Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 August 2019

A temple that stands testament to tolerance

The UAE's first traditional Hindu temple is symbolic of religious coexistence

Its scale is matched only by the intricate level of detail that will go into its construction. With pink sandstone from Rajasthan and marble carvings worked on by 2,000 craftsmen in India, the foundations of the UAE’s first traditional Hindu temple were laid yesterday, in a ceremony that served as a potent symbol of the nation’s values of tolerance and religious harmony. When senior Hindu priest Mahant Swami Maharaj stepped onto the runway at Abu Dhabi International Airport, to be greeted with a warm hug by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Tolerance, it set the tone for a remarkable meeting of minds and the beginning of an ambitious project which will not just give the UAE’s 490,000 Hindus an awe-inspiring house of worship but serve as a magnet for followers of the faith around the world.

Yesterday’s stone-laying ceremony was attended by 2,500 worshippers from around the globe, who joined ministers, diplomats and priests in observing rituals to bless the newly consecrated ground. The temple, on a vast 55,000 square metre plot donated by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, will eventually feature seven spires to represent the emirates, five arched domes, a visitor centre and ornate reliefs featuring scenes from nature. It will serve both as a respite for Hindus living here and abroad, and as a community centre for the UAE and beyond. As a monument, it will be a marvel to behold but beyond that lies its real purpose: as a temple to tolerance and peaceful coexistence. The country is already home to a diverse mix of houses of worship, with its multitude of mosques sitting alongside Sikh gurdwaras, Hindu shrines and a small synagogue. This diversity reflects the many religious communities that live side by side here in the UAE and shows religious freedom and tolerance are at the core of the country’s values.

This is a particularly pertinent message when Indians are entering the second phase of a presidential election, whose build-up has been marred by religious tensions and divides. Clashes between Hindus and Muslims are anathema in the UAE, where events such as the foundation-laying ceremony in Abu Dhabi remind us that spirituality is a uniting force, not an excuse to pit communities against each other. The colourful celebration involving people of all faiths is testament to the fact that harmony and understanding are a far more powerful force than hatred and division, and will always prove triumphant in the long run.

Updated: April 21, 2019 09:04 AM