On October 5, 2023, BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham celebrated the theme “Celebrating Community” in honor of the unity and relationships fostered within various communities across America. This event marked the lead-up to the grand opening of the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, New Jersey.
The evening witnessed the presence of prominent mayors and state officials nationwide and congregants from around the world. Pujya Chaitanyamurtidas Swami highlighted the shared values between American founding principles and Hindu teachings of unity, emphasizing the collaborative spirit of communities like Robbinsville.
Robbinsville Mayor David Fried expressed his gratitude towards BAPS, recounting his decade-long association and the organization's commitment to community-building. Addressing the assembly, he said, “Every time I reached out to BAPS, they never failed to answer the call, and for that, I'm incredibly grateful.” He continued to convey stories of volunteers he encountered and expressed their dedication to a common vision. “What you are teaching our youth is so important because the next generation needs to become part of our community, and that is something that you should be very proud of. This community [BAPS] has become part of our community. We are grateful and 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 for that, I want to thank you. And last but certainly not least, I want to congratulate you on the inauguration and be the first person to officially say ‘Welcome to Robbinsville.”
Pujya Yogananddas Swami emphasized the spiritual and communal significance of temples like BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham. He highlighted the temple's role in nurturing spirituality, civic duty, and moral values in North America.
Pujya Bhaktipriyadas Swami shared the teachings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj on fostering unity among individuals and communities. He emphasized the importance of giving time, tolerance, accommodation, and maintaining a broad perspective.
His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, in his blessings, reiterated the message of unity and community betterment. He stressed the importance of understanding and respecting each other's traditions and values.
In recognition of BAPS's contributions, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj was honored with the “Key to the City” by Mayor David Fried of Robbinsville Township and Mayor John Higdon of Matthews, North Carolina.
Several representatives from across the nation shared their experiences and appreciation for BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham:
Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson of New Jersey’s 14th legislative district - “Today, the inspiration and progress I have seen is a testament to the selfless sacrifice and service from those thousands of individuals working together to show what folks can do when there are no limits to your inspirations.”
Mayor Hemant Marathe of West Windsor - “When people used to ask, ‘Where is West Windsor?’, I used to say that it’s the town next to Princeton University. Now I say, ‘It’s the town next to BAPS Robbinsville,’ and everyone knows where it is. So thank you, Mayor Fried, for making that possible.”
State Representative of Pennsylvania's 111th legislative district Jonathan Fritz said, “Being here today, my heart cries tears of joy because of the pure kindness, goodness and love that radiates from all of you. It is a physical manifestation, this compound, this campus, this building. I come here and am reminded of the goodness, the love, compassion, and care that is truly the driving force that keeps us all grounded and makes us all family.”
Mayor John Higdon of Matthews, North Carolina, shared, “I certainly found something today. When I heard His Holiness (Mahant Swami Maharaj) speak about the universality of the human experience - we all breathe the same air, we sit under the same sky, and we drink the same water - it really touched my heart, and I think that’s what I’m going to come away with.”
Texas State Representative Dr. Suleman Lalani - “I feel that we are blessed with a good heart, and we all do seva, but most of us fall under the service of convenience. We serve when it is convenient. But I will challenge everyone here today, including myself, to follow the example of BAPS and elevate ourselves to the service of conviction. And service of conviction means whoever, whatever, whenever there's a need, you need to say yes.”
Mayor of New York City Eric Adams shared a recorded video message saying, “BAPS and the Hindu community are a vital part of our country and our city's culture. I was fortunate to join you for your centennial celebration at the Colden Center. And I appreciate all you do to support interfaith dialogue, harmony, and service. Spirituality and service must go hand in hand. What we preach in the temple must be practiced on the street. Congratulations, once again, on this landmark achievement.”
Former United States Representative from Pennsylvania Thomas Marino said, “If we could get into our hearts what I got today, and take back to my community and tell my friends or relatives and my staff. You have to experience this incredible campus, this temple, but more so not only from the beautiful structure but from what your heart will observe and absorb as you're going through this. I always thought of myself as a good person, but as I’m leaving here, my heart is now telling me to be more compassionate and giving.”
The nine-day inaugural ceremonies, known as Akshardham Mahotsav, will continue to celebrate the mahamandir and the universal values it embodies.