The United Arab Emirates has been celebrating 2019, ‘The Year of Tolerance’, in its pure spirit, starting with welcoming Pope Francis, organising World SpecialOlympics Games, largest Humanitarian games, organising free medical check-ups in religious institutions and now by building the nation’s first Hindu temple. Saturday was a big day for the UAE Hindu community, comprising about 60,000 people. The nation laid the foundation stone of its first Hindu temple in the Bu Marikha area on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai Highway. The two-hour long ceremony was attended by thousands of worshippers, members of the UAE Royal family and others including Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Dr. Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, and Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha – the religious and social organisation building the temple, along with Navdeep Suri, Ambassador of the Republic of India to the UAE.
The temple complex comprising 5.5 hectares of land, along with additional 5.5 hectares for parking, was a gift from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. The spiritual home brings much respite to the nation’s Hindus as they don’t have to fly down to India for marriage or religious ceremonies. The temple complex is believed to have an art gallery, exhibition hall, library, gym, vegetarian food court, amphitheatre, sports area, prayer halls and more facilities. The temple is also said to have intricate architecture and delicate carvings, most of which would be handcrafted by 2000 artisans in Rajasthan, India and would be shipped to UAE. The temple which would be a replica of the Akshardham temple in Delhi and another BAPS temple in New Jersey would have seven spires representing UAE’S seven emirates.
Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, the chairman of the Department of Community Development-Abu Dhabi said, “Regulating the establishment of places of worship in the UAE is an insightful step by the government of the UAE to ensure the freedom of religion for all those living in the UAE while meeting their religious needs in line with the laws and regulations applicable in the UAE as well as the country’s customs and traditions.” Dr Al Khaili added, “The Founding Father, late Sheikh Zayed, always believed that co-existence between peoples of various religious beliefs and nationalities is the only way to establish international peace.” The recent visit of the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to UAE was the first time when he talks of building the temple were initiated. It would definitely boost the relations between the two nations.