the hindu temple baps swaminarayan akshardham in new jersey
The BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham is believed to be the largest Hindu temple in the Western Hemisphere.

Last month, what is believed to be the world’s second-largest Hindu temple opened in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

Sitting on 183 acres, standing 191 feet high, and costing $96 million, the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham is an architectural marvel some 15 years in the making.

Would you believe it if we said this photo was taken in New Jersey? Well, it's true: construction was recently...

Posted by Universal Life Church Ministries on Tuesday, October 24, 2023

A mandir made of intricately carved Italian marble. 10,000 statues. A traditional stepped pond filled with water from India’s 108 holy rivers.

The temple is undeniably breathtaking, and it took an estimated 4.7 million hours of human labor both paid and voluntary to construct it.

Even the welcome center is gorgeously designed, carefully crafted with wooden pillars and gently lit with traditional lamps.

As excitement built around its opening, for the past few years, the temple has also been plagued by controversy. 

Were Laborers Forced into Construction Work?

While the Akshardham Mahamandir temple is already drawing massive crowds of both tourists and pilgrims to worship in its halls, it has also been mired in accusations of forced labor. 

Back in 2021, six construction workers filed a suit against the temple on behalf of hundreds of their coworkers – and claims of forced labor and human trafficking brought agents from the FBI, Department of Labor, and Department of Homeland Security to the construction site to investigate.

The workers alleged that hundreds of Indian men – almost all of them of the lowest Indian caste – were brought to the United States against their will and forced to work on the temple for more than 80 hours per week for only $450/month. They claim that their passports were taken, and they were held against their will under constant surveillance. 

"It was just an extremely traumatic and isolating experience," explained one of the workers’ attorneys at the time. "I've represented migrant farmworkers, I've done low-wage worker cases, and this is really quite shocking."

The case took an even stranger turn earlier this year, when dozens of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit withdrew the lawsuit, saying that an Indian attorney based out of the US convinced the laborers and artisans to make the complaint as part of a bizarre scheme to delay the temple’s construction.

They said they feared that revealing this information would lead to possible imprisonment or deportation. A spokesman for the temple said that most of the workers came to the United States to volunteer, which is a core tenet of the Hindu faith.

Open for Visitors

We’ll likely have to wait for the federal investigation to complete before we know all the facts.

But controversy or no, the temple expects to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the site. Scores of Hindus, architecture enthusiasts, and curious tourists have already visited the temple.

For Hindus in the United States, the location makes a lot of sense. It is estimated that there are some 3.3 million Hindus in the U.S. – and roughly 800,000 of them reside in New York and New Jersey. 

For these worshipers, having the largest Hindu temple in the Western Hemisphere in their backyard may be worth any controversy that comes with it.

What is your reaction?

38 comments

  1. Wilberta M. Berry's Avatar Wilberta M. Berry

    This story makes my blood boil. Of course these men under the caste system were forced into indentured labor only a minute step above slavery. As a retired history professor I know 100% about how India's caste system works.

    I believe these men were coerced to withdraw their lawsuits under the threats to their family members left behind in India to which America has zero jurisdiction.

    Lastly no matter your religious persuasions an Edifice costing whatever amount of money will never bring any man to a higher consciousness or closeness to any entity of higher greatness or understanding of how humans come to be and what is expected of them to reach any plain above Earth. This is outrageous because all religions are made by mortal men who in the end all turn to dust.

    Whether you call the divine GOD, ALLAH, BHUDDA, VISHNU, SHIVA or GODDESS or any other name the divine is housed within you not in an Edifice.

    You manifest it's existence by your deeds, your actions not what you build with brick and mortar.

    1. Jeff's Avatar Jeff

      I believe that temples, churches, and edifices can be a tool in bringing people closer to God. A dedicated, clean space to mediate, pray, contemplate, and worship can lift spirits. And if you don't believe in god or follow a religion, meditation is incredibly beneficial and calming - take my word for it or search out other experts. Meditation can be enhanced through beautiful dedicated spaces, which might be expensive (in dollars) like temples, or expensive (in travel-time, availability) like nature.

      So I disagree on your outrage towards temples.

      Indentured labor and abuse is clear wrong and immoral. That shouldn't happen though. But plenty of religious buildings, even elaborate ones, are built without this controversy. Temples aren't a cause of abuse.

    2. JaZe's Avatar JaZe

      The cathedrals in Europe we so much admire now were built mostly by low paid or not paid workers, skilled masons were not in abundance, and hundreds died during the decades it took to build a single one. Today we marvel at their beauty and grandeur.

    3. David Lee Durant's Avatar David Lee Durant

      What's not mentioned here is whether or not these folks were provided with food and shelter on top of their $450 a month. If so, that's probably a pretty good job for a lower class Hindu, let alone a young person in the United States working in the service industry, or say a minister with a small flock.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    This is nothing compared to the Mormon’s and their $202 BILLION dollars. Look at their plans to build about a dozen new temples.

  1. Angelic Realms's Avatar Angelic Realms

    Wow some old world architecture coming BACK to the region.

