The United Arab Emirates is in the midst of building one of the largest Hindu temples to be constructed in the country. The place of prayer will be in the city of Abu Dhabi and the first pillars and foundations of the temple have already been built. The building is modelled on the temples of India, which will be replicated as closely as possible to the ancient buildings of this religion, and will not use any iron structures for its construction.
The authorities in charge of the construction have invited any follower of the Hindu religion, visitors or any Emirati citizen to come to the construction site and leave their proof of good fortune for the time being. There, citizens are taking it upon themselves to pray to all the bricks that will be used and long queues are forming to participate in the project. In addition, for those devotees who are unable to visit the construction site, visits to the temple have been arranged via telematic means on Fridays from 10am to 2pm.
"The importance of this ceremony is that it allows one to really be a part of history in the making," said Ashok Kotecha, chairman of the BAPS Hindur Mandir, which is overseeing the construction of the ceremony site.
Residents of the city are taking it upon themselves to participate in a ceremony that apart from providing good luck for the edification, signifies the coming together of the diverse cultures and religions spread across the nation. "The thoughts, love and good wishes of visitors are captured in this ceremony and will allow their presence to transcend through the passage of time as the temple stands firm for completion," added Kotecha.
Dozens of people are participating in the project and several media outlets are echoing the thoughts of the citizens who are wandering around the site. An exhibition area has also been set up so that visitors can learn about the history of the site and Emirati history together. The National News, one of the nation's leading newspapers, interviewed a Malaysian family living in the Gulf country, who have come to the site to offer their faith with 40 family members and friends.
"We feel blessed to have the opportunity to be part of the historic event of building a temple. For me, this signifies the integration of the oldest civilisation and tradition, in the form of a temple, with the diversity and inclusiveness of the UAE," said Gopi Krishnan Venugopal, the interviewee.
The Emirati media journalists had the opportunity to watch as they showed their devotion to the construction and witnessed the ceremony. Venugopal's companions set up a tent in which they joined in and recited various prayers. Their ritual was based on the sprinkling of flowers and vermilion, a red powder, which is typical of the Indian religion and which the citizens sprinkled on the bricks as a symbol of good omen. Afterwards, each of them took the responsibility of moving the used bricks to their rightful place. My prayers are for safe construction, thanking the rulers of the UAE for giving us this land," said Venugopal.
Prayers could also be heard for an end to the pandemic and for all people to feel safe and confident to return to the normalcy that has been taken away from them.
The shrine is scheduled for completion in 2023, and when finished, it will become the largest Hindu temple in the UAE. The first three layers of carved stone are already in place and are sourced from India, where each has been hand-carved by local craftsmen. The temple will have five ornate domes and seven spires, representing the seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates. Inside, it will embody ancient Hindu stories in its architecture and will feature several rooms such as prayer halls, an amphitheatre, a community centre, a library, a children's play area and parks, as well as a food court.