Robbinsville, New Jersey may seem like an odd place for a religious pilgrimage, but that is exactly what it may become.
The Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, also known at BAPS, inaugurated what is reported to be one of the largest U.S. Hindu temples in early August, and it is already drawing a crowd to its home in Robbinsville.
BAPS volunteer Yogi Trivedi, a Ph.D. candidate in religion at Columbia University, said the mandir was initiated to accommodate a growing Hindu population in New Jersey.
“As the community started getting larger,” Trivedi told The Huffington Post, “[BAPS] realized they needed their own house of worship.”
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir covers 160 acres, and the primary mandir, or temple, on the premises measures 133 ft long and 87 ft wide. The Guinness world record holder for largest Hindu temple is the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, which measures 356 ft long and 316 ft wide.
The New Jersey structure is made of Italian marble — more than 13,000 stones’ worth, according to BAPS — which traveled first from Italy to India where it received traditional carvings from craftsmen before making the journey to New Jersey.
New Jersey winters aren’t particularly conducive to preserving marble, though, which is why BAPS built an entire second structure around the temple.
This is something Manav Lalwani, a New Jersey resident and member of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission, said young Hindus find appealing about BAPS — its ability to bring religious tradition alive while staying conscientious of its surroundings.
“They recognize the value of religion being relevant to its time and place,” Lalwani said. “[BAPS is] bringing Hindu culture and tradition to New Jersey but recognizing that it is still within this American environment.”
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies