BAPS Hindu Mandir Shines as Symbol of Indian Civilisation in Arab Land

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The invitation for the inauguration ceremony of the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi proclaims the temple to be “a lotus in the desert”. Who would have thought a century ago that Arabs will be open to the idea of a grand temple on their soil? The tables, however, have turned.

India is a changed nation. It no longer holds dear ideas imposed on it by its erstwhile colonial and Islamist occupiers. Today, it is emerging as a country rooted in its ancient Sanatan culture.

The most recent example of this shift, of course, was the ‘pran pratishtha’ at the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir in Ayodhya. That Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the yajman of the ceremony depicts how far India has come.

India’s civilisational glory and cultural ethos are no longer a taboo for those in power. In fact, what is being seen is an open embrace of Bharat’s ancient culture at the government level. The BAPS Hindu Mandir also stands as testimony of the UAE’s own remarkable journey.

By far the most modern, tolerant and inclusive country in the Arab world, the UAE is today a shining example of what a modern Arab state can look like. It need not be theocratic and follow an exclusivist brand of politics and governance, but can, in fact, embrace all cultures and faiths despite the state religion being Islam.

From the word go, when UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan gifted land for the temple, to now, when the prime minister has inaugurated it during a special visit to the country – the common conversation has been that of India’s expanding civilisational footprint and influence. It is about the strong ties between India and UAE, and how Prime Minister Modi has heralded a new era in ties between India and the Arab world at large.

Above all, though, the inauguration of the BAPS temple in Abu Dhabi is a big deal and marks the arrival of a new strand of Indian diplomacy on the world stage. Mind you, this will be the biggest Hindu temple in the Gulf region.

After yoga and other pillars of soft power going global, the fact that a Hindu temple in Arab land is dominating the airwaves is a big statement of India’s expanding cultural and civilisational footprint in the world. Important to point out here is the fact that Indian leaders of the past – those held captive by the West’s notion of secularism – would have shirked the idea of inaugurating a Hindu temple in India, leave alone one in the UAE.

That the PM readily accepted the invitation to inaugurate the BAPS Hindu Mandir and chose to fly down to the UAE, captures how India has built a formidable relationship with Abu Dhabi. The irony, however, of a grand Hindu temple there is hard to miss.

For centuries, India has been attacked, looted, plundered and desecrated by Islamist conquests and empires. The forced proselytisation of innumerable Hindus during the Mughal period using unspeakable methods of force is well documented. The most prominent and revered of Hindu temples were razed to the ground, and alien structures built over them during Islamist rule over India.

While violence, torture and desecration of Bharat’s faith had become the norm in centuries gone by, the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi offers no less than poetic justice to Indian civilisation. Where once, in the Arab world, no faith but Islam was allowed, today, Hindu temples are taking shape and being inaugurated by PM Modi. I repeat, the tables have turned and so has the ‘kaalchakra’.

In India, where destroying Hindu temples and places of worship of other Indic faiths was once a regular affair, today, a journey of reclamation has begun. And while tearing down Hindu temples was always a violent affair meant to establish the supremacy of a particular faith over the other, the building of a Hindu temple in the UAE sends out a message of harmony, peace and unity.

In fact, the pivotal theme of the BAPS mandir, where multiple Hindu deities will now be worshipped, is harmony. The contrast between what India has gone through, and what it is now offering to the world is stark.

As a victim of brutal ethno-religious conquests, India is today taking the message of Sanatan Dharma around the world, including the Gulf. The significance and underlying message can simply not be emphasised enough.

The BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi not only marks a historic milestone in India’s cultural diplomacy but also symbolises a profound shift in global perception of Indian civilisation. It stands as a testament to Bharat’s unapologetic embrace of its ancient heritage and Sanatan culture, challenging past impositions and fostering a new narrative of inclusivity and harmony.

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