Gujarat’s former capital, Ahmedabad is a treasure trove of cultural and historic sites that fascinates every visitor. Captivated with its beauty, famed poet Ulvi Shiraz portrayed Ahmedabad as a pretty mole on earth’s face.
Religion has a strong influence on the culture of the city that has been designated as the World Heritage City today. Traversing through the old city of Ahmedabad would be a true introduction to the city’s rich cultural heritage.
Ahmedabad proffers a plethora of religious and historical sites. Travellers would be captivated with the awe-inspiring architectural heritage sites located in the city that dates back to centuries. One of the greatest spectacles of the city is the Akshardham Temple, a significant temple of the Swaminarayan Sampraday. It is estimated that the auspicious structure is visited by around two million tourists annually.
This impressive and well known sacred site, Akshardham Temple is located in Gandhinagar. It features the architectural skills of more than 900 artisans. Tourists from different parts of the country visit the place to explore the unrivalled beauty of the famed temple.
Noted for its architectural charm, Akshardham temple illustrates Swaminarayan Sect’s deep-rooted influence in Gujarat’s culture. Unrivalled beauty of the temple allures its visitors with its architectural grandeur, imposing exhibition halls and well maintained garden. It is said that whenever Lord Swaminarayan takes birth on earth he would bring with him, his Akshardham.
The term Akshardham means the divine abode of God and as the name specifies, Akshardham temple of Gandhinagar was built in honour of Swaminarayan by BAPS Swaminaryan Sanstha. Inspired by the fourth successor of Swaminarayan, Yogiji Maharaj and created by Pramukh Swami the temple was built in honour of Swaminarayan.
Yogiji Maharaj along with Pramukh Swamiji Maharaj had been the backbone in the progress of BAPS. The classical piece of architecture dating back to fifteenth century also houses the idol of revered Gunatitanand Swami and Gopalanand Swami.
Gunatitanand Swami was a great sage who had been more popular as Akshar Brahm. Legends state that he had divine vision or Divya Drishti through which he had seen Swaminarayan in his childhood.
An influential speaker, Gunatitanand served as a Mahant or the head of the Swaminarayan temple in Junagadh for forty years. He played a crucial role of spreading Swaminarayan’s teachings to the common man and was referred to as the first spiritual successor of Swaminarayan.
Gopalanand Swami was a paramhansa of Swaminarayan Sampraday who had spent most of his time in Vadodara spreading the teachings of Swaminarayan. He was known for his excellence in all the eight stages of Yoga.
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha
Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha is a religious and cultural organization established by Shastri Maharaj in 1907. The organization was developed with the aim to foster universal brotherhood, help the downtrodden and cater to social issues. It has more than 3,850 centres across the world.
A spiritual organization based on Swaminarayan’s teachings and Vedic values has around thousand sages and 55000 volunteers today.
Swaminarayan was one of the great saints who preached the virtues of humanity, universal brotherhood and methods of self-realization. As great social and spiritual leader he was admired by not only Hindus but by the Britishers, Muslim and Christians.
Born in Uttarpradesh as Ghanshyam Pande, he started his spiritual voyage at a young age of 11 years moving to different parts of the country and covering an area of 12000 kilometres. After having spent more than nine crucial years of his life seeking spiritual enlightenment he then settled in Gujarat in 1799 joining his guru and a great yogi, Swami Ramanand.
His guru designated him as the new leader of the Uddhav Sampraday and the influential saint started teaching the Swaminarayan Mahamantra to his disciples. Soon he became known as Swaminarayan and the sect was named as Swaminarayan Sampraday. He established six temples in India and installed the idols of the deities in these sacred places of worship.
To spread his philosophy for the benefit of the humankind he appointed 500 Parmahansas who went to various places and worked for the welfare of the downtrodden and spread his teachings.
An architectural masterpiece is meticulously carved from 6000 metric tons of pink sandstone from Rajasthan. A glorious temple features an amazing seven foot tall statue of Swaminarayan weighing around 1.2 tons and set on three foot pedestal in the central hall.
Swaminarayan appears in the sitting position with his right hand raised as a gesture of fearlessness called Abhay Mudra, bequeathing protection from evil and dispelling fear from the minds of his devotees. Statues of Swaminarayan’s ardent devotees Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami and Aksharmukta Gopalanand Swami are located on both the sides of Swaminarayan’s idol or murti.
