This was a momentous week for the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi. On 8 September, Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami and Brahmavihari Swami led 500 devotees, well-wishers and construction professionals in a special mahapuja to bless the first marble pillars of the BAPS Hindu Mandir.
Devotees arrived with their families for a 5:00 p.m. start to the puja ritual. After prayers led by the swamis, Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami, Brahmavihari Swami, Munivatsal Swami and members of the BAPS Hindu Mandir Board of Directors climbed to the second floor of the mandir, to the gateway of the main shrine. Here, after the ceremonies, the swamis and the Board placed the base of the first marble pillar of the mandir on the right side of the doorway. Thereafter, Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami poured the cement to fix the first stone of the main shrine’s spire or shikhar. The devotees seated in the assembly hall witnessed these moments live and applauded the start of the next stage of the mandir’s construction.
On the evening of 10 September, at 5:00 p.m., ministers from the UAE and Abu Dhabi governments joined Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami, Brahmavihari Swami and over one thousand devotees and well-wishers to celebrate the mandir’s construction progress and conclude the ritual of 8 September of placing the preciously carved main section of the mandir’s first pillar.
The evening assembly, centered on the concept of harmony, began with traditional prayers and bhajans. Munivatsal Swami then discoursed on how we may bring greater harmony to our homes. As the assembly proceeded, HE Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade; HE Mr. Sunjay Sudhir, Indian Ambassador to the UAE; HE Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Community Development (DCD); HE Tayeb Al Kamali, Ministry of Interior and senior members of the DCD including Mr. Mubarak Al Ameri arrived on the mandir site. The ministerial delegation was personally guided through the Rivers of Harmony exhibit by Brahmavihari Swami. Ambassador Sudhir and members of the ministerial delegation appreciated the fact that even though the mandir was still under construction, the community and spiritual activities of the mandir had already begun.
After reviewing the exhibition, the delegation assembled to watch a short video on the journey of the mandir’s inception, design and construction. Having fresh views of the masterplan, the delegation continued to the mandir steps. Along the way, noticing how so many had been inspired to carry bricks to the mandir by an image of Bhagwan Swaminarayan performing the seva in Gadhada, members of the delegation volunteered to carry bricks to place on the mandir’s plinth.
Arriving at the mandir, the delegation placed their bricks on the first floor of the mandir and continued to the second floor mesmerised by volume and scale of the metal-free stone structure rising before them. Joining Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami at the doors of the main shrine, the minsters joined hands with Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami and Pujya Brahmavihari Swami to place the main body of the marble pillar and complete the ritual begun two days prior.
As the delegation made its way to the external facade of the second floor, HE Dr. Mugheer Al Khaili noted that swamis and mandirs like these were like ambassadors of culture and universal values. Here, the delegation was amazed by the inspiring life stories of Bhagwan Swaminarayan delicately carved in the pink sandstone exterior. Brahmavihari Swami also highlighted that this mandir, a true spiritual oasis for global harmony, has enhanced tradition to include not just elephants but also Arabic fauna like horses, camels and oryx. Impressed with the intricate carvings of the mandir, the delegation wholeheartedly met and congratulated the craftsmen behind the monumental work. After discussing their good spirits, wellbeing and magnificent work, the delegation requested to take a picture with the devoted craftsmen.
On entering the assembly hall, the ministerial delegation was welcomed by Brahmavihari Swami with garlands. Ever respectful of elders and traditions, the ministers put aside their protocols and welcomed Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami by assisting him to his seat at the center of the dais.
Thereafter, HE Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi addressed the audience and shared the governments’ support of this project and to the environment of tolerance in the UAE. “As long as the UAE shall exist, it shall be a place where each of its residents will be able to practice their faith in peace.”
HE Sunjay Sudhir expressed his joy at seeing children in the assembly and noted, “Even while meeting Dr. S. Jaishankar on his transit to Riyadh, we spoke about this mandir. How special it is to see such dedication and devotion... it’s the greatest thing to give one’s time and energy – shramseva.... This project is not just being closely monitored by the governments of India and the UAE but is being watched by the world.”
Brahmavihari Swami thanked all the guests, shared their personal contributions to this project and remembered the consistent vision, support and guidance of HRH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Hon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, HRH Sheikh Abudullah bin Zayed al Nahyan and HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan.
Finally, blessing the assembly, Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami shared that this mandir would inspire generations of visitors and, because of its timeless carvings and the fact that it is located in Abu Dhabi, this mandir will forever be one of a kind.
At the reminder of HE Dr. Mugheer, each guest was then tied a nadachhadi as a symbol of friendship with a prayer for their health and protection. This evening event celebrated a new dimension of harmony of art, hearts and minds.