Abu Dhabi: The first batch of hand-carved pink sandstones for building the UAE’s first traditional Hindu temple has arrived at the temple site in Abu Dhabi from India.
Over 40 containers carrying 750 tonnes of carved and semi-carved pink sandstones have arrived at the temple’s site in Abu Mureikha with many hundreds more to come over during the next couple of years, the management of the BAPS Hindu Mandir said in a statement to Gulf News on Sunday.
Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) said the mandir (temple) will now begin taking shape on top of the five-metre plinth which was completed last month.
“In the coming months, visitors to the Expo 2020 Dubai will be able to see the ground floor of the temple being assembled,” it added.
More than 2,000 sculptors in India have been engaged in making the intricate hand carvings of the pink sandstones for the temple complex, the construction of which is expected to be complete in 2023.
Officials from the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) and Indian missions in the UAE recently visited the site and joined a ceremony held after the arrival of the sandstones for the temple construction.
On Saturday, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, attended a webinar hosted by the temple, as the guest of honour.
COVID-19 challenges, relief works
Speaking on the occasion, Sheikh Nahyan said: “Our world is going through a period of great unpredictability where the COVID-19 pandemic and its challenges have created many challenges for the world.”
“Today we express our solidarity with India and with all countries of the world in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We are confident that our shared interests and common values of unity, human fraternity and international cooperation will continue to work together to improve the human conditions around the globe.”
During the webinar, the temple management also announced an update about the COVID-19 relief efforts in India spearheaded by the volunteers and priests of BAPS.
In the last few weeks, they have been able to provide a lifeline of oxygen in India, said Swami Aksharatitdas of BAPS Hindu Mandir.
“They have been able to send more than 132 metric tons of liquid oxygen to serve thousands of people across India. They have sent more than 2,000 oxygen cylinders and over 1,000 oxygen concentrators that have found their way to 235 medical clinics across the country,” he said.
Talking about the topic of the webinar ‘Leading Consciously,’ Sheikh Nahyan said effective leadership requires the ability to anticipate and deal with challenges.
He cited the successful model of leadership exemplified by the founding father of the UAE late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who converted the challenges he faced, into opportunities for the betterment of the country.
A video of the UAE’s foreign ministry officials and top Indian diplomats reviewing the progress of the temple was also screened during the webinar.
The Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor said the construction of the first traditional Hindu temple in the UAE is a national project.
“This is a national project, not just for the UAE, but for the government of India, and it is contributing to both India and the UAE and to the bilateral relationship,” he said.
“This is a project that was initiated with the support of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi as well as His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and this project will continue with their blessings,” the envoy said.
“To see the amazing progress that has been made despite the times of COVID-19 is extremely reassuring and encouraging,” he added.
The Consul General of India in Dubai, Dr Aman Puri said the UAE stands tall as a symbol of tolerance, inspiring the entire world.
“This project is a milestone in the UAE-India relationship, and it is due to the vision of the leadership here in the UAE supported by the Indian community here… What is happening here in the UAE is an example for the entire world.”
Spreading global harmony
Leading the webinar, Swami Brahmaviharidas, who heads the BAPS Hindu Mandir, said conscious leadership is about changing outlooks and leading consciously is also about regenerating life’s beliefs, goals and dreams.
He pointed out that one of the dreams of Sheikh Zayed was to see a country which lives in harmony, to create tolerance as part of duty, to generate coexistence and remind people that you maybe of different cultures and countries but you can live together.
“This life belief of Sheikh Zayed has been instrumental in turning the UAE into a country where more than 200 nationalities live and prosper,” he said, adding that the temple is doing its bit in generating global harmony while being located in the UAE.
“Imagine a Muslim King donating land to a Hindu temple where the lead architect of the entire complex is a Christian Catholic, where the chief consultant is a Chinese of perhaps no religion, but just dedication, where our project manager is a Sikh and our construction company is Shapoorji Pallonji – Parsis.”
Meanwhile, Michael Magill, the lead designer and managing director, RSP, the designing firm, said: “It’s really an emotional moment to actually see the space and the sheer scale of the temple itself and to see the beautiful intricate carvings of the stone that has come all the way from India.”
“Bringing all these together today is really a historic moment…and it just shows you the start of what is going to be achieved over the next two or three years which we are all very excited with today to see it come to life,” he added.