple was packed, we thought to ourselves. We found out it's because of the VERY tight security that was being implemented. NO ELECTRONICS ARE ALLOWED inside, not even your pen drive. You have to deposit your bag, gadgets, books, and other stuff. Only a small purse and a water bottle (clear) is allowed to be carried. Don't worry--the security is really tight so the chances of your stuff being lost or stolen in the storage area (cloak room) is quite slim. The only sad thing is, you have to say goodbye to your hopes of capturing images of those intricately carved elephants and celestial dance poses. 
I never got the chance to go to this garden. I don't even know
what it's called. And I went twice!
I think, in one way, it was good that the management decided it to be that way. At least, the visitors can focus on really looking and adoring the temple complex rather than snapping their time away. The Akshardham Mandir is the biggest Hindu temple in the world. It took only five years to finish this colossal homage to the Hindu religion and India's rich history and culture.

We probably spent about two hours or more inside the complex. Our first stop was the Akshardham Mandir itself (although, I stopped by the wishing pond which was designed with two big footprints on its floor). The temple is the most intricate place of worship I have been in. Not just because of the gold and gem statues of the previous gurus or yogis, but more so because of the marble carvings and huge artworks depicting the life of one of the gurus (made it better to understand why such effort and wealth was given for the temple).

The maximum zoom Ti-Ex (my Sony TX10) can manage.
In fairness, gauge the distance. It's far from the roadside!
After that, we went to the right side from the temple which housed this massive statue of a boy (which I assume to be Lord Swaminarayan of one of those gurus or yogis) and the pool/fountain/stage for the music and lights show every night. After that, we went around in the terraces, with me and Kevin imagining the shots we could have taken if a camera was at hand.

We then decided to go to the lotus garden on the opposite side. Each lotus area is filled with stone epitaphs containing quotes from VIPs about god, whether it's the more than 30,000 of Hindu religion or that unknown force even scientists (at least those who were quoted) recognised.

Finally, after Rosie giving up, me following suit in the shade after I quickly read each epitaph, and Kevin already toasted, we went for the food court/hall connected to the lotus garden. Needless to say, we drank (Coke!) our hearts away. :D 

Tourist mode (there's really a lot of people!)

After eating (and washing our faces for moisture), we went through the souvenir shop and bought photos of the complex (really nice and cheap for just Rs. 20 per 10 pic-set). By the time we finished and headed for the cloak room, the line was already almost five times longer than when we entered. Seriously! I think at that point, the 100 rupee difference for the tuktuk did not matter as much as it did earlier. :D

Note: I went to Akshardham twice so there'll be another post. I'll take photos of the printed photos for the second posting and appreciation. In the meantime, you can learn more about Swaminarayan Akshardham in Delhi by downloading the brochure (on sale at Rs. 5 by the entrance and reception counter inside) here.

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