10th August 1972…a date etched in my memory bank…as this was the day, I first set foot on the then Sandy Dubai… well back then there was more sand than buildings and roads. …but how Dubai has transformed from Sandy Dubai to the new modern tourist paradise is a story in itself.
In 1972 there was not much to do in Dubai socially. We were all starting our life in a new country…we had very little money, so our outings were limited to visiting friends…a movie occasionally and very often a visit to our Hindu temple which was just a 10 minutes walking distance from my house. The Hindu temple was built in 1958. It was built on top of some old fashioned shops in Bur Dubai Old Souk…it was near the Creek which was an integral part of Dubai…as there were abras ferrying passengers from Bur Dubai to Deira daily…taxis were a luxury so the abra served as a most useful transport system at a very low price.
I remember my first visit to the temple…I was fascinated with the narrow lanes…the textile shops …then a few shops selling flowers…incense sticks….and all pooja related items…one could buy a thali of these pooja items as offerings to the Lord. I remember going up the old staircase to a small open hall, then on the left there was the Shivling of Lord Shiva and idols of other Gods and Saibaba. After praying there then one could go up to the Gurdwara …which was so serene and had an old-world charm…that one was immediately at peace. So all Hindus and Sikhs would visit this temple and Gurdwara.
All major festivals were celebrated in this temple …Janmashtmi….Onam…Diwali…Shivratri and people even took their marriage vows in the Gurdwara…followed by Langar prasad…..in fact during these festivals it was difficult to accommodate the growing population and there was a serpentine queue which started from the creek leading to the temple. During Shivratri people would come and queue early morning before going for their work. I can still remember the kutti given as prasad and the thandaai which was absolutely delicious. Prasad was always given on a daily basis there…and people celebrated many of their happy occasions of life there followed by langar prasad. I remember I had done Amrit’s mundan there …it was such a joyous occasion and moreover it was in the presence of all the Gods there…so I feel really blessed.
But now we all got a jolt when the Hindu temple shut down on 3rd January. Before it could shut, I went for the last time to pray there. Way back in 1972 there were just a handful of shops selling pooja items…but now it was a full-fledged bazaar….a beautiful sight …the narrow lanes filled with colourful shops selling flowers…Mithai., milk, incense sticks, small beautiful clothes for the God, tulsi plants, beautiful temples, marble and brass statues of all the Gods. It was a mini Indi and reminded me of Mahalaxmi Mandir ..which has similar shops selling all these items. There were pandits all giving you their cards in case you wanted to do a pooja or havan at home. I went and prayed to Lord Shiva for the last time there and next to Saibaba idol there was a small booth there saying “Wish Fulfilling Hundi“, I always would pray there asking Sai to fulfil my wishes…and would feel confident that Sai had heard my prayers. One last time I went to the gurdwara bowed down to Waheguruji…and felt sad that no more would we hear the melodious bhajans sung by the Sardars there. Took the delicious Karaan Prasad and with a last wistful look went down the spiral staircase which apparently was there before the temple was built as there was a store there before.
It is sad for people living in Old Dubai to accept the fact that they can’t visit this iconic temple again…no doubt we have a new modern beautiful gurdwara and a temple at Jebel Ali…but visiting them will have to be planned and it cannot be as often as one would visit the Dubai temple as the distance and the traffic are a real hindrance. We all wish that we get back our temple again…maybe not in its original vintage form…due to its old construction and safety factor it could be remodelled …but I think that since 1958 that site has had so many poojas…mantras chanted and havans performed, that the land is now a holy land…so hope we once again get to pray in our beloved temple.
If that happens …I know all will rejoice… because both in happiness and sorrow people tend to go to the temple either to thank the Lord for their happiness or when one is sad, we go to pray for the bad time to pass.
Hope God hears our prayers and we again get to visit our temple …see the bustling activity there… inhale the fragrance of the flowers and enjoy the karaan prasad. For as they say – “Old is Gold”.