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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Pink sandstone from India’s Rajasthan selected for Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi

The material can withstand the very high temperatures seen in the UAE capital

Abu Dhabi's first Hindu temple will be inspired by temples like the Akshardham shrine in New Delhi. Reuters
Abu Dhabi's first Hindu temple will be inspired by temples like the Akshardham shrine in New Delhi. Reuters

Tonnes of pink sandstone will soon be shipped from northern Rajasthan to Abu Dhabi, where it will make up the outer structure of the country’s first traditional Hindu temple.

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

Marble from Europe may also be used to build the temple, a committee member told The National.

Construction is scheduled to begin at the end of the year on a 13.7-acre plot of land at Abu Mureikheh, off Sheikh Zayed Road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

“Testing of the stones is under way and their source has been identified. The choice of stones from Rajasthan in India was made because they will last longer,” said the committee member, who did not wish to be named.

The ornate hand carvings on the exterior of the temple and its pillars will include local features from the UAE.

“Normally, our temples have three or five shikhars or spires, but here it will be seven to represent the emirates of the UAE. There will also be some other elements from the UAE, like representing the local flora and fauna,” the temple committee member said.

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

“The idea is that this temple is not only for Hindus but a centre of harmony for people of different faiths from all around the region and the world.”

People have already begun donating time and money to the project. Its website, www.mandir.ae, launched last month to keep the public updated on progress.

While workmen and carpenters have offered to volunteer their time in construction, businesses in the UAE have come forward to donate materials.

Hundreds of UAE residents gathered for prayers and Diwali celebrations last week at a site near the planned temple complex where a model of the structure was displayed. The residents brought more than 1,200 home cooked meals and some carved food designs of Dubai landmarks.

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“It was amazing to see the mandir plans and layout. It looks like such an intricate structure. This was the first time we were seeing the model up close, so far we have only seen pictures in the newspapers,” said Vaishali Chabbria, who will donate food for workers once construction begins.

Two Indian sadhus — or holy men — spent a week in the UAE last month with local experts and architecture consultants to finalise the layout.

Plans for the temple, with seven spires and five arched domes, were revealed in an announcement by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to the UAE three years ago.

The foundations for the shrine were laid during a ceremony in February which was live streamed into Dubai Opera where Mr Modi was addressing Indian residents.

The land for the shrine was granted by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

As many as 3,000 artisans and volunteers are expected on the Abu Dhabi site when construction begins. The project was planned by the organisation BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and the non-profit company Mandir Limited has been legally registered to build, manage and administer it.

As per the UAE’s laws on donation, permission was obtained from the Ministry of Community Development to collect contributions towards the project in the country and overseas.