First Diwali Celebration at the Largest Hindu Mandir in USA

(All photos courtesy of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.)

Diwali was celebrated with grandeur at BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham, featuring an Annakut with hundreds of food items, intricate rangoli designs, 2,700 diyas, and festive lights.

The largest Hindu mandir in the USA, Akshardham is an iconic testament to Hindu art, architecture, and spirituality, offering profound insights into Hindu traditions and teachings.

Every corner of Akshardham invites everyone to embark on a transformative journey that guides them toward the radiant joy of the Divine. BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham is a spiritual campus created by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.

The People Of Akshardham

Over 12,500 people volunteered in the creation of BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham. Students, parents, professionals, and more, dedicated their time and effort—for two weeks, six months, two years, or even more than a decade—to make Akshardham a reality.

The volunteers came to help build the mandir but discovered transformative experiences. Following are a few stories highlighting the devotion and sacrifice of the volunteers excerpted from the book, People of Akshardham: Stories Beyond the Stones. You can order a copy of this exceptional book at

“I amassed spiritual wealth in the form of contentment and inner peace to pass on to my daughter.” – Akash Patel

Akash Patel, a 39-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, reflects on his upbringing and the importance of leaving a meaningful legacy for his daughter. Despite facing financial challenges, Akash worked his way up the corporate ladder, eventually joining Ernst & Young. He decided to volunteer at Akshardham, a spiritual place, during a two-week vacation. This experience led him to realize that material wealth alone wasn’t enough to provide purpose and meaning. Inspired by the spiritual atmosphere, he and his wife, Vandana, made a life-changing decision to move to NJ and volunteer at Akshardham while raising their daughter, Prapti. Akash’s journey highlights the importance of imparting moral and spiritual values to the next generation, valuing inner peace, and leaving a lasting legacy beyond material wealth.

“The best way to improve myself, I think, is by seeing the good in all.” – Harmiksha Patel

Harmiksha Patel, a 24-year-old registered nurse from Brampton, Ontario, lost her father, Snehal, to cancer in 2020. When presented with an opportunity to serve in the Akshardham construction project, she initially hesitated but ultimately chose to volunteer, as she felt that her dad would be so happy if he knew I was volunteering at Akshardham. For nearly a year, she served in the Akshardham’s inner sanctum, cleaning, treating, repairing, and grouting stones. Harmiksha worked with a sense of reverence that expanded over time. “Every stone, every part of this mandir is touched by God, and so are the people building it: these volunteers have done so much for my guru, and we are all connected because of him. Volunteering in Akshardham has lessened the gap between me and the people around me.” She wishes to bring this attitude home and learn to recognize the beauty in all people.

“One of the things we gain from serving is spurts of inspiration from those around us that help us grow.” – Yesha Shah

Yesha Shah, 27, of Skokie, Illinois, volunteered for three days in 2019 but when she returned to pharmacy school, she missed the fulfillment she had felt while volunteering. She took a 1.5-year leave to continue volunteering to be part of this once-in-alifetime opportunity. She served as co-lead of the rebar team. Inspired by the virtues of her teammates, Yesha strove to serve humbly, accept criticism positively, and develop patience. Reflecting on the impact of her time volunteering, Yesha said, “I used to get very easily hurt if someone pointed out my mistakes. Over the last year, I stopped dwelling so much on the external factors I can’t change and chose to focus on things that I can change in myself. This has helped me feel more at peace with myself.”

“Every stone we place, every stone we dip, is an offering to God.” – Nilkanth Rao

As a 10-year-old, Nilkanth Rao, 40, accompanied his father, Ramesh, to Kandla, Gujarat, where artisans carved stones for the BAPS mandir in London. Pramukh Swami Maharaj was visiting, and he addressed the artisans, which Nilkanth remembers vividly. Inspired by his father’s years of volunteering in mandir construction, Nilkanth began serving on the Akshardham site in 2012 and joined full-time in January 2022, taking a year’s sabbatical from his work as a manager at Accenture Federal Service. He weatherproofed, cut, clamped, placed, and repaired stones throughout the Akshardham campus. Nilkanthʼs volunteering has taught him to imbue all his actions with spirituality. “With the right sentiments, there is no real difference between physical service on site and devotion we offer in the mandir. Every stone we place, every stone we dip, is an offering to God.”

