Day 3 takes us to Akshardham, a Swaminarayan temple in Delhi, India. Swaminarayan’s follow a sect of Swaminarayan Hinduism, a form of Vaishnavism (or Vishnu worship). Akshardham is set on a 100 acre campus and serves as an education center and temple for India’s Vishnu worshippers and other guests.
Our visit took place on a cloudy, Delhi morning that threatened a downpouring of monsoon rains. Luckily for us, no rains arrived. Akshardham marked the students first introduction to a Hindu temple. The towering domes on the intricately carved marble temple, served as an impressive welcoming to the iconic Hindu temples that dot the country. Inside the temple, we discussed the extravagant display of wealth, including gold plated donation chests, guilded wall carvings, and a gold plated statues of Shree Swaminarayan himself as well as various stories in Hindu mythology.
Post visiting the temple, we moved on to the extensive visitor compound, a maze of fountains, gardens, and history. Inside the visitor compound, we continued to weave our way through a history lesson, demonstrated by way of robotic figurines, on the life and work of Swaminarayan. Post our history lesson, we hopped into a boat for a tour of Indian history. The finale of our day at Akshardham resulted in a sattvic lunch ( no onions, meat, or garlic) at the dining hall.
For many of us, Akshardham provided a fantastic balance to the rush, and heavy questions, which filled Day 2’s visit to the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib and the Jama Masjid. It also brought out an animated conversation during our evening wrap up on the intersection between religion (the Swaminrayan robot tour) and politics ( the Indian history boat tour), that left us all questioning what defines sacred spaces, and if politics can ever healthily be involved in this definition.
Dinner closed with a taste of Indo-Chinese food, and a rousing game of four square as the monsoon rains finally started to fall.