A sacred complex that rises to a height of 108 feet and extending to 131 feet in width and 240 feet in length represents the amazing architectural skills of the artisans. Corners of the temple are studded with several statues of the successors of Swaminarayan. The Mandir enthrals its visitors with its awe-inspiring architecture and intricate details.
An interesting feature of the temple is that no steel have been used in its construction. A magnificent sacred complex that stands on seven sculpted pillars and supported with 210 single piece stone beams exudes admiration.
At the entrance of the temple are Swaminarayan’s foot prints made of marble with 16 sacred signs of God.
An amazing temple adorned with around 200 idols draws the attention of all the visitors. The sanctum sanctorum or the Garbhagriha also holds the images of other successors of Swaminarayan named Bhagatji Maharaj, Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj, Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj.
Central hall of the temple called the Hari Mandapam is adorned with the gold plated idol of Swaminarayan in the centre. Devotees would be enthralled with serene ambiance of the hall.
This glorious temple also features the idols of the deities Lord Krishna and his consort Radha, and Lord Vishnu with Goddess Laxmi. Devotees would be mesmerized with the images of Lord Rama featured along with his consort Goddess Sita and their ardent devotee Lord Hanuman. People also worship Lord Shiva who is present with his consort Goddess Parvati and his son Lord Ganesha.
Shrines honouring the deities itself are amazingly wonderful and hold the deities in colourful dress and amazing ornamentation.
Mandir has two sections where the first floor called as Vibhuti Mandapam holds the lotus shaped displays narrating the character of Swaminarayan. Prasadi Mandapam situated in the basement exhibits the immense collection of the various relics from Swaminarayan’s life.
Traverse through the Hall of garments and gaze at the amazing collection of the attire used by Swaminarayan. Hall of Travels displays the items used by Swaminarayan during his travel to various parts of the country that includes his sandals and a bullock cart.
Hall of Festivals showcases the items used by him during the celebration of various festivals. Hall of Holy Remains holds the collection of the holy leader’s hair, teeth, nails and ashes.
Visitors would be captivated with the statue of Swaminarayan writing a letter that displays one of the original letters written by him.
Abhishek Mandapam is a significant mandapam where the abhishekam of Neelkanth Varni is performed. Abhishekam is an important Hindu ritual where the deity is bathed with water and other specific items while chanting the religious Shlokas or prayers. Idol of Neelkanth Varni was consecrated by Pramukh Swamiji Maharaj, a spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in 2014.
After its inauguration on December 14 by the successor of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Mahant Swami Maharaj, visitors get an opportunity of doing Abhishekam of the holy idol while the Sanskrit Shlokas are being recited. Devotees pray for the well being of their family members as they perform the ritual.
Five exhibition halls located within the premises of the sacred complex throws the light on Swaminarayan’s life and on important features and principles of Hinduism. A splendid way of depicting the important aspects of Swaminarayan’s life through light and sound shows, animatronics figures, scenic representations, short videos and 3D-dioramas is a must visit.
Neelkanth and Sahajanand Halls of Values
Neelkanth and Sahajanand Halls of Values throws light on the teachings, life, and work of Swaminarayan through multimedia technologies. Learn about Hindu culture through exciting projections, 3-D dioramas and audio-animatronics figures.
Step back into history as you gaze at the miniature model of the Uttar Pradesh village, Chhapiya where the divine soul, Swaminarayan was born. Visitors can have a close view of the old wells, lakes and trees where he had spent most of his time within the impressive village.
Sundarvan gives you a glimpse of the Himalayas, jungles of Assam and the coastal regions of Southern India where Swaminarayan had been roaming as Neelkanth Varni in search of spiritual enlightenment. An audio animatronics show portrays the ceremony of establishing Swaminarayan as Guru and the spiritual head of the Swaminarayan Sampraday.
Hall of Paramahansa was built to pay homage to the five hundred spiritual leaders Swaminarayan had appointed to spread his teachings. Gold plated idols of these Parmahansas stand facing the amazing idol of Swaminarayan. Catch a glimpse of the temple models built by Swaminarayan.