Guest Opinions

“This monument will stand the test of time, proudly representing Indian traditions … every carving adorning it showcases intricate beauty, crafted from merely stones but also the devotion embedded within.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Art of Living
“I learned from Pramukh Swami to respect others. My advice to the younger generation is to follow the teachings of Pramukh Swami, and Mahant Swami to be successful and to make a positive impact on the world.” – Dr. Sudhir Parikh, Chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media & ITV Gold
“These kinds of structures are symbols of inspiration for other communities … in every corner, in every step that you are taking on this campus, you understand that this place is about embracing people.” – Reyhan Özgür, Consul General of Türkiye in New York
“What is fascinating is just the attention to detail, the beauty of it; in some ways, the simplicity of it, but also the complexity of it.” – Mike Lawler United States Congress Representative, New York’s 17th Congressional District
“[BAPS] has become part of our community, and we are honored that you thought to choose our community and had the vision to turn this piece of land into something that is truly unbelievable and one of the wonders of the world.” – Mayor David Fried, Robbinsville, NJ
“It’s a very powerful building, very powerful. You can feel the devotion of the people who worked on the building and who continue to work on it and the volunteers. You can feel their passion and devotion.” – Mayor Marcia Karrow, Flemington, NJ
“It was an incredible experience. It was mesmerizing. And to see Akshardham was absolutely jaw-dropping. And it was amazing to see the American dream and the embodiment of it.” – Mayor Sam Joshi, Edison, NJ
“This will transcend generations, thousands of years from now. When we are not here, this will still be here as a testament to the importance of inclusion and unity and embracing others.” – Mayor Lisa Morotta, Rocky Hill, CT
“This is a good model for the United States and Americans to see. It’s not about being indoctrinated one way or another. It’s about learning how to work together, be yourself, connect to the universe, and understand the Divine… ” – Dr. David Frawley, American Author
“Touring today and seeing so much more than you could even imagine, Akshardham definitely feels like special land … sacred land” – Sondra Shannon, CEO Gatemaster Technology
“This will stay with you for generations… In life if you ever feel like you have darkness around you, just come to the temple, you’ll see the lights come on to you, you’ll see the light you have been missing.” – Arthur Kapoor, HealthEC President & CEO
“What I see today is mind blowing. The intricacies of the temple and the energy you feel here – you’re in the presence of greatness” – Ndileka Mandela, Granddaughter of Nelson Mandela
“Inspired by the disciples who selflessly give, I met a girl from Miami who had done seva for a year. The satisfaction on her face is absolutely amazing” – Suniel Shetty, Actor
“The message of Swaminarayan is clear. It is for everyone. It is not confined to one religion; it is for humanity.” – Arif Aajakia, Human Rights Activist
“Everybody here leads with humility … from the Guru down to our tour guide, everybody seemed like they had that respect for each other.” – Foyesade Oluokun, NFL Player
“The commitment of the volunteers is truly fabulous. It’s important for all of us to contribute and showcase our culture and heritage.” – Venkatesh Prasad, Former Indian Cricketer

See many more volunteer & guest feedback @akshardhamusa

His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the visionary of Akshardham was the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the inspirer of millions. He envisioned a majestic spiritual campus in the United States that would consolidate thousands of years of inspiring Hindu art, architecture and culture.
His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the inspirer of Akshardham is the current spiritual head of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and the sixth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. It was solely due to his inspiration that, thousands of volunteers from different walks of life and across the globe came together to build the Akshardham.

BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham
112 North Main Street
Robbinsville, New Jersey 08561
Now Open, Visitors Welcome
Open to visitors every day except Tuesday.
For the latest visiting hours and details, please visit:



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