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article imageWorld's largest Hindu temple under construction in New Jersey

By Sravanth Verma     Aug 18, 2014 in World
The first phase of a 162-acre temple complex, possibly the world's largest, in Robbinsville, New Jersey was opened over the weekend.
The complex, known as the Swaminarayan mandir and Akshardham complex, is a part of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, or BAPS for short, and is one of 70 BAPS temples in North America, including large, multi-million dollar structures in Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta and Toronto.
The first phase includes the Great Prayer Hall, which can seat 1,000 people, and the Shikharbaddh Mandir [temple], which were consecrated before a crowd consisting of an estimated 15,000 people. Construction on a youth activity center, a visitor’s center, a food court, and a second, larger temple, the Great Akshardham Mandir, is expected to finish by 2017. The current Guinness Book of World Records holder for the world's largest comprehensive Hindu temple is the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, India, a 59-acre complex.
The consecration involved the chanting of hymns and om namah shivaya chants, and was conducted by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who also holds the Guinness world record for creating and consecrating the most temples by one person — 713 temples in five continents between April 1971 and November 2007. Later, the Robbinsville chapter of BAPS officially dedicated the temple to the community. “This will add to the cultural, moral, sculptural and architectural landscape in the community,” said Yogi Trivedi, a BAPS volunteer and graduate scholar at the Columbia University's Department of Religion who handles BAPS media outreach. “It will show that different isn’t bad, different is good. And, in many ways, different isn’t even different. We may pray to different gods, but, in the end, we all want the same things for ourselves and our families,” he said. “We want to provide to the community a house of worship, and provide to devotees a place to learn how to service their community.”
The main temple, made entirely from Italian marble, is 134 feet long and 87 feet wide, comprising 108 pillars and three sanctums. The entire structure is covered by a shelter structure to protect it from harsh winter weather, so that the temple is preserved "for thousands of years," according to a BAPS official.
The structure costs USD $18 million, and contributions made by donors ranged from the USD 55 by a college student to USD $100,000 pledges from anonymous donors. The temple is planned as a center of Hindu liturgy as well as a spiritual haven for the local community.
Local citizenry had earlier expressed concern about the possibility of noise from construction crews and unwarranted traffic. BAPS volunteers have worked to keep them informed of developments and invited them for a sneak peek at the temple and its plans to serve the community, a sense of which had already been conveyed when many had sheltered on the temple premises during Hurricane Sandy.
The temple is ornately and intricately carved from wall to wall and ceiling to floor. Sculpted idols and figures celebrate the many epics and legends of the Hindu scriptures. As the residents of Robbinsville were leaving, one of them said "if this is what you folks have been up to, we can live with a little noise."
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