Home > India 2012 > A Tale of Two Temples

A Tale of Two Temples

Two days of touring around Delhi–so many interesting things! I’ll select a few.

The first stop in Delhi was at Akshardham, a huge, new temple (just 10 years old) that celebrates Hindu gods in ornate, floor to ceiling carvings. In addition to the temple, there are buildings displaying the life of the early nineteenth century Hindu leader Swaminarayan, who is venerated as a god (or maybe the incarnation of a god–I think that’s the same thing). There are Swaminarayan temples around the world, including one in Beltsville, Maryland. Other sects have their own revered leaders; in Rajkot I saw Swami Vivekananda everywhere. I keep wondering if any of them have dark secrets about embezzlement or illicit sex or anything. I don’t think any questions on that subject would be welcome.

The Akshardham complex also features live-animation (robotic) displays that give a patriotic and very “lite” view of Indian history. Visitors ride a kind of chain-pulled boat along a “river of time.” There were claims about India being the birthplace of chess, astronomy, mathematics, democracy — just about everything. And of course, getting to the exit required a pass through the gift shop.

The Lotus Temple, where we went next, was a total contrast. It was Sunday afternoon, so there were throngs of people there, all locals or at least Indians. One has to give up one’s shoes to enter barefoot at all these temples. There’s a “boot house” where you hand them over; sometimes you get a token in return, sometimes not. The walkway is burning hot in the sun, so they have laid down a narrow jute strip that you try to stay on as you make your way in and out. It’s not easy to stay on it in the crowds. Here’s a picture of the temple and the crowds; if you look closely, you can spot Pakis–the only westerner anywhere in sight! He’s waiting in line to retrieve our shoes.

The Lotus Temple is Ba’hai, and in total contrast to the Hindu style, it is totally plain inside. All the seats face one direction, but a potted plant is the only thing there at the focal point–no altar or statuary or holy book or anything. It all seems very strange.

 

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