By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff
The Port of New York and New Jersey has seen its share of big and impressive cargo imports over the years, everything from a replica Batmobile, to NJ Transit subway cars, yachts and even a giant Marilyn Monroe statue.
But another Port claim to fame is its role in helping build the region, literally. And sometimes those imports, too, are spectacular in their own way. Take one extraordinary Hindu temple in Robbinsville, N.J., about 20 miles east of Trenton.
Back in 2014, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a global religious and civic organization affiliated with the Swaminarayan branch of Hinduism, imported Italian marble and 13,499 pieces of stone originally carved in India through the New Jersey Marine Terminals.
From the port, the marble sections and stones were trucked to Robbinsville, where it was used to build a massive mandir, a Hindu place of worship, adorned with 236 peacocks, the national bird of India, and 91 sculpted elephants placed inside the mandir. In all, the artistic and construction materials traveled more than 21,500 miles through an intricate supply chain before they arrived in New Jersey. The Hindu temple – 133 feet long, 87 feet wide and 42 feet tall – is an architectural marvel and mostly completed.
But work continues on other components of the facility, including the BAPS’ Swaminarayan Akshardham Mahamandir, a cultural complex that showcases and celebrates Indian art, culture, traditions and values. Also under construction are a visitor center, exhibition hall and a youth activity center.
“Thanks to the Port of New York and New Jersey, we were able to get the materials without trouble on time here. Today, the mandir is open to anyone, and it’s all thanks to them,” said Lenin Joshi, a mandir spokesman and volunteer.
The Hindu temple project illustrates the wide range of products and materials that flow through the Port, from furniture, beverages, clothing and food products to the type of Italian marble and stunning artistic flourishes used not only in the constructing the mandir, but in the development of the Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.
Port Authority Port Department Assistant Director Bethann Rooney noted the remarkable range of goods that flow through the Port to become part of historic regional projects.
“Building materials are a perfect example,” she said. “We have seen the transport of giant beams used for One World Trade Center to the materials coming through the port to build this temple.”