Devotees stand outside one of the gates of the iconic Bur Dubai Hindu temple as services move to new facilities in Jebel Ali from January 3. KT Photo: Shihab
Sonya Malhotra has faithfully visited the ancient Bur Dubai Shiv Mandir and Gurudwara every January 1 for over a decade. This precious ritual has been a constant in her life and has never missed a beat.
However, this year’s visit brought a poignant awareness to Sonya and her husband. She marked their last pilgrimage to the temple, and the weight of that realization pressed down hard on them. They found themselves constantly stealing one last glance at the temple before it gradually disappeared from their sight.
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Worshipers like Sonya will now have to redirect their spiritual journey to the newly inaugurated temple in Jebel Ali, as the Bur Dubai temple, which opened in 1958, bid farewell on Wednesday.
While speaking to Khaleej Times on Wednesday, Sonya expressed, “It was such an emotional day, with heavy hearts, that we found ourselves repeatedly turning our heads to keep looking at the temple for as long as we could before it disappeared from our line of sight. “
Sonya Malhotra (front)
With a heavy heart, Sonya said goodbye to a cherished and time-honored tradition that had been an integral part of her life for so many years.
And he added: “The morning of January 1 at the beginning of the New Year has been like a ritual for us; We invariably visited the temple for the first time at 4 am. We don’t go out partying on December 31st; The first thing we do (the next day) is visit this temple. Although Jebel Ali temple is not far from us in Springs, we have been visiting this place for years, especially for the darshan of ‘Sai’. The aura in this temple is very different. When we mention ‘temple’, we always think of the Bur Dubai temple.”
Photo: Rita Khetrapal
Her husband faithfully visited the temple every Thursday, even if it only meant standing at its entrance.
“At times, he would be ill or very busy, and I would try to dissuade him from making the trip to Bur Dubai due to the heavy traffic on that side. However, he refused to listen and insisted that his feelings were intricately linked to the Sai temple Baba, even at 10 at night I went.
“There were days when I did not enter the compound but simply touched the steps of the temple and returned home,” Sonya added.
Night of spiritual celebration
On December 31 this year, the temple extended its worship hours and remained open throughout the night for devotees, only briefly closing its doors for an hour at 5 a.m.
KT Photo: Shihab
Sonya emphasized that daily visits to the temple have been a significant aspect of many people’s lives. “In my case, this temple commemorated important milestones such as the ‘mundane’ ceremony (head shaving) of my twin daughters and even the occasion of getting my first job.”
As a result, this sacred place, along with the Gurudwara, holds a treasure of precious memories for the Malhotras. “Its intimate and unique atmosphere made me feel deeply connected. I felt like my prayers were recognized and heard within its walls.
“The temple radiated a distinct atmosphere that fostered a deep sense of connection and spirituality,” he added.
KT Photo: Shihab
One last time
Similarly, Rita Khetrapal, a resident of Al Barsha, offered her prayers for the last time on Tuesday.
He took to social media to write his final post about the temple. “The last darshan of this beautiful temple, which will close tomorrow. A place that I have visited every Tuesday for 22 years.”
While speaking to Khaleej Times, he remembered the familiar faces and smiles, along with the positive vibes that he will always miss.
Rita said, “It is more than just the temple, it is just a part of it. I have been a regular here for over two decades. I am a devotee of Lord Ganapati, which led me to visit the temple every Tuesday. However, It is not just the temple itself that I will miss. I will also miss the pandit (priest), the workers, the flower sellers and the incense stick sellers. Their smiling faces became familiar, as did mine with them. “
From opening to closing
Then there was Ashok Odhrani, for whom the task was even more challenging. As part of the temple committee, he had to stay until the end of the day’s activities, around 9:30 p.m.
“My last prayer was for this temple in Bur Dubai to continue. People were very upset on Tuesday and on January 1 there were around 25,000 devotees at the temple. The public has been asking me to keep the temple open, but I keep telling everyone that it’s beyond me. Yesterday I got a call from a lady who was crying on the phone,” the 67-year-old said.
He explained that the existence of this temple is vital, not only for the thousands of devotees but also for the livelihood of several small merchants who sell flowers and items of worship.
KT Photo: Shihab
Ashok’s father was present at the beginning of the establishment of this temple. Over time, it flourished and from his early years, Ashok has fostered a deep connection with this sacred place of worship.
“Every day he visited the temple twice. He served more than 500,000 Indians living in areas like Karama, Bur Dubai and Deira. People from Sharjah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah came to visit this temple. Going to Jebel Ali would mean at least 45 more minutes of travel for some,” said the Dubai veteran.
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