“After the hard work and prayers of many, the temple has finally been made possible,” says an excited devotee.
She has a reason to be excited. And that is clear from what she says next.
“Once upon a time, having a temple in this country was next to impossible, but now we will visit our temple and ring the bell too”, she says, ahead of the inauguration of the first Hindu temple in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Around 2,200 km from New Delhi, nestled in the Arabian desert, the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi is set to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 14.
On the day of his Abu Dhabi visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the Indian diaspora for its efforts to deepen India’s engagement with the world.
“This evening, I look forward to being among UAE’s Indian diaspora at the #AhlanModi programme! Do join this memorable occasion,” PM Modi posted on X.
‘Ahlan Modi’ is Welcome Modi in Arabic.
The temple in the desert is unique. It is the first traditional ‘Hindu stone temple’ in the Middle East. There are a few other temples in the Middle East, and all of them are like villas, not in the traditional Hindu temple style.
That is why the new BAPS Hindu Mandir, situated atop a mound to the northeast of the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, is being hailed as a milestone in the Arabic country’s testament to cultural harmony.
Not just a cultural milestone, the BAPS Hindu Mandir will also add strength to the relations between India and the UAE.
PM MODI AND SHEIKH NAHYAN PAVED THE WAY FOR THE MANDIR
The construction of the BAPS Hindu Mandir was conceptualised shortly after PM Modi assumed office in 2014.
“I am very thankful to the UAE Govt for their decision to allot land in order to build a Temple in Abu Dhabi. This is a great step,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on X, following his two-day trip to the UAE in August 2015.
PM Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the UAE since 1981, where he met Mohammed bin Zayed, the then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Dubai ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Following the visit, the UAE government allocated land for the temple during his visit in 2015. This gesture was a landmark decision, marking Modi’s first visit to the strategic Gulf nation in 34 years since Indira Gandhi.
Following PM Modi’s visit, the government of the UAE, through a royal decree, generously gifted 13.5 acres of land for the construction of the Hindu Mandir. Additionally, the UAE government, during its Year of Tolerance, allocated another 13.5 acres of land in 2019 – making a total of 27 acres of land.
The foundation stone of the BAPS Hindu Mandir was laid by PM Modi through video conferencing from the Dubai Opera House, on his second state visit to the Arabian nation in 2018.
“People were surprised when Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince (Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan) took forward the talks of building a temple in Abu Dhabi. I wholeheartedly thank his highness on behalf of all 1.25 crore Indians,” said PM Modi, who is known to have a great bonhomie with Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who has been the President of the UAE since 2022.
PM Modi called Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan “brother” while walking hand in hand during COP 28 in December 2023, a testament to the bond they share.
Since 2015, PM Modi has been to the UAE six times, and the upcoming visit will be his seventh.
ARCHITECTURAL GRANDEUR OF BAPS HINDU MANDIR
It is not that the UAE did not have a temple before this. There are a few of them belonging to the Hindu and Sikh communities.
But, the BAPS Hindu Mandir is one of its kind in West Asia.
“There is a temple in Dubai which is housed in a villa. This is grand and unique, with all the beautiful carvings on the temple,” a devotee who also worked as a volunteer on the project told IndiaTodayTV.
“Bhajans and satsangs in the grand temple will be way better than having them within the confines of our homes,” she added, expressing pride.
Scheduled for inauguration next week, the BAPS Mandir, built in the Indian architectural style, is not just a structure of stone and spires but a beacon of spiritual oasis amidst the sandy desert of the Arabian peninsula.
“The idea of the germinated from our Guru Maharaj ji Sankalp in 1997, while he was touring the UAE. His devotees took him to the deserts of Sharjah and requested him to bless the land. He took off his shoes and said that a grand temple would be constructed in Abu Dhabi,” BAPS volunteer Ashwini told India Today TV.
“It all started from there,” he added, saying that the story is also depicted on the walls of the temple.
The scenes from Ramayan are also engraved on the walls of the temple, including the one where Sabri feeds Lord Ram half-eaten berries and those of the 14-year exile of Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman.
“The temple is constructed using stones from Bharatpur, while the carvings on them were done in Bhilwara in Rajasthan,” Lalbhai Brmhabhat, a construction volunteer told IndiaTodayTV.
Along the ‘Walk of Harmony’, surrounding the temple, is the depiction of “dozens of world civilisations”. Stories of harmony and values are carved all over the outer walls of the newly constructed temple.
A building adjacent to the temple is also coming that will be a resting place for pilgrims and other associated activities. This building has elements of Arabian and Islamic architecture.
While the outer walls of the temple are made using sandstone from India, the interior, made of white Italian marble, is adorned with intricately designed and carved columns and walls.
“It doesn’t matter which part of the world you are from, you walk along the wall and will find some part of your culture,” a BAPS volunteer told IndiaTodayTV.
Speaking of the construction, approximately Dh400 million (around Rs 700 crore) was spent on the making of the BAPS Hindu Mandir. The premises of the temple along the Abu Dhabi-Dubai Highway have seven towering spires (shikhara) representing each Emirate of the UAE.
The architecture, a fine specimen of Hindu stone architecture, is devoid of steel for the erection of the structure.
“It is an ingenious use of science and technology, where carved stones are put together like a jig-saw, and then the gravity pulls them into place,” Vishal Patel said.
He calls it “a revival of technology and civilisation”.
The BAPS Hindu Mandir is more than an architectural marvel.
The temple’s dimensions are impressive, standing at a height of 32.92 meters (108 feet), with a length of 79.86 meters (262 feet) and a width of 54.86 meters (180 feet). Hand-carved by Indian artisans and assembled in the UAE, the temple covers about 55,000 square meters of land.
In the last 3 years, over 2,000 artisans from Rajasthan and Gujarat have carved the 402 white marble pillars for the temple.
To commemorate an event as special as the inauguration of the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi, a ‘Festival of Harmony’ is also being celebrated. The 12-day-long festival will include programs centred on strengthening belief, instilling communal involvement, and fostering unity amongst all.
As the temple prepares to open its doors, the inauguration event, “Ahlan Modi (Hello Modi),” is anticipated to be the largest community reception for an Indian Prime Minister overseas, with nearly 40,000 people expected to attend, the temple will stand tall as a symbol of religious and cultural harmony.