The UAE unveils the Middle East’s inaugural stone-built Hindu temple, just in time for Modi’s upcoming visit.

In Abu Mureikha, United Arab Emirates, a remarkable sight emerges: the first stone-constructed Hindu temple in the Middle East, adorned with intricate carvings of deities and devotees, rises majestically from the desert landscape. The imminent opening of the BAPS Hindu Mandir reflects the UAE’s strides in acknowledging the diverse faiths within its expatriate community, primarily composed of Indians who have long played significant roles across the nation, from construction sites to corporate boardrooms. Notably, the temple’s seven spires pay homage to the UAE’s seven sheikhdoms, symbolizing unity in this autocratic federation on the Arabian Peninsula.

Moreover, the temple serves as a testament to the deepening ties between the UAE and India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit underscores this closeness, coinciding with his seventh trip to the Emirates ahead of elections in India. He aims to bolster business, defense, and cultural relations while strengthening his bond with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whom Modi regards as a brother. This visit holds significant weight, as Modi’s decision to prioritize the UAE amidst his pre-election schedule underscores the paramount importance of this bilateral relationship for India.

Nestled amidst the barrenness of Abu Mureikha, where the UAE’s sheikhdoms once convened in 1976 to establish a unified military, the Hindu Mandir stands as a beacon of architectural beauty. Constructed using pink sandstone imported from India’s Rajasthan state, the temple boasts Italian marble interiors, a testament to meticulous craftsmanship. While smaller Hindu temples have long existed in the UAE, the BAPS Hindu Mandir distinguishes itself by adhering to traditional building techniques, eschewing modern steel beams for intricately carved stones that interlock like pieces of a puzzle.

The temple’s exterior tells a story through stone dioramas, beginning with a historical moment in 1997 when a Hindu leader, sheltered under an umbrella in the sands of Sharjah, advocated for a temple in Abu Dhabi. The narrative concludes with a depiction of the UAE’s present-day diversity, encapsulating the essence of coexistence and tolerance. Indeed, the temple’s design incorporates symbols from various ancient civilizations, including Egyptian and Mayan, alongside architectural elements inspired by Islam, the UAE’s official religion, to convey a message of inclusivity.

As construction overseer, Pujya Brahmavihari Swami aptly expresses, harmony is the cornerstone of a prosperous future. With over 3.5 million Indian expatriates residing in the UAE, forming the largest demographic group, the temple symbolizes the enduring cultural and economic ties between the two nations. Modi’s visit underscores the historical and economic bonds shared between India and the UAE, from centuries-old trade routes to present-day bilateral agreements aimed at enhancing trade and cooperation across multiple sectors.

However, beyond economic considerations, the burgeoning relationship between India and the UAE underscores a strategic realignment in the geopolitical landscape. As India navigates complex domestic and international dynamics, the UAE emerges as a crucial ally, exemplified by joint military exercises and shared security concerns. Modi’s rapport with Sheikh Mohammed further solidifies this alliance, fostering trust and cooperation on critical issues.

The construction of the Abu Mureikha temple, spearheaded by the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), exemplifies the organization’s commitment to spiritual and civic endeavors. Despite allegations of labor exploitation at a BAPS temple in the United States, the temple in Abu Mureikha underscores the values of volunteerism and selfless service, embodied by its dedicated volunteers preparing for Modi’s visit.

In conclusion, the BAPS Hindu Mandir stands as a testament to the enduring friendship between India and the UAE, transcending borders and cultural differences. As the temple’s doors open to worshippers, it symbolizes not only religious diversity but also the shared values of tolerance, cooperation, and mutual respect that underpin the thriving partnership between these two nations.

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