Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 May 2019

Everything we know about the UAE's first traditional Hindu temple

Thousands of people are expected to gather for the foundation stone ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Saturday

The ritual of shilanyas - or the laying of the foundation stones - for the UAE’s first traditional Hindu temple will take place on Saturday.

Worshippers and members of the royal family are expected to be among the thousands to gather in Abu Dhabi to watch the two-hour ceremony.

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.

Here is everything we know so far:

What does shilanyas mean?

Shilanyas is a sacred Hindu ritual where the foundation stones are sanctified and fixed in the ground as the base for a temple. The structure’s foundation is then built on these sacred stones.

Where will the temple be located?

The temple will be located on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi city, to the north of the airport and off the main Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway in Abu Mureikha, E11, Exit 366.

India's ambassador to the UAE described it "beautifully located - 30 minutes outside of Abu Dhabi and barely 45 minutes to Dubai so it serves the needs of both communities".

How big is the site?

The temple will be constructed on 5.5 hectares, 55,000 sq m, of land with an additional 5.5 hectares for parking.

The land was a gift from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

What will the temple be made of?

Pink sandstone from India’s Rajasthan state and marble will be used. The materials will be handcrafted in India by about 2,000 craftsmen.

The durable stones from the northern Indian state were selected for their ability to withstand scorching summer temperatures of up to 50°C, sometimes experienced in the UAE.

The pink sandstone used to build many of Jaipur’s palaces, including Hawa Mahal, above, gives the city its nickname. Getty Images
The pink sandstone used to build many of Jaipur’s palaces, including Hawa Mahal, above, gives the city its nickname. Getty Images

The sandstone was used to build many of Jaipur's palaces, including Hawa Mahal.

What will the temple look like?

Swami Brahmavihari, a senior Hindu priest handling international relations for Baps Swaminarayan Sanstha, the organisation building the temple, 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.

BN6TX8 The largest Hindu temple outside India, The Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden, London, United Kingdom.
The largest Hindu temple outside India, Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden, London.

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.

A unique feature will be seven spires to represent the emirates and five arched domes.

India's ambassador to the UAE has compared the style to Neasden Temple in London, rather than a modernist-style building.

When will be it be ready?

When the temple was first announced it was said that construction would be completed by 2020, though it is not clear if that has been pushed back. The Indian ambassador Navdeep Suri last month predicted "it will take a couple of years to complete given the scale".

What else can visitors and tourists expect to see?

It will include a visitor’s centre, prayer halls, exhibitions, learning facilities, play areas, thematic garden with water features, a vegetarian food court, a books and gift shop.

Who can visit?

People of all faiths can use assembly halls to celebrate festivities.

A Pakistani Hindu couple at a mass wedding ceremony in Karachi, on March 19, 2017. Some 62 Hindu couples participated in the ninth mass-marriage ceremony organised by Pakistan Hindu Council, as part of the Holi celebrations. Asif Hassan / AFP
A couple pictured at a mass wedding ceremony. Asif Hassan / AFP

Visitors will be encouraged to engage in dialogue to understand spirituality in multi-purpose halls.

Traditional Hindu marriage ceremonies will also be conducted.

What books will the library hold?

A Library of Values will contain books on peace, spirituality and global inclusiveness.

Who is responsible for the temple?

Baps Swaminarayan Sanstha is the religious and social organisation building the shrine.

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , OCT 17 – 2017 :- People buying decorative items for the Diwali festival near the Hindu temple in Bur Dubai in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National)
Worshippers buy decorative items for Diwali close to Bur Dubai's small Hindu temple. Pawan Singh / The National

It manages a global network of Hindu temples in cities that include London, Houston, Sydney, Auckland, Nairobi and Toronto.

How many places of worship exist in the UAE?

Apart from many mosques, there are about 40 churches, two Sikh gurdwaras, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two small Hindu shrines in Dubai and a small synagogue also in Dubai.

For more information about the temple, visit the website, www.mandir.ae

Updated: April 21, 2019 07:31 AM

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