Gandhinagar, which has been my home for around 20 years now, has been a home to Akshardham for an even longer period of time (since 1992). Sometimes it so happens that a pretty perfect place is staring right at us and we fail to acknowledge it. Such was the case with me. Akshardham Temple is almost synonymous with the identity of Gandhinagar, capital of Gujarat. Akshardham Gujarat is a large Hindu temple complex and is a tribute to the teachings and life of Hindu spiritual leader – Swaminarayan.
So this is how it started – My cousin, Dada, as I call him had come over to my place and he asked me to take him to some nice place which he had not yet seen. Realizing that I was out of ideas, he suggested, “How about Akshardham??” As I had been there a lot many times, I said, “Not there again. It has just some rides and stuff like that”, which was not true but I said it anyways and continued, “Also it’s almost 3 o’clock, you won’t be able to visit the exhibition halls given that it takes around 3 hours to visit halls alone.” Well, he realized what I was trying to do and said, “Well, I have never been there and also it is the closest place to which we can go to right now.” “And we can always skip the exhibitions!” he winked. Knowing that I had lost the argument I decided to get ready. After a couple of minutes, I was all set to take him to the same place I had gone to with so many relatives.
After reaching the destination, we parked our car, took the parking ticket and set towards the entrance. He looked at the board showing the signs of all the stuff that was prohibited which was almost everything- camera, mobile phones or any electronic equipment and bags and snacks, he nudged me and asked, “What’s with the security being so strict??” I realized that I had forgotten to tell him that he should’ve kept his mobile phone at home. “Oh, yes, they have tightened the security after the terrorist attack of 2002. We kept the cell-phone safe with the security and moved ahead.
I had been here many times but I was not used to guiding people; that was the job of my dad or my uncle, never me. So I was a little taken aback when he asked, “So, from where do we start?” I was not used to guiding but that didn’t mean I couldn’t, “The temple, of course – which is the focal point of the complex. The temple in itself is monumental and about 100 feet high. Built according to Vedic architectural principles, the temple does not use any metal (steel or iron) for construction. Imagine, the temple is made up of tons of sandstones alone! And you should see the beauty of this place during Diwali. The entire temple is lit up with thousands of diyas and the scene is just breathtaking.” He was listening to me so intently that I was excited to tell him as much as I knew. So when we reached at the entrance of the temple and then towards the idol of Lord Swaminarayan, I whispered, “You know this entire statue is gold-leafed.” Hearing this he whispered back, “Yes Sherlock, I can see that.”
After we were done with the tour of the temple, we went outside and he gave me a questioning look which meant ‘what next’. Suppressing the groan of my tummy, I asked, “You hungry??” He grinned before replying, “Very much”. The walk towards the restaurant was quite for we were both mesmerized in the beauty of the parks and the flowers and the trees and the fountains which surrounded the path. We both had the delicious khichdi which is the specialty of Akshardham. While leaving he pointed at the board that said, “Water show this way” and I replied, “Yep, that’s next.”
On our way to the water show I decided to tell him about the show to break the silence, “The Sat-Chit-Anand Water Show, as it is called, employs fire, water fountains, laser projections and live characters to reveal the story of Nachiketa. The rest you’ll have to see for yourself…” I winked. Resolute Nachiketa was the son of a rishi named Udalak transcended from the land of the dead – Yamapuri and attained knowledge of the Eternal Soul. The water show lasted for 45 minutes and while leaving I realized that I had never been to Akshardham and told someone so much about it and actually enjoyed.
We were at the main reception counter to collect my cousin’s cell phone. I regretted that we could not visit the exbihition halls which inform visitors about various themes in Hinduism using varied audio-visuals. I said to Dada, “We won’t skip the exhibitions the next time you come.” He grinned and replied teasingly, “Yes Ma’am.”