Thousands of Indians on Saturday rejoiced and participated in the foundation stone laying ceremony of the first Hindu temple in UAE's capital Abu Dhabi.
Mahant Swami Maharaj, spiritual head of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar-Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), which is constructing the temple, presided over the four-hour ceremony following which sanctified bricks were placed at the main pooja sthal (place of worship).
Indian Ambassador to UAE Navdeep Suri read out Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement on the occasion, congratulating the Gulf nation for this initiative.
"On behalf of 130 crore Indians, it is my privilege to convey our greetings to my dear friend and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan," Suri quoted Prime Minister Modi as saying.
When complete, this temple will symbolise the universal human values and spiritual ethos that form a shared heritage of both India and the UAE, he said.
Suri said that the temple embodies the timeless Vedic values of Vasudev Kutumbakam, the whole world is one family.
"I am sure this temple will be a source of inspiration for the 33 lakh Indians residing in the UAE as well as of people from all other cultures," Suri quoted Prime Minister Modi as saying.
The plan to build the temple in Abu Dhabi was approved by the Abu Dhabi government during Modi's first visit to the country in 2015.
Priti Vaishnav, education and development expert, termed the temple as a well-deserved recognition of a thriving Indian community in the UAE.
"This will also serve as a great venue for tourism from all over the world as these temples spearheaded by BAPS are amazing pieces of architecture as well as famous for their larger than life manifestation," Vaishnav said.
The temple will be a cultural complex with art gallery, halls, library and gym. It will comprise of seven towers representing the seven emirates in the UAE and come up on a 14-acre piece of land at Abu Mureikhah, close to the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway. The stones for the temple will be carved by temple artisans in India and assembled in the UAE.
Bindu Suresh Chettur, prominent Indian lawyer, said this is a welcome development for the 3.3 million Indians living in the UAE and that it will help enhance people-to-people contact.
"This country has always been a role model when it comes to giving respect to everyone. This step will further boost the relations between the two countries. Also, the BAPS temple architecture is very unique so it will add to the long list of marvellous architectures in the UAE," Chettur said.
Sajeev Purushothaman, spokesperson of the NRI cell of Bharatiya Janata Party, said, It's very significant and symbolic in this year of tolerance (being marked in the UAE). This temple is not just a place of worship, it is a place for human development and harmony to be created among communities.
"Just after the Pope's visit (to the UAE), we have BAPS spiritual guru poojya mahant Maharaj Ji and being NRI, we are proud of this temple and request all NRIs to be a part of the making," he added.
Sheikh Nahyan Mabarak Al Nahyan received Swami Maharaj and his delegation of Hindu priests at Al Maktoum International Airport on Thursday.
While interacting with Sheikh Nahyan, Swami Maharaj prayed for the good health and the prosperity of the rulers and people of the UAE.
Swami Maharaj is the Spiritual Head of over 1,200 temples and 4,200 centers of spirituality worldwide. He guides the BAPS' social, spiritual, cultural, educational, health, disaster relief and other activities.
He is the sixth and present spiritual guru of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.