Dubai's 'oldest Indian family' talks about old Bur Dubai temple ahead of BAPS mandir opening

He says that there are no differences between UAE nationals and expats in the emirate, making many feel at home

By PTI

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Published: Tue 13 Feb 2024, 3:10 PM

Last updated: Tue 13 Feb 2024, 11:13 PM

As the excitement of a massive new temple in Abu Dhabi builds, an Indian family living here for more than a century, recalling its tryst with temples in Dubai says there is no difference between a UAE national and an expatriate in the Gulf nation.

Deepak Bhatia, whose grandfather Uttamchandan Bhatia (known by the nickname Vattra) reached Dubai in 1920, said: “He grew up with the then UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and they enjoyed the closest friendship.” Bhatia, who is the Managing Director of 'Uncles Shop Building Material Trading' in Dubai, said his family – the oldest Indian family in Dubai – has had four generations living in the Gulf country for nearly 104 years.

“The UAE has been very liberal, and there are no differences ever experienced between a UAE national and expatriates, making it home for many expats who have been living here for decades,” Bhatia told PTI.

According to Bhatia, one of the greatest examples is the oldest Hindu temple in Bur Dubai, which is directly opposite a mosque.

“This is a true example of the people of two faiths performing prayers at similar times in peace and humility,” he said.

“My Late grandfather and another Indian, late Dhamanmal Issardas, were instrumental in acquiring the land for this temple from Late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, making it the oldest temple in this region,” Bhatia said.

“Before building the temple, the land in the 1920s and 30s had some godowns for merchants who conducted various businesses in the Bur Dubai Abra lane and a Gowshala (shed for cows) owned by my Late grandfather and one Indian goldsmith Kanthar Nagi Soni,” he said.

Later, an idol was placed there with permission from the Late Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, he said.

As the population increased, Bhatia’s grandfather approached the ruler for a land grant to build the temple for the community. “I have some old photos in our family archives dated 1936 of the area and the temple land of the current day,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) beginning Tuesday during which he will inaugurate the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi.

Describing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the UAE as "very important" in bilateral ties, the Gulf country's ambassador to India Abdulnasser Alshaali on Monday said this inauguration stood for values of "coexistence, acceptance, and tolerance".

"I'm sure that you will be seeing further areas of cooperation over the coming years...you will see this relationship getting stronger," Alshaali told PTI videos.

The Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) Mandir, the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, is located in Abu Mureikhah near Al Rahba off the Dubai-Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Highway.

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