NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pay a two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) beginning Tuesday during which he will inaugurate the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi. This will be the PM’s seventh visit to the UAE since 2015.
The Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) temple in Abu Dhabi will be inaugurated by the PM on February 14 and it will open for the public from March 1. The complex includes a visitors’ centre, prayer halls, exhibitions, learning areas, sports area for children and youth, thematic gardens, water features, a food court, book and gift shop and other facilities.
As a place of harmony, it will welcome people of all faiths to experience and understand Hindu culture and spirituality, said BAPS.
All you need to know about the temple
On April 5, 1997, devotees took the then president of Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), a Hindu sect within the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj to a desert area in Sharjah, UAE.
Swamishri prayed for peace to prevail everywhere, all religions of all countries to have love for one another, countries to be free of internal enmity and prejudice and wished all nations progress. Of his own accord, he also sent out a prayer for a mandir be built in Abu Dhabi.
Over the next two decades BAPS sadhus and devotees met community and government leaders to seek permission for land to build a mandir as envisioned by Swamishri.
In 2015, the UAE government allotted land for a Hindu mandir. Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly appreciated the move in Abu Dhabi and also posted on social media, “I am very thankful to the UAE Govt for their decision to allot land in order to build a mandir in Abu Dhabi. This is a great step.”
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and Mandir Limited were chosen and entrusted by both governments to construct, develop and administer the mandir project.
After years of dedicated efforts, BAPS Hindu Mandir Abu Dhabi, with seven towers representing the seven emirates in the UAE has come up on that gifted land in Abu Mureikhah, Al Rahba area on the Abu Dhabi-Sweihan-Al Ain Road, close to the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway.
Spokesperson for the mandir explained adhering to the practice of ancient shrines, no iron or steel reinforcements have been used in the construction of this mandir and the sprawling temple has been entirely sculpted from stone. Elaborating on the process, he described, more than 20,000 tonnes of stone and marble have been shipped in more than 700 containers to Abu Dhabi over the past three years. Fly ash has been used to fill up the foundation, thereby replacing 55 per cent of the cement in the concrete mix, making the Mandir eco-friendly and reducing its carbon footprint. To monitor the structure, more than 300 sensors have been embedded at different levels to provide live data of stress, pressure, temperature and seismic events, said the spokesperson.
Planned to be built according to the precepts of the ancient Hindu shilpashastras, the BAPS Hindu Mandir complex, the spokesperson explained, will be a unique architectural feat and serve as a centre of art, culture and values. The exterior of the mandir is made of pink sandstone from Rajasthan and the interior from white marble handcrafted by artisans in India. More than 2,000 artisans in Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat have carved white marble pillars over the past three years etching out intricate designs of peacocks, elephants, horses, camels, the phases of the moon and array of musicians beating the drum or playing the sitar. Every corner and crevice is intricately hand-carved by hundreds of artisans in India. Thousands of such stone pieces have been shipped to the UAE and assembled on site like a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle.
Talking about BAPS, the spokesperson elaborated it is a worldwide community-based and volunteer-driven social and spiritual organization. The Sanstha’s principles were revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830) in the late 18th century and established in 1907 by Shastriji Maharaj (1865-1951). Today, under the spiritual and administrative leadership of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, BAPS serves millions around the world through its 1,200 mandirs, over 3,850 centers and more than 55,000 volunteers.
During PM Modi’s visit to the UAE in 2018, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Prime Minister Modi welcomed sadhus of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha – Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami and Pujya Brahmavihari Swami, and the members of the BAPS Hindu Mandir Committee – Rohitbhai Patel, Ashokbhai Kotecha and Yogeshbhai Mehta. The BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi was officially announced in the royal court in February 2018 and foundation stone laying ceremony was performed in April 2019.
This Mandir has seven shikhars each representing an Emirate of the UAE. The amphitheater, spokesperson explained, will feel like sitting on the ghats of the Indian river – Ganga. A sand dune is being replicated inside the compound. Once inside, visitors will get to see two streams of water that symbolically represent the Ganga and Yamuna rivers in India. A beam of light will represent river Saraswati within the Mandir structure. The etchings also relate teachings from other cultures as a mark of respect for all religions. There will also be value tales from the Arabic region, Chinese, Aztec and from Mesopotamia that show how love is universal across all cultures, emphasised the mandir spokesperson.