The intricate pink sandstone and white marble structure, which cost Dh350 million ($95.3 million) to build, will be inaugurated on February 14 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after it is consecrated and blessed by Hindu priests in a ceremony.
The Baps Swaminarayan Sanstha, the organisation that built the temple, described it as a sign of the openness and inclusion of the UAE, its leaders and people.
Harmony and tolerance “is the very soul of this nation”, Swami Brahmaviharidas, head of international relations for Baps, said at the temple site on Wednesday.
He thanked the UAE's leaders for granting permission for the temple to be built.
“It is a place of worship for Hindus but the core idea of the Baps Hindu mandir [temple], as you will understand, is a spiritual oasis for global harmony, to promote harmony on this Earth,” he said.
Swami Brahmaviharidas said the temple would foster peace and also signified the close ties between the UAE and India.
He praised the spirit of acceptance and the example set by UAE Rulers from the Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to President Sheikh Mohamed, who granted land for the temple when he was Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
The swami described the UAE President as a “gentle leader with great space in his heart”. He recounted Sheikh Mohamed's response when he was shown two plans for the temple – one contemporary and the other traditional.
“When we showed him, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, two plans in 2018 of whether to create a Hindu temple that looks like a conventional, normal building or one that looks like a traditional building carved out of stone that will take years to build and that revives 10,000 years of art and culture, very gently he smiled and said, 'Your holiness, if you are building a temple it should look like a temple,'” Swami Brahmaviharidas said.
The temple, in the emirate’s Abu Mureikha area, has been built on what was originally 5.4 hectares of land, that was then increased to 11 hectares to include community halls and parking areas.
Artisans in India's northern Rajasthan state carved sandstone and marble slabs that were then shipped to the UAE and fitted on site. In keeping with ancient Indian temples, iron and steel were not used in the construction, with pillars fitting together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
With two weeks until the opening, cranes and heavy machinery have been removed from the main temple site.
Indian sculptors are carefully finishing the sandstone carvings of Indian deities and elaborate engravings that tell stories from ancient scriptures such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Artisans polish the white marble pillars inside the temple, decorated with rows of musicians, dancers and carvings of sea shells, the Sun and Moon.
The temple’s seven towering brass-topped spires represent the emirates of the UAE.
The main spires will house Hindu deities worshipped by people across India and depict stories from the lives of gods such as Rama, Krishna and Shiv.
Following the February 14 inauguration, the temple will be open to the public from February 18.
Authorities have asked UAE residents to visit from March 1 due to thousands of overseas visitors travelling to the Emirates to view the temple in February.
From February 15 to February 21, a week-long celebration will begin at the temple site, with prayers and talks on harmony and peace.
Visitors must register on the temple website at www.mandir.ae to attend the harmony week celebrations.