The BAPS Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi on Sunday celebrated the Indian festival of lights, known as Diwali, welcoming over 10,000 visitors. Beautiful decorations of coloured powder on the floor (rangoli) welcomed devotees to the temple, adorned with colourful lights and flowers.
The celebrations started at 11.00am with an atmosphere engulfed in traditional festivities, greeting hundreds of dignitaries who joined in the occasion, including Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Tolerance and Co-existence of the UAE.
After lighting a lamp, Sheikh Nahayan wished everyone saying, "May the light of Diwali fill your homes with abundance and bless your relationships with joy and laughter as you share this wonderful celebration. I share in your joy as you rejoice in your victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.
"Diwali is a global celebration that unites people irrespective of religion, culture, nationality or caste. Here in the UAE, Diwali has become an important event that celebrates the culture and traditions of India.
"In the spirit of Diwali, Indians everywhere enrich the world - may this Diwali be a special time of new and rekindled relationships, may this day be a joyous occasion that brings you the upmost peace, may you and your families be blessed with good health, may this Diwali be an opportunity for enriching and enhancing peace, love, tolerance and human fraternity".
Sheikh Nahayan was guided by Pujya Brahmvihari Swami, Head of BAPS Middle East, through the Mandir construction site. Upon seeing the stone structure, carvings and pillars the minister praised the craftsmanship, “this Mandir is going to be iconic and unique. The craftsmanship is intricate and amazing, and the place will help spread global harmony.”
Other dignitaries included Sunjay Sudhir, India Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Jose Aguero Avila, Republic of Paraguay Ambassador to the UAE.
Well-wishers enjoyed an intricate and decorative display of 1,200 food display known as Annakut (a mountain of food), along with a thoughtful exhibition celebrating 100 years of the BAPS spiritual leader – Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
In preparation for the festivities, 400 volunteers, young and old, gave their time to help create decorations, prepare for children’s Diwali, and set the stage for the most significant ritual of Diwali, the ‘Annakut,’ a traditional offering of food to God to celebrate the beginning of the Hindu New Year.
Visitors could witness different, deeply rooted cultural programmes, including devotional songs performed by prominent Indian communities.
Sharing some sentiments from his visit, Sharad Parmar expressed, “My family and I had an amazing time celebrating and visiting the BAPS temple. As we entered the site, we were greeted by courteous volunteers right from the parking lot."
Another visitor Nikita Odedra from London, was particularly impressed with the decorations within the marquee after her first visit to the site with her family. She said, "I am deeply moved after reading detailed history leading up to the construction of the Mandir and the BAPS organisation."
A fun fair area for children was also set up, where they participated in various interactive activities and insightful games.
In keeping with the Diwali and Hindu New Year's sentiments of giving thanks and expressing gratitude, a blood camp was organised in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Blood Bank to allow visitors to support the community and those in need.
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