x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Diwali: Thousands of Hindus in the UAE celebrate the festival of lights

The Hindu temple in Bur Dubai had one of the largest numbers of visitors all year on Sunday for the third consecutive day.

Thousands have attended prayers at the Hindu temple in Bur Dubai. Jaime Puebla / The National
Thousands have attended prayers at the Hindu temple in Bur Dubai. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // They came in their hundreds, a long line of men and women carrying garlands of flowers as religious offerings.

On Sunday, for the third day in a row, the Hindu temple in Bur Dubai was packed.

Prakash Chhabra, a priest at the temple, said 25,000 people attended Diwali prayers on Friday.

“We’ve had many, many visitors,” Mr Chhabra said on Sunday. “We’re still expecting thousands more to come.”

The temple comprises two separate shrines, one dedicated to Shiva and one to Krishna.

They are joined by a narrow alleyway – just wide enough to put a hand on each wall with your arms outstretched – but at least three disorganised lines of people cram through it.

One line is heading towards the Shiva temple, another to the Krishna temple, and the third trying to buy religious ornaments, incense and other items from the shops that line the corridor on both sides.

Pujas, or ceremonies, are held throughout the day at the temples, but even when their inner doors are closed many hundreds still gather outside to prostrate themselves.

“It is a very special day for Hindus,” said Ashok Sharma, who lives in Abu Dhabi. “Today we just come to give thanks to our lord and pray for good luck through the year.”

He said Hindus did not have a religious duty to pray on Diwali day but doing so would bring benefits.

“Today is the most important day to visit the temple,” said Ganesh Iyer, who owns a nearby business.

“However, not everyone has a public holiday today, so many people came at the weekend. That’s why there were more people on Friday and Saturday than there are today.”

The evening puja, which has the most significance on Diwali day, was held a little later than normal yesterday because of a solar eclipse.

Although Dubai only caught the tail end of the eclipse, the temple was closed until 8pm, when the astral event ended.

Mr Chhabra said the belief was that prayers said during the eclipse would have the opposite effect.

The evening celebration involves lighting lamps in every home to welcome the goddess Lakshmi, and it is for this reason that Diwali is known as the “festival of lights”.

It is a five-day festival starting with Dhanteras, which was on Friday this year. It is considered auspicious to buy gold and jewellery on that day.

A shop assistant in Sky Jewellery, in Meena Bazaar, said sales were high on Friday. The price of gold has dropped this year, about Dh10 a gram cheaper than last year.

“There were a lot of things that made sales so high this Dhanteras,” said the sales assistant.

“For one, it was on a Friday when everyone is off. It was also at the start of the month after everyone had gotten paid.

“In addition the price of gold is less expensive this year. Altogether it made our sales very high.”

Sanjay Patel, who lives in Sharjah, said he would spend the rest of the week visiting friends and family.

“This is the time of year where we all meet up,” Mr Patel said. “It’s a time for families, where we put on our best clothes and light as many lights as we can.”