Prince Charles, Camilla visit Akshardham

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New Delhi, Nov 8: British royal couple Prince Charles and Camilla on Friday visited the Akshardham temple, hours after they landed in the national capital from Dehradun.

The Prince of Wales accompanied by the Duchess of Cornell took a guided tour of the 141-feet-high temple, located on the banks of the Yamuna and is said to have appreciated the architectural beauty of the temple. They spent around 45 minutes in temple, which holds the Guinness world record for being the largest Hindu temple.

A team of volunteers and trustees of the temple garlanded the royal couple with roses and firiangapani and applied tilak as they entered the complex post noon. The Prince was escorted by a group of officiating priests led by the head priest who tied a thread around his wrist before being photographed with them.

All this time the Duchess, dressed in a cream coloured tunic with matching pants and shoes stood talking with wives of trustees and women volunteers. "The priests of the temple avoid speaking to women. This is part of the vows they take," said Geetikay, an IIT graduate who was part of the volunteers assisting the media contingent covering the couple's visit.

British royal couple Prince Charles and Camil spent around 45 minutes in temple.

Later, the royal couple, each sporting the customary poppy flowers on their attire, removed their footwear, walked up a flight of around 30 steps and posed for the shutterbugs at the landing, then climbed another set of steps before finally proceeding inside the main temple.

The main temple houses an 11-feet towering statue of Lord Swaminarayan, an 18th century Hindu social reformer, whose disciples formed the Swaminarayan sect with followers worldwide. "The Prince and the Duchess offered flowers- a mix of roses jasmine and marigold and spent some time inside," Janakbhai Dave, the temple's spokesperson told PTI.

Dave, who accompanied the royal couple inside the temple, said the Prince was curious about its architecture. "The Prince wanted to know the technique involved in building such a large structure without the use of steel. He also wanted to know the process and the number of people involved in building the temple.

The ornately hand carved sandstone temple, consecrated on November 6 in 2005, was built without structural steel within a period of five years by around 11,000 people including 7,000 artisans. According to temple officials, the temple houses the idols of all the 24 incarnations of Hindu god Vishnu and has 208 sculptures of the almost all Indian deities.

Charles and Camilla have previously visited the Swaminarayan Mandir, said to be the largest traditional Hindu temple outside India, at Neasden in north-west London. Charles had also visited the London temple with the late Princess Diana. "The Prince said he wished he had more time to spend inside the temple.

He appreciated the architecture of the temple," said Dave. The Prince and the Duchess circumambulated once around the temple. All the time the royal heir chatted with the head priest Atmaswarup Swami and another priest. He seemed to be inquiring about the carved elephant sculptures on the "Gajendra Path".

The path enclosing the temple in its midst has a total of 148 life like stone elephants depicting tales from the ancient scriptures. The Duchess was extremely pleased and delighted to be able to visit the temple. "She seemed very happy," said a woman volunteer who guided the Duchess across the temple.

The Prince along with the Duchess is on a nine-day visit to India ahead of his trip to Sri Lanka where he is chairing the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

PTI

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