Twinkling lights, bright flowers and a powerful message of faith that brings people together marked the launch of Dubai’s new Hindu temple in Jebel Ali Village.
The emirate’s new house of worship officially opened its doors on Tuesday to religious leaders and government officials who joined members of the public in the white marble temple decorated with marigold-colored threads.
Priests chanted “Om shanti shanti Om” in a peaceful greeting and musicians playing tabla and dhol – Indian drums – greeted people as they entered.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence; Sunjay Sudhir, Indian ambassador to the UAE; Ahmed Julfar, director general of the Community Development Authority; and Omar Al Muthanna, the authority’s chief executive, lit candles to officially open the temple.
They visited the temple together with religious people representing different faiths.
The opening ceremony marked the celebration of the structure built over the past two years which has elaborate hand carvings, decorative pillars, bronze spikes and lattice screens that blend Indian and Arabic architecture.
Sunlight streamed across the vast sky as visitors entered the main shrine housing 16 Hindu deities decked out in stunning silk robes and garlands of flowers.
Raju Shroff, an Indian businessman who spearheaded the community project, described it as a modern temple built for the last generations.
“This temple is a true representation of how I see religion – open to all,” said Mr Shroff, a trustee of the Sindhi Guru Darbar who oversaw the design and construction of the building.
“This temple will stand as a true symbol that cultures can unite; compromise can be found and it is here in Dubai.”
The inauguration took place on the ground floor of the temple, a space that will later be used for singing sessions, weddings, birthdays, parties and community gatherings.
“The Hindu Temple Dubai will truly unite the community as well as provide them with a place to gather and celebrate their faith, traditions and festivals,” Mr Shroff said.
“We have worked tirelessly to bring 16 deities representing Hinduism from across India – from north to south. We want this place to be a home of peace and tranquility for everyone who walks through those doors.”
He said the temple was made possible with the help of the community and the government of Dubai.
Mr Shroff’s family helped build a temple in Bur Dubai in 1958 and asked the philosophical authorities for a chance to build a bigger place of worship to serve the growing community.
The UAE’s two Hindu temples are housed in rooms inside old buildings in the heart of the historic city.
Mr Shroff said the dream was to build “a modern temple that was spacious and accessible, where generations of young and old could learn and practice their faith and which would serve as the center of a growing community well into the future”.
‘Village of Worship’
He called the new construction “Dubai’s Arabic-style temple built for future generations”.
The metal shading on the facade combines the lattice work of Arabic mashrabiya with Hindu geometric designs.
The Dh65 million ($17.69m) temple is expected to draw 6,000 people daily to the Jebel Ali Village area.
The number of worshipers expected for festivals like Diwali is more than 100,000.
The sandy path of Jebel Ali is often called the religious belt of the emirate: a low boundary wall separates the temple from the adjacent Sikh gurdwara and the area is also home to six Christian churches.
Mr Shroff described the area as a “village of worship” that tells a story about cooperation and peaceful coexistence.
“Our children will be the first generation to have different religious houses in one district,” he said.
“They can walk from gurdwaras to churches, to temples and mosques and actually receive prayers, blessings and vibrations.
“And for the village of worship, generations, nations and history will remember that Dubai is a place that welcomes everyone with open arms.”
Mr Sudhir, the Indian ambassador, said the temple serves the religious needs of the large Hindu community living in the Emirates.
“We thank the government of Dubai for its grace and generosity in providing land for the temple and facilitating its construction,” he said.
“We also thank the UAE government for providing a second home to 3.5 million Indians where they live and work and contribute to the economy and society.”
The temple is open to worshipers from Wednesday, 6am to 8.30pm, in time for the Hindu festival of Dusheera.
Online booking is required to enter. Register on the Hindu temple Dubai website to visit or worship.
Updated: October 05, 2022, 7:06 AM