The Swaminarayan sect has opened a huge Hindu temple in Atlanta on a 29 acre site – said to be the largest in the US.
Built at a cost of $19 million in the Lilburn suburb of Atlanta, the white temple that was inaugurated on Sunday, covers an area two and half football fields long. The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha has three other temples in North America – in Houston, Chicago and Toronto.
Swaminarayan sect leader Swami Maharaj consecrated the temple and said, “The temple is open to all people, not just followers of the Swaminarayan faith. All those who come here will experience peace and happiness.”
Congressman Henry Johnson, Jr., who was the chief guest at the ceremony, unveiled a plaque officially opening the temple. Mayor Jack Bolton and Commissioner of Gwinnett County Charles Bannister were also present.
The temple is built of marble, limestone and sandstone and over 34,000 stone slabs, including over 2,000 hand-carved figurines, were shipped from India. It took one-and-a-half years for hundreds of craftsmen to construct the structure, etched with intricate carvings.
Engineer Manish Patel who volunteered for over two years for the project, said: “The mandir brings true Indian architecture and culture to life on American soil.”
The idols in the temple include those of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Radha-Krishna, Sita-Ram and Shiv-Parvati.
BAPS traces its roots to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, who lived and preached about 200 years ago in Gujarat. It calls itself a socio-spiritual organisation and has a global presence though largely restricted to the Gujarati diaspora.
The temple complex also has a wing for social and cultural activities including youth forums, music classes and lessons in Gujarati language. The temple inauguration culminated five days of festivities in Atlanta commemorating 100 years of BAPS.