Sparkling lights, bright flowers and a powerful message of faith bringing people together marked the inauguration of Dubai's new Hindu temple in Jebel Ali Village.
The emirate’s newest house of worship officially opened its doors on Tuesday to interfaith leaders and government officials who joined community members in the marble white temple decorated with colourful strings of marigolds.
Priests chanted “Om shanti shanti Om” in a peace salutation and musicians playing the tabla and dhol — Indian drums — greeted people as they entered.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence; Sunjay Sudhir, India’s ambassador to the UAE; Ahmed Julfar, director general of the Community Development Authority; and Omar Al Muthanna, the authority's chief executive, lit candles to officially open the temple.
They toured the temple along with religious figures representing different faiths.
The opening ceremony marked the celebration of a structure built over the past two years that features detailed hand carvings, ornate pillars, brass spires and striking lattice screens that blend Indian and Arabic architecture.
Sunlight streamed through a massive skylight as visitors walked into the main worship hall that houses 16 Hindu deities adorned with rich silk garments and garlands of flowers.
Raju Shroff, an Indian businessman who led the community project, described it as a modern temple built to last generations.
“This temple is a true representation of how I perceive religion — open to all,” said Mr Shroff, a trustee of the Sindhi Guru Darbar that oversaw the building's design and construction.
“This temple will stand as a true emblem that cultures can unite; harmony can be found and it’s here in Dubai.”
The inauguration was held on the ground floor of the temple, a space that will later be used for chanting sessions, weddings, birthdays, banquets and community gatherings.
“The Hindu Temple Dubai will truly unify the community as well as give them a venue to congregate and celebrate their faith, rituals and ceremonies,” Mr Shroff said.
“We have worked tirelessly to bring together 16 deities that represent Hindus from all across India — ranging from the north to the south. We want this place to be a home of peace and serenity for every single person that walks through those doors.”
He said the temple was made possible with the support of the community and the Dubai government.
The UAE's two Hindu temples are housed inside rooms within old buildings in the historic heart of the city.
Mr Shroff said the dream was to build “a modern temple that was spacious and easily accessible, where young and old generations could learn and practise their faith and which would serve as a hub for the growing community well into the future”.
He called the new construction the “Dubai temple with an Arabian design built for future generations”.
Metal shading on the facade merges Arabic mashrabiya lattice work with Hindu geometric designs.
The Dh65 million ($17.69m) temple is expected to draw 6,000 people daily to the Jebel Ali Village area.
The number of worshippers expected for festivals such as Diwali is over 100,000.
The sandy Jebel Ali tract is often called the emirate’s religious corridor: a low boundary wall separates the temple from the adjoining Sikh gurdwara and the area is also home to six Christian churches.
Mr Shroff referred to the area as a “worship village” that tells a story about collaboration and peaceful coexistence.
“Our children will be the first generation to experience a variety of religious houses in one district,” he said.
“They can walk from the gurdwara to the churches, to the temple as well as the mosques and truly absorb the prayers, blessings and vibrations.
“And with a worship village, generations, nations and history will remember that Dubai is a place that welcomes every person with open arms.”
Mr Sudhir, the Indian ambassador, said the temple serves the religious aspirations of the large Hindu community living in the Emirates.
“We thank the Dubai government for its graciousness and generosity to provide land for the temple and facilitate its construction,” he said.
“We also thank the government of the UAE for providing a second home to 3.5 million Indians where they live and work and contribute to the economy and society.”
The temple opens for worshippers from Wednesday, 6am to 8.30pm, in time for the Hindu festival of Dusheera.
Online bookings are required for entry. Register at the Hindu temple Dubai website to visit or worship.