The foundation stone of the UAE’s first traditional Hindu temple will be laid in a shilanyas ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Indian priests will offer prayers and sanctify pink sandstone slabs that will form the base of the temple to be built in Abu Mureikha, near Al Rahba during the two-hour ceremony.
“The stone ceremony is a community event that symbolises the spiritual harmony that exists within the UAE,” said Swami Brahmavihari, a senior Hindu priest handling international relations for Baps Swaminarayan Sanstha, the organisation building the temple.
“The ceremony also illustrates that the rulers of the UAE view every soul living within the country as equal and who are free to practice their faith freely and openly.”
Hand carved from pink sandstone by craftsmen in India and assembled in the UAE, the shrine is expected to be ready by next year.
Swami Brahmavihari said the doors of the stone and marble temple will be open for traditional wedding ceremonies for Hindu couples and celebrations of festivities of people of all faith.
The shrine, with seven spires representing the emirates, will be a universal place of worship, he said.
There are more than 40 churches in the UAE, a Sikh gurdwara and two small Hindu shrines tucked inside buildings in Bur Dubai.
Hindus hold wedding ceremonies in the Sikh gurdwara, in homes, hotels or travel back home. The opportunity to host marriages inside a temple is seen as unique by the community.
“Just as it’s important to have your parents present, it will be invaluable to get the blessings of our gods and deities when you get married,” said Sonali Patel, who has lived in Dubai for 16 years.
“We will have the opportunity to do this in the country we consider home. For us having the temple here is like marrying of the two cultures because our ceremonies can take place here.”
Similar to 1,200 temples built by Baps across the world, the shrine will reflect nature with trees, flowers, peacocks and elephants carved into the panels and Hindu deities and saints within the structure.
The priest described the temple as “the largest place in the UAE for people of all faiths to come and experience Hindu culture and religion.”
“Every carving will have a meaning and showcase stories of harmony and spirituality,” he said.
The 10.9-hectare site of the temple was a gift from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and reflected the spirit of the founding father Sheikh Zayed, organisers said.
“The significance is tremendous as it will provide a community home to Hindus and Non-Hindus alike,” Swami Brahmavihari said.
“We have thousands of Hindus living within the UAE that have settled from countries all over the world who can now celebrate their faith in a temple that is of similar stature to that of their home countries.”
The temple will also house a spiritual and cultural centre to showcase Hindu heritage and engage visitors in identifying challenges of the future.
“The UAE has a long-standing history of taking historic steps to promote peace and harmony,” he said.
“This time, the rulers of UAE have gone a step further by providing land to build a traditional Hindu temple.”