Representatives from 42 nations convened at the expansive 27-acre construction site of the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi, at the invitation of the Indian Embassy in the UAE, on Monday 29 January 2024. The visit served to foster intercultural understanding, goodwill and respect while providing the distinguished guests an opportunity to witness the ongoing progress of the Middle East’s inaugural traditional Hindu temple, symbolising the universal principles of tolerance and harmony.
Ambassadors and senior diplomats from Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chad, Chile, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, the European Union, Fiji, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Moldova, Montenegro, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, the UAE, the UK, the US, Zimbabwe and Zambia were among those who visited the Mandir site.
Over 60 dignitaries were welcomed with garlands and greeted with the traditional tying of a sacred thread, marking the significance of their presence.
The international diplomats had been invited by His Excellency Sunjay Sudhir, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE. In a brief welcome address, Ambassador Sudhir thanked the distinguished guests for attending and shared his excitement at the Mandir nearing completion. “It seemed impossible, but the dream has truly become a reality.”
In his keynote address, Swami Brahmaviharidas, head of the BAPS Hindu Mandir project, provided a succinct overview of the Mandir’s historical significance, construction process, and global impact. He also expressed gratitude to both the UAE and Indian leadership, emphasizing the Mandir’s role as a powerful agent of interfaith and intercultural harmony.
H.E. Tej Bahadur Chhetri, Ambassador of Nepal, called the Mandir a “tirthbhumi (place of pilgrimage)”, adding: “It is an inspiring building that teaches us about love, harmony and tolerance. It is something that we will gift to our future generations. Mahant Swami Maharaj is a great sadhu. Because of him, people were inspired to build this mandir, and it is a huge success.”
H.E. Radha Krishna Panday, Ambassador of Canada, shared, “Dedication to quality, the artistry, the thought that went into the choice of images to celebrate the diversity and harmony of human nature is all very striking and most appealing.”
H.E. Sorayut Chasombat, Ambassador of Thailand, stated, “This is one of the best experiences I have had in the UAE. I have seen [the Mandir] from the start to now near the finish, and I have to say it is the symbol of harmony that will stand the test of time for thousands of years into the future. I wish to express my gratitude to the leadership of the UAE, the leadership of India, and [Mahant] Swamiji for bringing forward this big project for humanity.”
Jonathan Knight, Deputy Ambassador of the United Kingdom, said, “It’s wonderful to see a place that’s been contributed by so many different faiths coming together to build something that will last for generations. My hope is this building provides a home away from home.”
H.E. Alexander Schoenfelder, Ambassador of Germany, shared, “We have the Grand Mosque in the UAE, we have the Abrahamic Family Houses in Abu Dhabi, and now we have this wonderful place. I think it is very clear that we live in a country where religious tolerance is really lived.”
H.E. Kamal R Vaswani, Ambassador of Singapore, hailed the Mandir as a marvel of leadership and vision and a testament to the human spirit. He added, “There are many commonalities among all of us, values depicted around the temple shared between many different religions, cultures, and faiths. It is a wonderful symbol of how we can live together in peace and harmony.”
To commemorate their visit, each guest was presented with a beautiful stone hand-painted by children featuring an image of the Mandir.
The ambassadors’ visit was a significant step in promoting peace, fostering cultural interaction, and strengthening diplomatic ties between the participating countries and the United Arab Emirates.
As construction of the religious campus nears completion, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are scheduled to inaugurate the Mandir on 14 February 2024.