A large pink lotus stretches and unfurls across the central dome of a Dubai temple that is preparing to open to the public on October 5.
Sunlight filters through the large 3D-printed installation that dominates the skylight in the main prayer hall of the temple in Jebel Ali.
The main interior and exterior work is complete, with intricate marble pillars in place decorated with hand-carved elephants festooned with flowers and bells.
This fusion of tradition and modernity makes the temple unique as it enters the final stretch of preparations to welcome thousands of visitors a day.
As the finishing stages are added and workers polish walnut doors, organisers have introduced a booking system to manage the crowds expected to stream in from October.
All visitors, including worshippers, residents and tourists, can choose a date and time for prayer or viewing on the temple website, www.hindutempledubai.com
“It’s an amazing feeling to open the doors to everyone, to see this come to life and deliver something we had a vision of three years ago,” said Raju Shroff, a trustee of Dubai’s Sindhi Guru Darbar temple trust, which oversees construction and running of the temple.
“Exactly two years after our construction began, we are excited to invite everyone to come in with a booking through a QR code on our website.
“People can book slots for the opening and for entry thereafter. We are doing this purely to control the crowds.
"We know that a lot of people are anxious to visit the temple and we would like to do this in a systematic way for everybody to enjoy the experience.”
Tens of thousands expected to visit
The trust also manages one of the oldest temples in Dubai.
Discussions are being held with authorities about whether the small temple that opened in 1958 will continue to operate in Bur Dubai, or remain as a heritage landmark as worship moves to the Jebel Ali temple.
Weekend numbers often cross 30,000 people with more than 100,000 Hindu worshippers visiting the Bur Dubai temple for festivals such as Diwali.
The spacious temple in Jebel Ali is likely to draw even bigger crowds.
Visitors have been urged to use the Metro and feeder buses as parking spaces are limited.
The temple shares a boundary wall with a Sikh gurdwara and is in a neighbourhood with six churches, reflecting the UAE's diversity and tolerance.
Another Hindu temple, a traditional structure using stone, bricks and marble, is being built in Abu Dhabi and will be completed by 2024.
In Dubai, architects have designed the striking white construction to stand out with nine soaring brass spires and tall screens with mashrabiya patterns on the exterior.
The earthy-toned lattice screens are inspired by Arabic architecture and weave in Hindu designs.
“We have created a temple that is contemporary and at the same time we wanted it to look and feel like a Dubai temple, hence the mashrabiya look,” Mr Shroff told The National.
“This is a local Emirati element of architecture that we wanted to incorporate. It stands out in the building that also has a sri yantra design which is a Hindu way of looking sciences and geometry.”
The temple will welcome all faiths with community halls, knowledge and culture sections, space that can be booked for weddings and children’s naming ceremonies, and an industrial kitchen on the lower floor.
“The temple will be open to anyone and everyone. People will have weddings, ceremonies and any rituals,” Mr Shroff said.
“The kitchen can serve anybody who plans to have a ceremony here.
"So if somebody wants to have a wedding with a ceremony upstairs but they would like to invite friends and family to a meal, we will be able to serve them.”
Modern temple with 3D-printed lotus
Craftsmen from Makarana in northern India’s Rajasthan state check the marble engravings and watch as workers carefully chip cement from marble contours that wrap around the walls.
Fittings are being hammered in to hang 108 brass bells of varying sizes that will dominate the entrance of the prayer hall.
The central fixture of the hanging lotus was chosen to allow an unrestrained view of the worship area.
Designers used 3D printing to frame the flower, which is made from composite plastic material.
“It’s so big that if we did it in steel or concrete, the weight would force us to have columns to support it,” said Raghav Arora, the temple architect.
“Instead, we modelled it in software and then 3D machines did the work. It will not degrade and is lightweight at about 600 kilograms. Otherwise it would weigh maybe two tonnes.
“It does not need support on the floor and that was the main criteria. The viewpoint should be clear for any visitor, without columns blocking the view.”
A recurring lotus motif is etched on stainless steel railings on the staircase and stunning saffron, sapphire and emerald marble inlay work that decorates the entrance and can be seen across the two-storey structure.
White jasmine plants are being placed in the green areas outside, dotted with plumeria or frangipani trees.
“We went with traditional plants," Mr Aroria said. "The plumeria are also known as temple trees because it is extensively seen in temples in India and the Far East."
The main task in the weeks ahead will be promoting the booking system and speaking to transport authorities to increase the frequency of buses from the Energy and Ibn Battuta metro stations.
“We want people to feel at peace coming here,” said N Mohan, the temple manager. “The QR code system will help us regulate numbers and keep people moving.
“We are doing our best to support people to use public transport to reach here.”
The temple will be open from 6am to 9pm daily and registrations are now open on the website for October.