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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
India's 'temple of peace'
The Akshrdham temple
Akshardham temple: Famous cultural centre
Gujarat's Akshardham temple complex where commandos ended a bloody siege early on Wednesday, is one of the most outstanding architectural structures in India.

The temple, spread over 26 acres, belongs to one of India's richest Hindu sects - the Swaminarayans.

The temple stands on pink sandstone blocks
The whole structure is supported entirely by intricately-carved pink sandstone blocks.

No steel or cement was used in the design, which combines traditional and modern architectural styles.

The complex took nearly 1,000 skilled craftsmen more than 12 million man-hours to complete in the early 1990s.

The complex is dedicated to a prominent Hindu sage, Swaminarayan, who lived in the early 19th Century.

Prosperous followers

The Akshardham movement was started in 1907 to spread the message of compassion, love and high moral standards.

Swaminarayan followers can be found in many parts of the world - notably the wealthy and prosperous Gujaratis.

Akshardham temple, Gandhinagar
It is also known as a cultural centre
They are strict vegetarians who do not use tobacco, alcohol, tea or coffee.

Because of its ideology of love and compassion, the temple is also known as the Temple of Peace.

The design of the temple is said to have been inspired by ancient Indian temple architecture and it looks like a chandelier when lit up at night.

Two million visitors

The 108-foot-high monument is made of 6,000 tons of sandstone.

An imposing idol of Swaminarayan has been placed in the innermost chamber of the main temple.

The complex is a well-known cultural centre where numerous social and religious activities are organised in the three main halls of the temple.

There are several galleries in the temple complex which house a museum with some of Swaminarayan's personal belongings, as well as multi-media presentations highlighting the life and teachings of the sage.

Every year, nearly two million people visit the temple, which comprises some of the most beautiful gardens in India.

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The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava
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17 Sep 02 | South Asia
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