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Kiwi-Indians Cheer On As BAPS Hindu Temple Opens In Abu Dhabi

A group of Kiwi-Indians witnessed the opening of the iconic new BAPS Hindu Temple in Abu Dhabi on February 14, 2024, by His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, UAE’s Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan.

The new temple, constructed on land gifted by the UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was guided and inspired by His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS).

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The temple is the first traditional Hindu stone temple in the Middle East, and stands as a testament to the enduring friendship between India and the UAE, embodying the spirit of cultural inclusivity, interfaith harmony, and community collaboration. 

BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is an international community-based Hindu fellowship affiliated to the United Nations, caring for individuals, families and societies through its more than one million members, 80,000 volunteers and 5,025 centres.

A contingent of Kiwi-Indians travelled to witness the momentous occasion. Jainesh Patel from Auckland was there. "Long had we heard stories of its inception, described as a 'lotus in the desert'. Indeed, this description became vividly real as we approached the temple grounds. 

“From a distance, as the face began to emerge against the horizon, its lotus unfolded before our eyes, a symbol of beauty, love, faith, and service. 

“It became clear that every element of its construction narrated a rich tapestry of values, wisdom, and universal truths derived from diverse faiths around the globe."

Another devotee from Auckland, Siddarth Doshi, said, “We left the temple with hearts full of gratitude, inspired by the message of unity and peace that it embodies—a true gift to mankind.”

On the day of the inauguration, Prime Minister Modi was warmly welcomed by community members from across India and the UAE, as well as religious leaders from diverse faith communities. 

Inside the temple, upon seeing His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, Modi bowed respectfully to the global Hindu leader, before participating in a short Vedic ceremony paying homage to the seven Hindu deities enshrined under the seven spires of the temple, themselves reflecting the unity of the seven emirates of the UAE. 

His Holiness and Modi then conducted the first grand arti (ceremony of light) of the deities – which was simultaneously performed by thousands at BAPS temples and homes across the world, with millions more watching online through the live webcast.

After meeting volunteers, children, artisans and others from all over the world who have supported the construction of the temple, Modi carved ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ into a piece of stone. The message of ‘the world is one family’ has been the foundational principle of the temple, guided by the life and work of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj.

In his keynote address, said, “Today, the UAE has written a golden chapter in the history of humanity through this Mandir.

“The BAPS Hindu Mandir is for all of humanity. So I have every faith that the Mandir will usher in a new age of faith and hope, bringing the whole world together in harmony and collaboration.

“The magnificent Mandir that we see today in Abu Dhabi is because it was first envisioned years ago [in 1997] by Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Today, Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s heart will be glowing with joy at its fruition.”

The prime minister then requested a standing ovation from the audience as an expression of heartfelt gratitude to Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

In his blessings, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj emphasised the importance of the new Mandir as “an abode of love, peace and harmony.” He then explained, “Harmony can be achieved when we do not expect harmony from others, but instead when we strive for harmony ourselves. For that, we must ask ourselves what can I do, what can I say, and what can I think to nourish harmony?”

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