30 Hidden Facts About The BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi

Mauktik Dave
6 min readFeb 12, 2024

The BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi is a historic landmark, coined as the “spiritual oasis for global harmony.” This is the first traditional Hindu temple in the Middle East region, which has been built due to the generosity of the leaders of the United Arab Emirates. But the details that went into the mandir are fascinating!

Credit: BAPS

The entire campus includes the traditional mandir, spiritual assembly hall (known as Pramukh Swami Sabha Gruh), visitor center, exhibition on global harmony, reflective gardens, majlis for guests, an amphitheater, a sattvik vegetarian cafe, gift shop, classrooms for youths, a residence for swamis and many more facilities.

Take a look at some of the facts about the mandir itself.

The Vision

  1. His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj envisioned that a mandir be built in the United Arab Emirates while visiting the deserts of Sharjah on April 5, 1997. In remembrance of this prayer, there is a dedicated location when entering the mandir to offer prayers of harmony at the charanavind (footprints) of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
  2. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, donated 13.5 acres of land for the construction of the Mandir in 2015. In 2019, the UAE government provided an additional 13.5 acres of land, totaling to 27 acres.
  3. The chief architect of the project is a Christian Catholic, the chief consultant is a well-wisher, the construction company is led by Parsis, the former project director was Sikh and the supporters of this project come from around the world.
  4. Many researchers have wondered how traditional Hindu mandirs have lasted over thousands of years. 300 sensors have been placed in ten different levels of the mandir and will provide live data to Khalifa University on how the mandir reacts to its environment for the next 50 years to search the structural integrity of the mandir.

The Campus

  1. The buildings around the mandir (such as the assembly hall, exhibition halls, etc.) look rock-like to symbolize the desert. As one enters the campus, the first elements that one notices is the water features and the gardens, which symbolize an oasis. At the center of the oasis is the ornate mandir, which contrasts the simplicity of the buildings around it.
  2. As you enter the main pathway to access the mandir, the first element you will see are three waterfalls, which flow from the eastern point of the campus to the western bound. The three waterfalls represent the three key rivers of ancient India — Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. These three rivers merge to create a confluence of knowledge, known in India as the Triveni-sangam in Prayagraj, in which the mandir rises at the center of the campus.
  3. On the sides of the rivers are the shoe houses to place one’s shoes and coats prior to entering a mandir. Outside of the shoe houses are 96 bells, which symbolize the 96 years that His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the inspirer of the mandir, had lived on this earth.
  4. Under the bells are brass gomukh, or the heads of cows, which are part of the water feature which symbolize the confluence of nature and nurture.
  5. The water feature splits, with the Ganga flowing to the left of the mandir and the Yamuna flowing to the right. The center is a light-up floor in the abhishek mandapam which symbolizes the Saraswati river. Along the water feature on the left side of the mandir is an amphitheater, which is inspired by a traditional Varanasi ghat. This will allow for visitors to sit, relax and reflect while admiring the mandir.
  6. Over 500 different trees and plants have been planted for environmental sustainability and to provide reflective, meditative spaces outdoors.
  7. The tiles used on the exterior pathways of the mandir are nano-tiles, in which you would not feel heat.
  8. In the abhishek mandapam, where devotees can offer a ceremonial bath to the sacred image of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, contains has ceilings that have paintings of the life of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. It also contains soil from the seven emirates and the birthplaces of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the lineage of gurus per the BAPS tradition, symbolizing the harmony of various places.
Credit: BAPS

Constructing the Mandir

  1. Oftentimes, the sand and soil that is dug up for construction cannot be reused due to levels of Sulfur. However, when the sand from the neighboring sand dunes were tested, they contained low levels of Sulfer, which allowed to be re-used in the construction.
  2. Over 30,000 carved stone pieces have come together, which includes 180,000 cu.ft. of Rajesthan pink sandstone and 40,000 cu.ft. of Italian carerra marble.
  3. Over 5,000 artisans from around India breathe life into the stones.
  4. Over 1.8 million bricks have been contributed through the “Brick-By-Brick” initiative to allow for supporters of the project from around the world to lay a brick at the site.
  5. No ferrous metals, such as steel or iron, was used in the building of the mandir. It was built based on the traditional architecture based on the Hindu scriptures, known as the Sthapatya shastra and Vastu shastra.
  6. In addition, there are 7 shikhars (spires), 12 samrans (pyramid spires) and 2 ghummats (domes).

The External Edifice of the Mandir

  1. The base of the mandir has the eight murtis, each symbolizing a value of Sanatan Dharma, such as satya (truth), daya (compassion), ahimsa (non-violence), shraddha (faith).
  2. The jagati-peeth (base of a mandir) houses the sacred images of sages and devotees of Hinduism that exemplify these values.
  3. Standing at 108 feet tall, the mandir has 7 spires, symbolically representing the 7 emirates of the United Arab Emirates.
  4. Each of the spires will house the seven primary traditions of Hinduism from across India — Shri Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj (Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Gunatitanand Swami), Shri Radha-Krishna, Shri Padmavati-Tirupati Balaji, Shri Ayyappa, Shri Jagannath-Subhadra-Balabhadra, Shri Ram Parivar (Shri Sita-Rama-Lakshman-Hanuman) and Shri Shiv Parivar (Shri Umapati-Mahadev-Kartikeyi-Ganesha).
  5. On each spire on the exterior edifice of the mandir, the stories of the deities are carved into the stone. For example, the spire housing Shri Ram Parivar has the carvings of the main stories and values of the Ramayana. This allows for the mandir to become an encyclopedia of the Hindu scriptures for all to become educated on.
  6. Alongside the stories from the Hindu scriptures, the tales from ancient civilizations are also carved in the mandir. such as the stories from Mayan, Egyptian, Arabian, Chinese, European and African civilizations. These stories showcase the universal values that humanity holds so dearly.
  7. In total, there are over 250 tales of various values carved into the mandir. Click here to read about some of those stories on my blog!
Credit: BAPS

The Inside of the Mandir

  1. There are two domes — the Dome of Harmony and the Dome of Peace. The Dome of Harmony symbolizes the five elements that all of humanity shares. Earth is symbolized with grass and cows as well as all the continents of the globe. Water is symbolized with a conch shell. Fire is symbolized by the sun. Air is symbolized by deer. Space is symbolized by the crescent moon from the New Moon to the Full Moon.
  2. The Dome of Peace is in the shape of a lotus, a symbol of purity and divinity with the Hindu deities of the guardians of the directions.
  3. Over 400 pillars, varying from triangle, square and hexagonal designs, house various designs of the stories and symbols of India.
  4. One such marvel is a pillar with over 1,000 miniature pillars carved into the stone. Such designs showcase the mastery of the artisans who have mastered the craft.
  5. The pillars around the sanctum of Shri Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj shows the life the Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Gunatitanand Swami and explain the Vedic philosophy of the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan.
Credit: BAPS

These are just 30 of the many facts and details of the BAPS Hindu Mandir. As the mandir will be inaugurated on February 14th and open to the public on March 1st, let us join in this celebration of global harmony.