RSP’s BAPS Hindu Mandir Abu Dhabi is the epitome of balance, harmony, and culture; it is timeless, immortal, and a masterpiece.

RSP’s Creative Director, Michael Magill, expresses his pride, “The BAPS Hindu Mandir Abu Dhabi stands as a significant landmark, marking a historical moment in the Middle East and specifically in the UAE. We were fortunate to have been selected as the lead architects and interior designers for the complex around the temple. A symbol of unity and tolerance, echoing the UAE’s visionary 2019, theme of tolerance. By commemorating the vision of tolerance, it embodies the spirit of harmony between Islam and Hinduism, showcasing the esteemed values of inclusivity and appreciation.”

It was a challenging project, and Michael wanted to comprehend the feelings and intricacies, so RSP travelled to many global sites and immersed themselves in Hindu culture, customs, and spiritual experiences. The RSP team went on a spiritual journey, visiting Delhi’s Akshardham Mandir, the BAPS Monastery in Gujarat, the Sun Temple in Gujarat, and the Shri Swaminarayan temple in London, to learn more about the project they were about to embark on in Abu Dhabi.

Michael describes his journey with this project: “Our journey with the BAPS Hindu Mandir Abu Dhabi began in 2018, when RSP won the design competition against international consultants. Our proposal focussed on a distinct design approach- we envisioned a temple nestled amidst an oasis, surrounded by a majestic mountainous complex. This journey took us on a profound exploration across India, where we immersed ourselves in the rich heritage of iconic temples and monasteries. Drawing from this wealth of inspiration, we designed the Mandir complex as a cohesive narrative, inviting both devotees and tourists on a transformative journey into the sacred Hindu beliefs. Our concept aimed for seamless integration of this narrative throughout the entire complex, from the overall master plan, the facade up to the minutest interior details, ensuring an immersive experience for all who visit.”

RSP: Rarest masterpiece

RSP knew that they have to create something spectacular which is frozen in time and will transcend ideologies and space, becoming an immortal, unmoving stone amidst the shifting desert sand, providing the foundation to all those lost in the vast chaos of an ever-changing world.

RSP drew inspiration from their field trip to design the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi, taking into account cultural influences and innovative ideas. The physical nature of the complex would be influenced by the monolithic nature of a traditional Hindu Temple. RSP was inspired to fuse this idea with the local desert nature of the UAE by harmonising the architectural language between the local site and Hindu culture. Michael and the RSP team were inspired by the sacred rivers of India (Ganga, Saraswati, and Yamuna) and their significance in Hinduism, as well as the ghats that enhance the temple complex’s physical body. RSP incorporated Vastu principles to establish balance and harmony in the architectural design, influencing both the spiritual and mental aspects. RSP utilised the five senses and the significance of the number 7 in Hinduism to enhance the complex’s sensuous and spiritual experience, aiming for full enlightenment.

RSP’s spiritual oasis concept aimed to revitalise the land by drawing energy from nearby Mandirs, creating a life-enriching hotspot that will serve as the root of the Hindu Mandir.  The temple complex reflects the sensation of a lost nomad encountering an oasis in the desert, resonating with its aura. Even the concept of ghats is critical in framing the rivers and exalting the sacred aspect of the temple, which RSP brilliantly incorporated into their design. Like most traditional Hindu temples, a shaded walkway framing the sacred grounds of the temple gave rise to the concept of the parikrama. The long walkways with vertical louvres are abstractions that evoke the historical columns of the old walkways.

RSP: Rarest masterpiece

A diversified, minimalistic palette of whites, brass, timber, and concrete is employed as the foundational base of the interior pieces, creating a fantastic material play that engages the senses of touch and sight. These soft, earthy pastel colours evoke the feeling of elegance and refined simplicity that reflects the opulent yet modest essence of Hinduism. They also refer to the striking imagery of a Hindu temple’s monolithic stone and intricately engraved golden bronze details.

The Mandir’s Amphitheatre is a highlight. As the day turns to night, the sunset’s rays reflect on the temple stone and surrounding waters, creating a tantalising crimson aura that captivates and stimulates visitors. The Mandir also has The VIP majlis offers breathtaking views of the Hindu temple, immersing visitors in its spiritual majesty. The majlis is designed in delicate tones of sand and pastel blues, creating a contrast with the surrounding views and drawing visitors’ attention to the temple’s attractive appearance.

Michael further explains: “In addition to serving as a place of worship and meditation, we designed the BAPS Hindu Mandir Abu Dhabi to include a range of facilities catering to the needs of both devotees and visitors. Beyond its sacred and worship areas, the complex includes an education center, providing opportunities for learning and enlightenment. It also includes accommodation for the sadhus, ensuring a nurturing environment for spiritual practitioners. For tourists and non-Hindu visitors, the Mandir complex offers a wealth of experiences, including exhibition and gallery spaces showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Hinduism, an outdoor amphitheater for hosting events with a capacity of up to 1,500 people, a state-of-the-art sports center, and convention halls capable of accommodating gatherings of up to 2,500 people. Additionally, an exclusive majlis is reserved for VIP guests, offering a bespoke experience that reflects the Mandir’s commitment to hospitality and inclusivity.”

RSP: Rarest masterpiece

This Mandir provides a wholesome experience to visitors, and there is an education centre. The education cluster’s classrooms provide a creative learning environment for both students and tourists.

Visitors may refuel themselves after their activities in the food court, which offers a range of food options. The food court’s design resembles a desert garden, connecting the inside and external scenery. The desert garden style incorporates sand tones, soft light wood finishes, and inside vegetation to create a living environment. The combination of simple materials and landscaping produces a contemporary mood while relaxing the acoustics. Accent colours add a fresh and unique sense. 

So, if you wish to feel spiritually connected to India’s holy rivers and ghats, the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi will bring peace and blessing to your heart and soul.

RSP: Rarest masterpiece

From Design ME – April 2024 Issue