Massive Hindu Temple Opens Amid Lawsuit Controversy

Massive Hindu Temple Opens Amid Lawsuit Controversy

( – The largest Hindu temple in the United States will officially open its doors to the public in New Jersey on October 15, despite a lawsuit and controversy regarding its construction.

In 2021, a group of immigrant workers sued Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) for inhospitable living conditions, grueling work hours, and forced labor. This group is responsible for the construction of numerous Hindu temples around the world, including New Jersey’s Akshardham.

The initial complaint said that the workers were only paid $450 per month for the “difficult” and “long” hours of work. It also pointed out that this monthly payment was sometimes less when defendants decided to take “illegal deductions.” The complaint added that the workers’ hourly pay rate was only $1.20 per hour.

In a statement, a BAPS spokesman named Ronak Patel responded to this complaint by noting there was a distinction between religious volunteer service — also known as seva— and employment. He claimed that the artisans who came to the United States and helped the with building the mandir did it as volunteers.

Patel added that the organization took care of their needs while they were in the country. This included lodging, travel, medical care, food, prepaid phone cards, and internet access so they could communicate with their friends and families in their home country. The BAPS spokesman noted that the organization even “supported” the artisans’ families so they didn’t suffer any “financial hardship” due to their service in the US.

According to reports, most of the manual laborers involved in the Akshardham’s construction were Indian Dalits, part of a historically discriminated group in India’s caste system. The complaint alleges that BAPS’ leadership enforced the caste hierarchy during the temple construction.

However, the lawsuit has been paused, as 12 out of the original 21 plaintiffs seek to withdraw their claims. Spokespeople from the organization affirm that the temple will remain welcoming for people of all faiths and social backgrounds to come together in the community.

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