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World’s largest religious monument will soon be in India—with the help of Ford heir

The Temple of Vedic Planetarium in West Bengal’s Mayapur will replace Cambodia’s 12th-century built Angkor Wat complex as the world’s largest religious structure.

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Bigger than the Taj Mahal and St Paul’s Cathedral in Vatican, an under-construction temple in West Bengal’s Mayapur will be the largest religious monument in the world. Set to be inaugurated in 2024 after a two-year delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Temple of Vedic Planetarium in Nadia district will reportedly replace Cambodia’s 12th century-built Angkor Wat temple complex, spread over 400 acres of land, as the world’s largest religious structure.

A project of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), the Mayapur temple being built along the Ganga river aims to make the age-old Vedic culture and traditions accessible to all.

“Major work has been completed and now the finishing work of the temple floor is in progress. At a time, 10,000 people can stand together for darshan. The temple floor is bigger than a football field,” said Radharamn Das, vice president and spokesperson, ISKCON Kolkata.

Also read: Is ‘Vithal’ Shiva or Krishna? A Sant settled it & started 700-yr-old pilgrimage to Pandharpur

Ford’s behind the multi-million dollar temple

Alfred Ford, the great grandson of legendary businessman Henry Ford and heir to the Ford Motors, is the chairman of this ambitious project. Alfred’s spiritual journey from Florida to Mayapur is rather interesting.

In 1975, he became a devout ISKCON member and disciple of founder Srila Prabhupada, and changed his name to Ambarish Das. He became completely invested in Prabhupada’s vision of transforming Mayapur into ISKCON’s global headquarters, and donated $30 million for the infrastructure.

“Over the last nine years, the Temple of Vedic Planetarium team has created a vision for the project according to the parameters laid down by Srila Prabhupada many years ago. There have been many devotees involved with this effort,” Alfred aka Ambarish Das said in his message to the devotees.

The Ford scion has travelled around the globe to collect donations for the temple. “We hope that the vision created here will inspire all who visit to become involved with the project as it fully unfolds over the coming few years,” he added.

Also read: Power centre for kings, melting pot for art — How Nathdwara in Rajasthan rose for 300 yrs

Modern science and Indian knowledge system

People visiting the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium will be welcomed with informative displays of Vedic art, science and culture. At the centre of the vast complex will be the Vedic planetarium, which will house a giant rotating model of the planetary system as described in the sacred Hindu texts. From the lower floor, which will feature the planets, people will travel in escalators to reach the top-most floor—the abode of Krishna.

The entire project would cost over Rs 400 crore and covers 700 acres of land. The temple’s sanctum sanctorum alone is spread over 1.5 acres of land. “Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has helped us a lot by waiving the land ceiling law of Bengal to procure such a vast expanse. The temple will be spectacular once ready,” said Radharamn Das.

The temple in Mayapur will also comprise institutes of higher studies, research centres and spiritual institutes to promote cross-talk between modern science and the Indian knowledge system.

So far, nearly 60 per cent funds for the project have been raised. Over half a million has been raised through donations as ISKCON gears up to open the grand gates by 2024.

(Edited by Prashant)

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