• Saturday, April 13, 2024


Indian expats from across the globe volunteer at Abu Dhabi Hindu temple

This picture taken in Abu Dhabi on February 14, 2024 shows preparations ahead of the arrival of the Indian prime minister for the inaguruation of the BAPS Hindu Mandir, the largest Hindu temple in the Middle East. (Photo by Ryan LIM / AFP) (Photo by RYAN LIM/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

A pregnant technology professional residing in Sydney, a couple from Boston, and a school teacher from the UK were among the numerous Indian expats from around the around who travelled to the UAE last year. Their journey aimed to participate in seva (service) at the first Hindu stone temple under construction in Abu Dhabi.

Their joy knew no bounds on Wednesday (14) when the temple was inaugurated by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi.

Right from sorting stones to cooking meals, documenting the progress, outreach programmes to supervising the unloading of shipments, the volunteers took up different responsibilities.

34-year-old Sheena Patel, a software engineer in Sydney, wanted to do something meaningful during her pregnancy.

She moved to the UAE to volunteer at the under-construction temple.

“My family was very apprehensive…initially, I came here for four weeks and haven’t returned then. I delivered my son here only and my husband joined me in my eighth month, we will go back to our Sydney lives in March now,” Patel said.

Aastha Thakker, who lives in Boston with her husband, spent last year working remotely for her employer in the US.

“I would manage time between the seva and my work. My husband is here too, when we heard about the temple, we knew we had to do it. It is our way of thanking God for the blessings,” she said.

A maths teacher from the UK is on a sabbatical and has been in Abu Dhabi for two years.

“Looks like there is no going back for me. It was a proud moment for us yesterday. I have seen the temple rise from scratch in the middle of a desert. My family used to be worried about finances when I decided to do so but once God chooses you for something like this, everything finds a way,” Umesh Raja said.

For Devansh Bhatt, a banker in Ahmedabad, the last one-and-a-half month has been divine.

“I couldn’t come earlier because of commitments back in India so I decided to be here on New Year and have been volunteering since. The temple was in the final stages of construction then,” he said.

The temple has been built by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha on a 27-acre site in Abu Mureikhah, near Al Rahba off the Dubai-Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Highway.

The land for the temple was donated by the UAE government.

The UAE has three other Hindu temples that are located in Dubai. The BAPS temple, spread over a large area with stone architecture, will be the largest in the Gulf region.


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