Indian priests will chant ancient Vedic verses and offer prayers during a two-hour foundation stone ceremony for the first traditional Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi.
This will be part of the shilanyas or the foundation rites on April 20 to sanctify the pink sandstone that will be part of the base of the temple to be built in Abu Mureikha, near Al Rahba.
The sacred rituals will be conducted inside a large tent that will accommodate about 2,000 people from the UAE and overseas.
The sandstone to be used in the prayer ceremony will be transported to the UAE from India’s Rajasthan state next week.
About 50 sadhus or priests from India will conduct the prayer service to mark the preparation of the 10.9-hectare site for construction of a temple with arched domes and seven spires to represent each emirate.
“The foundation stones will reach UAE within the second week of April,” said a representative of Mandir Limited, which has been legally registered to build and administer the temple.
“The shilas (stones) for the foundation are being transported for the upcoming ceremony. The remaining stone will be shipped once they are sculpted in India. Construction will begin post this event, however, the date for construction has not been set as site facilities need to be established first.”
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance, will be present at the function along with Navdeep Suri, India’s ambassador to the UAE.
The prayers will start early on April 20 and the area will be opened up at 2pm to the public who can make offerings of flowers at the site.
Prayer gatherings will be held in Jumeirah every morning for a week after the foundation stone ceremony and presided over by Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS.
In India, artisans have begun carving models of designs that will be replicated on the shrine’s pillars and columns.
“Procurement of pink stone has begun and sample carving work is currently underway. We anticipate the carving work to begin not too far after the shilanyasceremony,” the temple representative said.
Ornate hand carvings will bring to life messages of peace and tolerance from Indian scriptures to promote inter-faith harmony.
Craftsmen in India will etch the marble and stone panels with motifs of peacocks, trees, flowers, elephants for the structure that will later be assembled in Abu Dhabi.
Intricate architecture draws crowds to the temples run by the Baps Swaminarayan Sanstha, the religious and social organisation that has built shrines in India, the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Africa.
An elaborately etched peacock gate welcomes visitors to the expansive Akshardham temple in New Delhi. Figurines of musicians with classical instruments cluster around Hindu deities and saints nestled in the interior of some 1,200 temples run by the organisation worldwide.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revealed the temple structure last year during an address at the Dubai Opera. Mr Modi had announced the temple plan during his first visit as prime minister to the UAE in 2015.
The land for the temple was granted by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
This edited article first appeared in The National.