  1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

    Wilberta M. Berry you seem to have alot of anger in regards to religion. I'm sorry that you will never see the beauty in this glorious building. Believers do not build temples in order to obtain Salvation of any kind. Believers build these magnificent buildings to draw attention to, and glorify their gods.

    As to the labor used, I may disagree with the caste system but it is their way and not for me to judge.

    1. Wilberta M. Berry's Avatar Wilberta M. Berry

      @Colleen. I don't have anger at religion. Can you comprehend reading? It is man who created religion not any "GOD". It is the Anthropomorphizing of any GODS that man has done that does make me angry. Man has successfully created "GOD'S" in his image and then used "God's" to justify the suffering that man incurred on other men. If you can not see the correlation that's fine with me. However, don't interpret my words into your words or suppositions. I was very clear and deliberate in what I wrote. No need to reinterpret it by paraphrasing what you think I was saying.

      1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

        And I think you are confusing Faith and Religion. Not to mention the word paraphrase. I did not quote or paraphrase you. I simply gave my opinion. Your entire post exhibited anger.

      2. Wilberta M. Berry's Avatar Wilberta M. Berry

        Comment removed by user.

    2. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

      I'll judge for you. This is USA, we're free on paper and are equal on paper. Money talks though, which India's upper caste has. The upper caste of India bring all their luggage with them when they come to USA, only the lower caste melts into the pot. Get them in front of a judge or jury and let justice do her work.

      1. James Mounts's Avatar James Mounts

        If ever there is proof that multi-culturism does not work, this is it.

    3. Wilberta M. Berry's Avatar Wilberta M. Berry

      Comment removed by user.

  1. Mountainsage's Avatar Mountainsage

    All about the money. The impoverished sell their souls and bodies just to survive.

  1. Terrence Monroe Brannon's Avatar Terrence Monroe Brannon

    I would like to draw a distinction between HINDUISM and BRAHMANISM - brahmanism is a redaction of authentic Hindu teachings which brings in the caste system: the idea that certain are superior by birthright.

    Similarly, JUDAISM has ZIONISM - which again is a redaction (by Theodor Herzl) that places Khazarian/Ashkenazi Jews above all other people by birthright.

    In summary: the authentic original teachings of both Hinduism and Judaism do not teach superiority by birthright.

    Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai has been crucial in exposing both brahmanism and zionism for what they really are.

    1. Sheila Ann Murrey's Avatar Sheila Ann Murrey

      @Terrence Monroe Brannon Best summary I’ve seen! Thank you.

    2. Joanna Ruth Mitchell-Snell's Avatar Joanna Ruth Mitchell-Snell

      Terrence, I find your comments very interesting and I would love to see an article with more details about this in a later production. Thank you. Joanna

  1. Rev. Mike Eggleston's Avatar Rev. Mike Eggleston

    It would be interesting to know who the six workers who issued lawsuits are or at least their religion. What's the betting they're Christian evangelists/fundamentalists?

    1. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

      From India? I doubt it. The low caste of India or illegals from Mexico are the ones that can be enslaved, they're prolly used to it. These had passports so strike out the illegals from Mexico. The upper caste of India knows what strings to pull back home to ding their families. Put your money on the impoverished of India.

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Hindus have the right to visit a place of worship as we all do.If it was forced underpaid employment Then those who employed them should hang their heads in shame.Otherwise let it be . Everyone is a critic these days

    1. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

      The money folk will pay the fines for enslavement and that's it. The lower caste owes them, there'll be no shame but for getting caught. They'll have gotten the temple built on time or ahead of schedule regardless of cost. All can go see the building in amazement at what slave labor can do in USA.

      1. John Robert Peters's Avatar John Robert Peters

        Slave labor is alive and well in the US and always has been. And do keep in mind that Donald Trump regularly stiffs workers and companies and even political supporters. For this he is praised as, in his words, "Being really smart" and elected President.

        Recently a sports coach was fired and walked away with millions of dollars in severance. CEOs all have golden parachutes that protect their obscene wealth while workers are left with scraps and if fired or furloughed only the federally compulsory unemployment insurance. The US is the only western nation that forces people into homelessness and bankruptcy because they get sick (about 40% of Americans are impoverished because of healthcare costs), and yet we condemn those who seek to increase the minimum wage and create a National Health Insurance, but praise those who are smart enough (or ruthless enough) to skim billions from corporations, avoid paying taxes, and enslave workers. US families must have both parents working, in some cases multiple jobs, to make ends meet while slum lords (like Trump and Kushner) continually increase rent fees.

        If slavery means you are owned by someone else, US workers are slaves subject to the whims of uber wealthy oligarchs for their jobs and income. Their expenses are also controlled by the oligarchs who carefully squeeze as much money out of the workers as they pay to them...There is your American Caste system.

