Bhartiya Mandir – the oldest and the largest Hindu Temple in New Zealand – installed two elephant deities, symbolised as “Dwarpal” in Hindu architecture, just at the entrance of the temple in a religious ceremony on Sunday, June 4.

The elephants have a unique place in the Hindu traditions. In addition to providing a means of transport, they symbolically represent a divine attribute. The elephant vahana represents wisdom, divine knowledge and royal power; it is associated with Lakshmi, Brihaspati, Shachi and Indra.

Lord Indra was said to ride on a flying white elephant named Airavata, who was made the King of all elephants by Indra.

A white elephant is rare and given special significance.

The two elephant deities each weighing 1.5 tonnes were installed with the help of specially commissioned cranes early morning on Sunday.

The official unveiling of both the deities was preceded by pooja and yajna organised in the main sanctum of the temple.

There was a huge gathering of devotees and members of the community attending the religious ceremony.

Speaking to Indian Weekender, the Mandir President Hemant Parashar said that it was a historic day for the temple for many reasons.

“In our Hindu tradition, elephant or Gajaraj is considered as Dwarpaal – the gatekeeper - and an integral part of a temple.

“There is lot of history associated with these elephant deities,” a visibly excited Mr Parashar said.

The Puketapapa Local Board member Shail Kaushal, a devotee of the temple himself, was invited to officially inaugurate the deities after a small pooja by the Mandir priest.

  • Handcrafted by sculptors in Jaipur, India

The 1.5 tonnes weighing temple have been sculpted by the famous craftsmen of the north-western Indian city of Jaipur. “The project started about 14 months ago,” Mr Parashar informed Indian Weekender.

  • Sculpted from a single piece of large marble from Makarana.

Each of the elephants has been built from a single piece of the famous Makrana Marble. It took about ten months to finish the work and export it to Auckland.

  • The famous Taj Mahal is built from same Makrana Marble

The Makrana Marble is the same marble that has been used in the world famous Taj Mahal of Agra built about 400 years ago.

  • Made by the same company that originally built deities in the Balmoral temple

“The same company, Pandey Constructions Ltd, which originally sculpted the deities for the Bhartiya Mandir about 24 years ago, was commissioned for the task,” Mr Parashar told Indian Weekender