Swami Brahmaviharidas with Ambassador Sunjay Sudhir at the stone-laying ceremony for BAPS Hindu Mandir, Abu Dhabi, today. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: BAPS Hindu Mandir, Abu Dhabi, marked a significant milestone in its construction journey with the ‘Maha Peeth’ ceremony — laying of the first stone of the first floor of the temple. Thus far, the foundation and the ground floor consisting of 14 layers of stone have been completed and this ceremony marked the start of the next stage in the construction of the temple.

Braving the summer heat, thousands of members from the Indian diaspora in UAE took part in the foundation stone-laying ceremony for the temple, which is on target to open its doors to the community by February 2024, in spite of the delays it faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Swami Brahmaviharidas, head of the upcoming mandir, and Swami Akshaymunidas Swami, who oversees mandir construction overseas, were present at the event, along with more than 500 distinguished guests from the UAE, including Sunjay Sudhir, the Ambassador of India to the UAE, community leaders and members of the congregation.

Tweeting about the day’s event, Sudhir dedicated the temple to harmony and expressed his gratitude to President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the UAE government for their generosity in making this possible. He said: “This is a symbol of the shared vision of UAE’s President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

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The ceremony marks the laying of the first sandstone on the second floor, which will be part of the first sphere of the temple. Image Credit: Supplied

Intricate stone-carved structure

The construction of the first floor of the temple is an important feature as it will shape the ‘Garbhagruha’ (inner sanctum), which is the central shrine that houses the deities. In addition to the intricately stone-carved structure of the temple, the complex is spread over 55,000 square metres of land, which will also include a large amphitheatre, an exhibition hall, a library, a food court, a majlis and two community halls with a total capacity to seat 5,000 people.

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The construction of the first floor of the temple is an important feature as it will shape the ‘Garbhagruha’ (inner sanctum). Image Credit: Supplied

The ‘Maha Peeth’ was carved by artisans in Rajasthan and was consecrated by Mahant Swami Maharaj in India before being transported to Abu Dhabi for the ceremony. Sanskrit verses and hymns were recited in prayer for the successful and timely completion of the temple, which will be open to people of all faiths.

In his remarks following the ceremony, Brahmavihari Swami said: “In addition to laying the stones for a ‘mandir’, each individual must lay a strong foundation of spirituality in their lives to achieve lasting peace and happiness. This ‘mandir’ does not belong to the people who are building it, but to the people who will be using it, visiting it and who will cherish it.”

Swami Brahmaviharidas explains to Sunjay Sudhir some of the intricate stone carvings on the temple's facade. Image Credit: Supplied

Generosity of UAE Rulers

Ambassador Sudhir said on the occasion: “Today is a historic day for us to be a part of. This temple is a symbol of love, harmony and speaks about the generosity of UAE’s Rulers. The stories etched in stone by the artisans and architects will inspire everyone who visits the ‘mandir’. The ‘mandir’ is an example of the commitments of the leaders of the UAE towards building an environment of peace and tolerance and ensuring that all residents of this country feel at home.”

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Ravi Kadam, a BAPS volunteer, remarked: “What a delight it is to be able to witness this temple being built in a city that has been my home for the last 20 years. We can see our dream becoming a reality.”

The ceremony was held in strict adherence with current health guidelines. A medical camp, in collaboration with Aster Hospital, was also arranged on the site to ensure the wellbeing of all guests and visitors.