  1. Carol M. Anaski-Figurski's Avatar Carol M. Anaski-Figurski

    wow what a beautiful place this temple of worship. It is our freedom of religion that help us grow to encompass respect to all people of faith. We are living in exciting times to see such greatness being built here in new jersey. Let god bring many more miracles. Keep on praying this is the god stuff that can stop wars. amen. Get along sisters & brothers of thy faith. All are welcome here. Prayers Peace & love.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      It’s the current God thing that is responsible for most wars, Lady Carol. I doubt any of the worlds Gods will stop it. Possibly because it’s strongly looking as though they either don’t care, or they don’t exist? 🤭

      🦁❤️

      1. Keith Allen Steele Eash's Avatar Keith Allen Steele Eash

        No not God. Power political power pure and simple. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. If God is brought into the equation it's only an attempt to justify the actions. Pull it out and think clearly without that hatred you have of deities. I get so tired of you and your anti-god bs. The world certainly isn't better with your atheist attitude. And it won't get any better until the world acknowledges who is the real Lord.

        1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

          Thanks you, Sir Keith, for reading my comments.

          Let me guess….is the real Lord, Lord Krishna, or are you thinking of another one that mankind has hoisted up on a mythical pedestal? Just askin’ for a Krishna friend of mine.

          🦁❤️

          1. Keith Allen Steele Eash's Avatar Keith Allen Steele Eash

            Lol. Jesus Christ of course. I only recognize other religions as holding partial truth. God revealed himself to the one who would be faithful and not worship any other deities, and that was Abraham and his Isaac. His other sons chose to go their own religious route. Ishmael and his 12 sons whom later Islam came from.

            1. Edward Hamilton Calhoun's Avatar Edward Hamilton Calhoun

              I find it very sad that we humans are so deluded into one of the "thousands" of religions that we (humans) have created. Religion truly is "the opiate of the masses" one thing that old Karl had right on The Agnostic choice is the ONLY one that makes sense. I could go on and on but it would be a waste of my time Religion is at the heart of wars and most of the evil man chooses to burden the world with. Im 84 yrs old and will pass from this burden of tears afor to long - - So Sad what we do to each other Buddhism with NO Deity could save us however dont thing it will happen -- Shalom

              1. Edward Hamilton Calhoun's Avatar Edward Hamilton Calhoun

                Its all fiction and myth - religion is great to raise $$$$ and control the minds of the masses

              2. Edward Hamilton Calhoun's Avatar Edward Hamilton Calhoun

                Its all fiction and myth - religion is great to raise $$$$ and control the minds of the masses

            2. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

              It’s totally okay for you to only recognize the religion you want to as being the only one that has most truth, even though there is still no demonstrable evidence to support your claims, much like all the other gods of other religions. Thank you for your comment though Sir, Keith.

              🦁❤️

  1. Minister Raymond Butterworth's Avatar Minister Raymond Butterworth

    It is a beautiful structure but...it is just a structure. I can't speak for religions on which I have no knowledge but I can safely say that the best monuments we can make for the glory of God is good deeds done in His Name. If everyone, Christians included would use the money they receive to help God's persons the world would be a better place. 96 million dollars would go a long way in feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and countless other things. Instead millions are wasted each year building bigger more elaborate buildings in which to hold their worship services. Jesus said where 2 or more gather in His Name, He would be there. Doesn't matter if it's a million dollar building or under a tree. Fancy structures glorify the builders and the occupants. So much good could be done with that money, so many persons could be helped.

    Yet...here we are....

    1. Joanna Ruth Mitchell-Snell's Avatar Joanna Ruth Mitchell-Snell

      Well said Reverend.

  1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

    There was an issue at a large US telecom company which hires a lot of India Indians when a group of them found out their boss was from the low caste.

  1. Rev. MichaelRS's Avatar Rev. MichaelRS

    Okay, so, the FBI, DoL and DHS investigated. What did they find out?

    1. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

      That depends on how much Vishnu told them to pay the cops.

  1. Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Roush's Avatar Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Roush

    If the claims of forced labor are true and people were separated from their homes and families, or lured and mistreated, then there is shame that this is built on. The claim that the filing was false and set up to delay the contrucstion seems a bit bizzare. Why would this be? We may never know the truth. Building such huge structures for the glory of religion can be enthralling. I enjoy visiting all kinds of religious landmarks and holy sites myself. It seems nothing comes without controversy, and no project this large ever could...

  1. Barrett Green's Avatar Barrett Green

    Well first I’ll explain Genesis 11 :tower of babel theory- the lord came down to the plain of shiner and saw all the people were of one speech and saw the Tower of Babel. He said this must be stopped or all they imagine will be possible. All they imagine! The Indians brought a taste of India to you . Stop bellyaching! They used religious freedom to pay their people as if they were at home! You might learn something there at that temple . Some trusted beyond imagination!

  1. Theresa C. Marquess's Avatar Theresa C. Marquess

    It is a beautiful temple, but at the cost of slavery? India's caste system has always been abominable and here we are in 2023 with it being alive an well. What a pity...

  1. Renard Shy's Avatar Renard Shy

    Since no human being can interfere in the realm of God, we must tolerate and live side by side with those of other faiths. Until that day; the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained.

    Watch and Pray *** Until That Day!

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