A shining monument of harmony

The Mandir is poised to emerge as a must-visit destination for both devotees and admirers of art and architecture

By Issac John

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The inauguration of the iconic Mandir is being celebrated through the ‘Festival of Harmony’.
The inauguration of the iconic Mandir is being celebrated through the ‘Festival of Harmony’.

Published: Wed 14 Feb 2024, 12:27 PM

The grand opening of BAPS Hindu Mandir marks a momentous milestone that will go down in history as a shining testimonial to tolerance and communal harmony, proclaiming the deep-rooted and enduring relations between the UAE and India.

Exuding a spell-binding magical aura that happens when two cultures converge, when “craftsmanship meets devotion, and when a sacred space is created for all to share,” the Mandir resplendent in its lotus-inspired design epitomises the spirit of multi-cultural and multi-religious harmony, inclusivity, beauty and reverence.

Deemed an oasis of enlightenment, where people from all walks of life, regardless of their beliefs or backgrounds, can gather to find solace, inspiration, and a deeper connection to the spiritual world, the Mandir is poised to emerge as a must-visit destination for both devotees and admirers of art and architecture. In all its imposing grandeur, the serene place of worship amid the dunes stands as a symbol of tolerance and communal harmony, reflecting the values of the UAE and the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha community.

Resonating with the sublime values of tolerance, peace and harmony the UAE seeks to promote, Abdulnasser Alshaali, UAE’s Ambassador to India, has described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to the UAE for the inauguration of the Mandir as a “special occasion that aligns with the values of tolerance and acceptance that guide our bilateral ties.” The envoy said the Mandir opening is a monumental occasion to "celebrate tolerance and acceptance."

Welcoming the BAPS spiritual leader Mahant Swami Maharaj to Abu Dhabi last week, Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance for the UAE, has said, “Welcome to the UAE. Our nation is blessed with your presence. We are touched by your kindness and we feel your prayers.'”

Swami Maharaj responded, “We are touched by your love and respect. The leaders of the UAE are great, good, and large-hearted.”

The inauguration of the iconic Mandir is being celebrated through the ‘Festival of Harmony’ – a series of uplifting programmes and community events focused on strengthening faith, mobilising community service, and inspiring harmony among people of all generations and backgrounds, the BAPS, a socio-spiritual Hindu faith with its roots in the Vedas, has said in a statement.

Prime Minister Modi’s UAE visit is his third in the past eight months and the seventh since 2015. He is holding bilateral meetings with President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to discuss ways to further deepen, expand and strengthen the strategic partnership between the countries and exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Over the past decade, the UAE and India have made remarkable bilateral strides, solidifying their strategic partnership across various sectors. Under the leadership of Modi, India, the fifth largest global economy, has achieved phenomenal progress in trade, business, investment, and security cooperation with the UAE.

One of the major achievements in the UAE-India partnership is the exponential growth in trade. In the past ten years, bilateral trade between the two nations has more than doubled, reaching a staggering $85 billion in 2022-23. This growth can be attributed to the establishment of the UAE-India High-Level Joint Task Force on Investments, which has facilitated the removal of trade barriers and the promotion of bilateral investments. Additionally, the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) in 2020 has further enhanced trade relations by reducing tariffs and facilitating smoother trade flows.

The Mandir's design is a fusion of traditional Hindu architectural elements and modern aesthetics.
The Mandir's design is a fusion of traditional Hindu architectural elements and modern aesthetics.

The business sector has also witnessed significant advancements in the UAE-India partnership. The UAE has emerged as one of the largest investors in India, with investments exceeding $10 billion in sectors such as infrastructure, energy, and real estate. This influx of UAE investments has not only contributed to India's economic growth but has also created job opportunities for the Indian workforce. Furthermore, Indian businesses have also made their mark in the UAE, with several Indian companies establishing a strong presence in sectors such as information technology, healthcare, and hospitality.

In terms of investment, the UAE-India partnership has seen remarkable strides. The UAE's sovereign wealth funds, such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Mubadala Investment Company, have made substantial investments in India's infrastructure projects, including the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF). These investments have not only provided much-needed capital for India's development but have also strengthened the economic ties between the two nations. Additionally, the UAE's investments in India's renewable energy sector have played a crucial role in India's transition towards clean and sustainable energy sources.

