The colourful Hindu festival of Diwali-Annakut 2019 was inaugurated by His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Cabinet Member and Minister of Tolerance, on Friday, 1 November 2019 at 10.45 a.m. on the site of the upcoming BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Murreikah. This devotion-filled community event embodied the UAE’s vision of tolerance, harmoniously bringing people of countless nationalities together to collectively celebrate Diwali and the Hindu New Year.
H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan was warmly greeted and honoured by Pujya Anandswarup Swami, Brahmavihari Swami, Dr. B R Shetty and other prominent leaders of the community. Festive gifts were given to the visiting devotees by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Community Development.
Among the many guests present for the opening, there were over 300 distinguished Emirati and Indian dignitaries, including H.E. Sultan Al Dhaheri, Executive Director, Department of Community Development; the Consul General of India, Shri Vipulji; and senior representatives of various Indian communities.
H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan spontaneously addressed the assembly with his generous words:
“Greetings and a very Happy Diwali to all of you. May the lights of Diwali fill your home with abundance and bless your relationships with joy and laughter as you share in this wonderful celebration.
I am familiar with the celebration of Diwali here in the UAE, where it is celebrated with great enthusiasm, bright lights cover many homes as thousands of families and friends from different backgrounds come together to share in the festivities.
It is in this spirit that I will celebrate with you from here. I delight in the fact that Diwali is a global celebration that unites people irrespective of religion, nationality, culture or caste. Diwali has become a mega event that celebrates the culture and traditions of India, it is incredibly special that these festivities can be celebrated in countries across the world. I commend you all for your great generosity sharing Diwali with the honored people here. May this be a special time and rekindle old relationships. May this Diwali bring you utmost peace and prosperity. May you and your family be blessed with good health and may this Diwali be most joyous bright with you and your loved ones. I wish you again a very happy Diwali and happy new year.”
On behalf of all, Brahmavihari Swami expressed gratitude to His Excellency and the distinguished guests:
“On behalf of BAPS Hindu Mandir, on behalf of 3.3 millions of Indians staying in the UAE and on behalf of almost a billion Hindus across the world we take this opportunity to welcome the royal leadership and also prominent community leaders of the UAE to this wonderful amazing spiritual celebration of Diwali and Annakut. We thank the leadership for their spirit of tolerance and inclusiveness. Diwali is more than just a festival of light. It is a celebration of victory of good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance. It is not just celebrated by the Hindus but even the Jains, Sikhs and the Buddhists value this festival. His Excellency has kindly come representing the royal leadership which has promoted the spirit of tolerance in our mind and heart.”
Thereafter, H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Consul General Shri Vipulji, Dr. B.R. Shetty, Pujya Anandswarup Swami and Brahmavihari Swami inaugurated this auspicious occasion by the traditional lighting of the lamp.
H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan visited the ‘World of Tolerance’ thematic exhibition, specially curated to celebrate the UAE’s commitment and vision towards acceptance and respect. While viewing the exhibition, H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan added his signature to the ‘iPledge for Tolerance’ panel and posted it on the Ghaf Tree – the symbol of UAE’s Year of Tolerance. He also personally greeted volunteers who have dedicated hundreds of hours over the past two months to bring this event to life.
Before departing, H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan said to Swamiji, “Everything you touch turns into quality, even the people.”
The exhibition consisted of three segments: The World of Tolerance, Land of Tolerance and Home of Tolerance conveying the message of world harmony and peace. It featured the inspiring words of great leaders and thinkers of the world, highlighted the initiatives that make the UAE a land of tolerance, and showed how the BAPS Hindu Mandir will be an international beacon of hope and harmonious living.
As part of the devotional festivities, over 1,500 vegetarian food dishes were lovingly prepared and artistically displayed as offerings of gratitude to commemorate the Hindu New Year. The Annakut, meaning `mountain of food`, is offered to God as the first meal of the New Year in thanksgiving for all his providence and to seek his blessings for the year ahead.
The vast decorative display of food art included models of the Burj Al Arab, Atlantis, Aldar building, Expo 2020, the upcoming BAPS Hindu Mandir and other iconic landmarks of the UAE.
During the day, devotional bhajans and prayers were sung in various Indian languages, such as Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi and others by men, women and children representing the Gurudwara, Mohana, Bhajan Bharti, Nand Govindam Bhajan and other Indian community groups.
Additionally, children enjoyed the Diwali Kids Fair where exciting presentations informing children about the significance of Diwali was created by the children volunteers themselves. This fair also featured entertaining and educational games, bouncy castles, food stalls and other creative activities. The joy of Diwali could be seen on many of the children’s faces.
Furthermore, in keeping with the Diwali and Hindu New Year sentiments of giving to others, a blood camp was organised in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Blood Bank. Over two hundred guests volunteered to donate their blood to help those in need.
Over 12,000 visitors and worshippers attended this joyous celebration of the Hindu New Year from all of the seven Emirates of the UAE. The event culminated with the mountain of food being generously distributed to the local labour camp workers enabling them to feel the joy and spirit of Diwali and unity within the UAE.