Amidst the array of Mughal and British monuments that dot the New and Old Delhi landscape is a 21’st century tribute to the world’s oldest religion. Akshardham was highly recommended to me by a bunch of friends who told me to not stick to the usual must-see list provided to tourists. The three hours I spent in this uber secure and interesting temple complex were very educational. I will try to capture some of my thoughts here below:
Akshardham is huge and expansive. It is a complex of buildings that include a temple. If you have visited places of worship in the Western world, the expansiveness may not be very evident but compared to any other temple I have visited in South India, this complex is very very big. The long walkways between different buildings in the complex make fir quite the cardio workout before you are done. There is also an air of extremely tight security even after one has been too places that have existed for a lot longer. Cellphones, cameras, water bottles, coats and even books are banned from entry. The serpentine lines to get in were really long and it took me the better part of an hour to make it from car park to the ticket booth inside.
There are eight different buildings at Akshardham. The ticket packages give you a lot of flexibility and let you see what you want to see and the people managing the complex give you realistic estimates of wait times and sight times. There is a main Mandir and an India Garden that capture Hindu architectural history for the curious and a motorized boat ride that offers an amusement park style tour thru the history of Indian science, literature, medicine and math. Each of these take up about an hour accounting for wait in lines etc.
I enjoyed the long walks thru the resplendent gardens that carried some amazing bronze sculptures. It is extremely difficult to find urban greenery in Indian cities but Delhi and the people behind Akshardham have done a great job of finding the space and maintaining it. The bronze sculptures are sculptures of Hindu gods and stories from Hindu mythology. Each sculpture is a Wikipedia-hunt in itself for the story behind it and the hours in the garden can go by with minimal effort.
The part I enjoyed the most was the boat ride. There are two boats that take about 36 people each in seats of four. It is like any ride you have taken at an amusement park but a lot slower:). It seeks to and quite successfully does take you on a journey thru Indian history from the Rig Veda period to the time of British rule. The ride is an intricately set-up audio-visual arrangement and takes you thru the milestone moments and inventions in the rich and proud Indian history.
While I wish the security was a little less intense and intrusive and that cameras be allowed, Akshardham is a must-see for anyone with any curiosity about India and the history behind the grand Indian experiment. It fixes a lot of gaps in the way Indian history is taught in most CBSE schools by focusing in significantly more on periods pre-British and pre-Muslim invasion. It educated me especially on Indian science and scientists like Baudhayana and Susruta whose work was never explained very well to me in school. If you are in Delhi I highly recommend you stop by the grand Akshardham temple complex. You will like it a lot!
P.S: The trip to Akshardham was part of my trip to Delhi which was part of my sabbatical. For writings on all the other places I visited during my sabbatical please check out: http://no-sacred-cows.com/category/sabbatical/