The strategic partnership between the UAE and India extends beyond trade and investment, encompassing security cooperation as well. Both nations have recognized the importance of maintaining regional stability and combating terrorism. In 2015, the UAE and India signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement, which included cooperation in areas such as defense, counter-terrorism, and intelligence sharing. This partnership has been instrumental in enhancing the security of both nations and the wider region.

In the field of defence, both nations have collaborated closely They have conducted joint military exercises, exchanged defence delegations, and collaborated on defence technology. This cooperation has not only strengthened the defense capabilities of both nations but has also fostered a deeper understanding and trust between their armed forces.

Another significant milestone in the UAE-India partnership is the strong people-to-people ties. The UAE is home to a large Indian diaspora, with over 3.6 million Indians residing in the country. These expatriates have played a crucial role in the UAE's economic development and have contributed significantly to the remittance inflows to India. The UAE has also been a popular destination for Indian tourists, with millions of Indians visiting the country each year. This cultural exchange has further strengthened the bond between the two nations.

The sprawling stone structure is an eloquent testament crowning the past ten years of remarkable bilateral strides between the UAE and India across key sectors including trade, business, investment, and food security.

In a region known for its diverse population, the Mandir stands as a symbol of unity and acceptance. It is a reflection of the UAE's avowed principle of embracing different cultures and religions. Standing at an impressive 108 feet tall in Abu Dhabi, not only is the first of its kind traditional temple in the UAE but is also the largest in the Middle East. Built at an estimated cost of Rs7 billion, this architectural masterpiece promises to take forward the partnership to a realm that transcends the mundane bilateral ties.

With its hand-carved sculptures and a treasure trove of immersive stories, the Mandir located in the Abu Mureikheh Area, along the Al Taf Road and a 30-minute drive from the main island, is an architectural marvel that has the potential to become a spiritual oasis of harmony. The structure stands majestically with its seven towering spires representing UAE’s seven emirates and two magnificent domes on 27 acres of land donated by the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The Mandir's design is a fusion of traditional Hindu architectural elements and modern aesthetics. It seamlessly blends ancient techniques with contemporary materials, resulting in a breathtaking masterpiece. The intricate carvings, ornate details, and vibrant colors make the BAPS Mandir a sight to behold. One of the most striking features of the temple is its grand entrance, known as the Mahamandap. This majestic gateway is adorned with intricate carvings. The attention to detail is awe-inspiring, with every inch of the entrance showcasing the skill and artistry of the craftsmen involved in its creation.

As it opens its doors to the public, the Mandir is expected to become a center for spiritual enlightenment, cultural exchange, and community engagement. It will serve as a place where people from all walks of life can come together, connect with their spirituality, and appreciate the beauty of Hindu temple architecture.

Founded on the pillars of practical spirituality, the BAPS, envisioned by Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830) in the late 18th century and established in 1907 by Shastriji Maharaj (1865-1951) reaches out far and wide to address the spiritual, moral and social challenges and issues we face in our world. Its strength lies in the purity of its nature and purpose. BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals. Its universal work through a worldwide network of over 3,850 centers has received many national and international awards and affiliation with the United Nations. Today, a million or more Swaminarayan followers begin their day with puja and meditation, lead upright, honest lives and donate regular hours in serving others.

For decades, Hindus in the UAE have nurtured their faith through weekly satsang assemblies, gatherings dedicated to prayer, spiritual discourses, and community building. These assemblies, further strengthened by regular visits of spiritual leaders from India, provided a sense of belonging and shared purpose. “It was within this fertile ground of devotion and community spirit that the dream of a mandir truly blossomed, a BAPS release said. A defining moment arrived in February 2018, when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, generously gifted a plot of land, demonstrating the UAE's unwavering commitment to interfaith dialogue, the release said. This gesture, further strengthened by Modi's launch of the project at the Dubai Opera that same month marked a historic chapter in interfaith relations,” the statement added.

— issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

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