Hundreds of people have gathered at the site of Abu Dhabi's first traditional Hindu temple to offer prayers for the construction.
Priests chanted Sanskrit verses during an hour-long puja or prayer on Friday to mark the start of building work on the first-floor level.
More than 500 people including worshippers, community leaders, and officials such as Sunjay Sudhir, Indian ambassador to the UAE, offered flowers during the ceremony.
Called the mahapeeth pujan, it marks the placing of the first stone of the inner sanctum, the central shrine that will house the deities.
Intricately carved marble forms of deities will be installed on this level. The main spire will soar to about the level of first floor of the temple.
“In addition to laying the stones for a mandir, each individual must lay a strong foundation of spirituality in their life to achieve lasting peace and happiness,” said Swami Brahmaviharidas, head of Baps Hindu mandir project.
“This mandir (temple) does not belong to the people that build it but rather to the people that use it, visit it and cherish it.”
Mr Sudhir said the temple was a symbol of harmony.
“Today is a historic day for us to be a part of,” he said.
“This temple is a symbol of love, harmony and speaks to the generosity of the UAE’s rulers. The stories etched in stone by the artisans and architects will inspire everyone that visits the mandir.
“The mandir is an exemplary example of the commitments of the leaders of UAE towards building an environment of peace and tolerance and ensuring that all residents of this country feel at home.”
Land for the temple was given to the Indian community seven years ago by President Sheikh Mohamed.
Residents from all faiths are invited every Sunday between 10am to 4pm to be part of prayers and a brick laying ceremony at the site in Abu Dhabi's Abu Mureikha district.
These handmade clay bricks will then be used in the temple construction.
A sample of towering elaborate marble carvings of Vishnu, the Hindu deity associated with preservation and protection, can also be seen on the site.
The ground facade consists of 14 layers of stone and is decorated with motifs of leaves, trees and flowers. The next levels will be filled with sculptures of deities and carvings of dancers, musicians, peacocks, camels and horses.
Granite and pink sandstone from India's western Rajasthan state has been used in a traditional layered construction style that does not involve steel, iron rods or reinforced cement.
People of all faiths are invited to the country's first traditional Hindu stone temple, which will open in 2024.
The temple complex covers 55,000 square metres and will include an amphitheatre, exhibition hall, majlis, community centre, library and play areas for children.