Incessant downpours and cold weather couldn’t deter the spirits of devotees who turned up in numbers for the region’s first ‘yagna for global harmony’ – a sacred ritual of making offerings into the fire, at the historic BAPS Hindu Mandir (temple) in Abu Dhabi.

The Vedic ceremony presided over by Mahant Swami Maharaj, the present spiritual guru of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, was held as part of an ongoing 12-day ‘Festival of Harmony’, celebrating the opening of the region’s first traditional Hindu stone temple.

‘Swaminarayan Vishwa Samvadita Mahayagna’, the ritual, was held outside the temple in an open area. A steady downpour ahead of the start of the ceremony saw devotees take shelter in nearby stalls. However, as soon as announcements were made for the start of the yagna, one by one, senior citizens started stepping out to partake in the ceremony. Younger family members and children followed. Soon, the designated area was packed with about 980 devotees.

In a nearly two-hour ceremony, there was a downpour of varied intensities and a surprise dip at the time for the lighting of the fire. Soon all fire pits were blazing, and religious fervour peaked.

Dubai-based couple Sunita Bhatia and Gopal considered the occasion and challenging situation as a blessing.

“The downpour even paused for 30 minutes as we lit the ‘yagna havan kund’, amplifying the event's auspiciousness and blessings,” said an emotional Sunita, who attended with her family and sister.

Alert volunteers were at the beck and call to assist the devotees have a smooth ceremony, often even lending a helping hand to people to perform a particular ritual.

Mala and Ramesh lauded the support offered by assigned volunteers to help devotees.

“Gathering as a family, we cherished the creation of lifelong memories. Experiencing the yagna amidst the rain was an enchanting blend of serenity and mysticism, with the gentle patter of raindrops harmonising with the Vedic mantras, and the scent of the sacred fire enhancing the ambiance,” Mala said.

Doctor couple Ananth Pai and Surekha Kalsank Pai from NMC Royal Hospital, DIP, were ecstatic to be part of the historic occasion. “This was an unforgettable experience,” they said.

Meanwhile, Upasana Thaker, who has come from Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat to volunteer during the ‘Festival of Harmony’, was beaming with pride and joy seeing a successful conclusion to the ceremony. “The rain was unexpected, but we quickly held a team meeting under the guidance of Pujya Brahmaviharidas Swami [BAPS Mandir project head]. He told us not to worry. And soon devotees surprised us by braving all odds to participate in full strength and make this ceremony a success.”

The ‘Festival of Harmony’ commenced on Saturday with ‘Bhakti Tula’, a sacred ceremony, which brought together hundreds of devotees and well-wishers to express their devotion to Lord Swaminarayan, the founder of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.

On Wednesday morning, ‘Murti Pratishtha’, the consecration ceremony of deities, will be performed by Mahant Swami Maharaj. By evening, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will officially open the Middle East’s first traditional Hindu stone temple.

Thereafter, the festival will be marked with different themes until February 21, including harmony, civilisation, peace, gratitude, values, and inspiration.

The BAPS management has requested the general public to visit the temple from March. Entry is by prior registrations done through the official website or the ‘Festival of Harmony’ app.


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