An ornate Hindu temple made entirely of hand-carved marble is not what you’d expect to find in a non-assuming suburb of New Jersey. But located about an hour and fifteen minutes away from New York City by car in Robbinsville, NJ, you can find the BAPS hri Swaminarayan Mandir, a stunning, 162-acre place of worship with remarkable proportions. To construct it, 13,499 pieces of Italian marble and stone quarried in Italy and carved in India were imported through the New Jersey Marine Terminals back in 2014. It’s among one of the most impressive cargo imports that The Port of New York and New Jersey has seen over the years.
Once the precious cargo made its way through the port, everything was taken to Robbinsville where the construction process began. Master craftsmen put together the massive mandir on site, and today it is mostly completed. It’s affiliated with the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan (BAPS) branch of Hinduism, and is the largest Hindu temple in the world by a long shot.
The temple is 133 feet long, 87 feet wide and 42 feet tall, made of 11 million pounds and 68,000 cubic feet of marble. Its intricate carvings feature 98 sthambhas (carved pillars), 66 peacock style arches, 144 sacred figures, 91 elephants with various musical instruments and flowers, 58 decorative ceiling designs and more.
The finished temple took a total of 4.7 million man hours to complete. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey estimated that the artistic and construction materials required to construct the temple traveled more than 21,500 miles on a complex supply chain before reaching their final destination.
The Guinness Book of World Records holder for the world’s largest comprehensive temple takes up 59-acres in New Delhi, India, making the 162-acre Robbinsville location almost three times as large. As of summer 2019, new construction is underway at the temple for an even larger facility just next to the original structure.
Today, the mandir is open to the public and completely free of charge. In addition to the Hindu temple, there is a visitor center, exhibition hall and youth activity center. Staff are very friendly and may invite you to join in on a ceremony.
The average person might be surprised to find a cultural and religious complex of such grandiose stature 20 miles east of Trenton. But sometimes the most impressive architectural structures stand where you least expect them. And in this case, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey helped make the imports possible.