Mystic India Hall
Mystic India Hall houses an IMAX theatre that showcases a 40 minute movie called Mystic India. An inspiring movie directed by Keith Melton and narrated by Peter O’Toole illustrates the spiritual voyage taken by Swaminarayan for seven years when he was known as Neelkanth Varni. It was filmed at 108 locations of the country featuring around 45000 artists.
Financed and produced by BAPS Charities, the movie had won the Audience’s Choice Award at the 10th International Large Format Film Festival at La Geode in Paris and the Most Popular Film at the San Jose IMAX Film Festival.
Mystic India beautifully highlights the journey he had taken at the young age of eleven years after the death of his parents for spiritual exploration. He had walked around 12000 kms starting from Himalayas till the southern tip of India. The movie also showcases the architectural sites of the country that includes Ratha Yatra of Jagannath Puri and the Rameshwaram temple.
Premanand Hall has three sections where in one section throws light on the Hindu scriptural texts, Mahabharata, Ramayana and Upanishads. Mahabharata and Ramayana are Sanskrit epics of ancient India. Look at the dioramas and the paintings that illustrate the key messages of the holy texts of Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Dioramas depict scenes from the sacred text of Mahabharata and Bhagavat Gita. Upanishads are sacred scriptures written in India somewhere around 800 and 500 BC that focuses on the realization of Atma or the soul and the Paramatma or the God.
Second section named the Hall of Harmony displays images of symbols, scriptures, sacred sites, moral codes and prayers of the world’s major faiths. While there are different religions and faiths they all convey the same message of universal harmony.
Last section of the Premanand Halls pays tribute to the country’s most famous poets. Feel divinity as you listen to the spiritual songs.
Sant Param Hitkari Hall
Sant Param Hitkari Hall features an audio animatronics show that conveys the message of how to attain happiness. Move back to 19th century where Swaminarayan attends the assembly with great saints. A fifteen minutes animated show throws light on Swaminarayan’s life and his path of dharma.
Sachitanand Light show
Portraying the story of a small child Nachiketa the spectacular light show is a major draw of the renowned place. A lively show that combines the power of fireballs, fountain animations, multicolour lasers, 80 feet wide and 60 feet high water screen projections and music is an enriching experience.
The show that runs for 45 minutes focuses on a story from Kathopanishad presented in an open amphitheatre with live actors.
Nachiketa was the son of a sage Udalak who performed a yaga offering all his processions to attain spiritual bliss. Rather than offering valuable things he offered sick cows, unused properties. Nachiketa obstructed to his father’s act and asked his father as to whom was he going to offer Nachiketa. In rage his father offered him to the god of death, Yama.
The small nine year old boy Nachiketa went to Lord Yama and waited for him at his door for three days without food and water. Lord Yama tried to scare him through different modes but Nachiketa remained unmoved. Pleased with his patience and courage of the young boy, Lord Yama offered him to choose any three boons.
As a simple young boy, he asked Lord Yama to grant his father peaceful mind and the knowledge of Yagna. He finally asks Yama to tell him the truth of what happens after death. Lord Yama said that Nachiketa could better ask for material wishes rather than trying to know about life’s truth at a very small age.
Further events give an introduction about Truth, Consciousness and Bliss which is termed as Sat-Chit-Anand. Watching the amazing story through the light show is going to be an enchanting experience.
Sahajanand Van is a captivating garden spread over an area of 15 acres of land that houses amazing attractions including a fountain, rock sculptures, a waterfall and a nursery spread over 18000 sq feet of land. Noteworthy features include six cultural wisdom spots portraying principles of Hinduism. A stunning and wonderful garden is habitat to 57000 trees, shrubs and plants.
Scrupulously carved marble sculpture of Swaminarayan on his mare, Manki catches the attention of the visitors. Swaminarayan used to visit various villages riding on Manki. Idol of Lord Vishnu on his serpent, Shesha along with Goddess Lakshmi on his side is another notable sculpture.
Sun Chariot called as Surya Ratha drawn by the seven stallions is a key attraction. Moon God is worshipped in Hindu religion for offering life and light in darkness. Honouring him, the Moon Chariot has been built being drawn by ten antelopes.
Another draw is the sculpture featuring Samudra Manthan where the heavenly gods and the demons had a fight for obtaining the amrut or the precious nectar.
