Officals lay the foundation stone for the temple in Abu Dhabi. WAM
Imran Mojib, Special Correspondent
Construction of the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi started on Saturday with the foundation stone-laying ceremony on the 13.5 acres of land donated by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Thousands of devotees attended the function which was held in the presence of the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills Dr Ahmad Bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, and Ambassador of India to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri.
The ceremony was presided over by Mahant Swami Maharaj, the world-renowned spiritual head of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar-Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), headquartered in India. He is currently on his 11-day visit as a State Guest of the UAE.
His visit reflects the government’s noble gesture towards the Year of Tolerance, as his visit follows the recent visit of Pope Francis. Mahant Swami Maharaj is the spiritual head of over 1,200 mandirs and 4,200 centres of spirituality worldwide and guides the BAPS’ numerous social, spiritual, cultural, educational, health, disaster relief and other activities. He is highly revered among spiritual leaders worldwide.
Prior to the celebration assembly, Mahant Swami Maharaj and the ministers unveiled a Gift of Gratitude, an intricate piece of artwork comprising a base made of pink sandstone – the stone that will be used for building the temple – and metal fins of various sizes forming an image of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The artwork will be presented to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
In a special message, read out by the Indian Ambassador, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said, “When complete, this Mandir will symbolise the universal human values, and spiritual ethos that form a shared heritage of both India and the UAE. The UAE is celebrating the Year of Tolerance. This temple is an expression by the UAE, of their love, friendship and faith in India and the Indian community.”
Speaking on the occasion, Mahant Swami Maharaj thanked the UAE government and Rulers of the UAE, and said, “Right now, peace, love and harmony are all over this campus. We cannot buy peace with money or intelligence. Peace comes to those who love peace. May goodness and peace spread further from here.”
The spiritual leader also emphasised that the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and the government has put a lot of trust in the BAPS and that intense trust is a result of the pure intention of the organisation and the works it has been doing across the world.
Brahmavihari Swami, incharge of the temple project, said that the temple will be a unique architectural feat, built according to the ancient Hindu architecture. Entirely sculpted from stone, every design and feature of the temple – from foundations to flags, pillars to pinnacles – is inspired by nature and identifies with the body of the divine. Every corner and crevice will be intricately hand-carved by hundreds of artisans in India. Once ready and numbered, thousands of such stone pieces will be shipped to the UAE and assembled on site like a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle.
“This magnificent temple shall be a marvel of seven spires and five ornate domes that we hope will serve the UAE and the world for millennia to come. As a place of harmony, it will welcome people of all faiths to experience and understand Hindu culture and spirituality,” he said.
The traditional stone mandir will be enhanced by a multifaceted, multifunctional cultural and spiritual centre. As the largest place in the UAE for people of all faiths to come and experience Hindu culture and religion, the BAPS Hindu Mandir complex will include various facilities to meet the needs of the UAE community. Besides prayer halls, the complex will also have a visitor’s centre, exhibitions centre, learning facilities, play areas for children and youth, garden and water features, a vegetarian food court and a books and gifts shop.
The entire temple campus will cover 26.5 acres of land. Besides the 13.5 acres of land donated for the temple complex, an additional 13 acres of land was donated towards setting up parking facilities for the upcoming temple complex which will be a unique architectural feat and serve as a centre of art, culture and values.
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