Visitors can watch for the sculpture featuring a lady with a veena and a pot sitting on a rock from where pours in water representing the holy rivers of India namely, Ganga, Yamuna, Sutlej, Narmada and Saraswati.
AARSH(Akshardham Centre for Applied Research in Social Harmony)
Promoting the principles of Swaminarayan, BAPS have organised Akshardham Centre for Applied Research in Social Harmony that hold several social programs such as debates and discussions on religious factors.
A progressive research centre has a huge library with more than 7000 works in Sanskrit, Hindi, Gujarati and Tamil. It also houses a large collection of manuscripts describing the various schools of Hindu philosophy.
Akshardham is located in Gandhinagar and it takes around thirty minutes to reach from Ahmedabad’s Sardar Vallabhai Airport and forty five minutes to reach from Ahmedabad’s Kalupur Railway station. Ahmedabad has two bus stops namely Gita Mandir and Paldi. Various cities are well connected with Ahmedabad through both Gujarat state buses and private operators.
Several thrilling rides are available for keeping children engaged.
Entry Fees and Timings
Mandir: There is no entry fees visit the Akshardham Mandir. Temple timings are from 9:30 am in the morning to 7:30 pm in the evening. Arti is performed at 10:00 am in the morning and 6:00 pm in the evening.
Exhibition: Visitors can visit the Exhibition Halls anytime between 10:00 am in the morning to 5:30 pm in the evening. Entry fees is Rs. 60 for Adults (more than 11 years of age) and Rs. 40 for Children between the age of 3 years to 11 years. There is no entry fee for Children below 3 years of age.
Abhishek Mandapam: Abhishek Mandapam timings are from 10:00 am in the morning till 7:00 pm in the evening. Charges for Abhishekam is Rs 50 per person.
Prasadi Mandapam: Timings to visit the Prasadi Mandapam is 10:00 am in the morning till 7:00 pm in the evening.
Sat-Chit-Anand Water Show: The Sat-Chit-Anand Water Show starts at 7:30 pm. Multiple shows may be held on weekends or public holidays. Entry fees for Sat-Chit-Anand Water Show is Rs. 90 for Adults (more than 11 years of age) and Rs. 60 for Children between the age of 3 years to 11 years. There is no entry fee for Children below 3 years of age.
Points to be noted: As it is considered to be a sacred place of worship, visitors are expected to remove their shoes outside and maintain silence within the premises. No food or drinks are allowed within the temple.
Garden: People can visit the Garden anytime between 9:30 am in the morning till 7:30 pm in the evening. There is no entry fees for visiting the garden.
Items permitted within the premises: Visitors can carry their wallet, drinking water, baby food, passport, belts and wallets within the premises.
Items not permitted within the premises: Visitors cannot carry USB Drives, Music Devices, Electronic devices, Weapons, Cameras, Luggage, Mobile Phones, Food items and Alcoholic drinks.
Dress Code: Akshardham being a sacred abode of God, visitors are expected to wear proper attire covering shoulders, chest, navel and upper arms. Dress should be at least knee length. People can even get a free Sarong at the entrance if their dress does not comply with the above instructions which are available at a refundable deposit of Rs. 200.
Akshar Hat: Akshardham accommodates a Books and Gifts Centre with several books, audio and videos. People can also shop for authentic Ayurvedic and Pooja items.
Food Court: Travellers can enjoy both Indian and continental food.
Parking Facility: Parking Facility can be availed at the gate at a reasonable cost. No Cargo or goods vehicle are permitted for the parking.
Wheel Chairs: Travellers can avail free wheelchairs at the entrance gate for the physically challenged free of cost.
Cloak Room: As phones and baggage are not allowed within the premises they can be deposited at the cloak room.
Restrooms: There are well maintained Restrooms available within the premises.
Telephone Booth: There is a telephone booth near the food court.
Security Check: To ensure safety of the visitors, metal detectors are used at the entrance. Visitors and the vehicles are examined by the safety personnel.
Other places of visit near Akshardham
Amusement Park Akshardham, Indrora Nature Park, Indrora Dinosaur and Fossil Park
FAQs and Information about Akshardham
The show is presented in Hindi.