A set of images routinely circulates on social media with the claim that “ever since PM Modi visited the United Arab Emirates”, sheikhs have started going to temples, eating food on banana leaves and offering Hindu prayers.

The claim is widespread on both Twitter and Facebook. Some of these claims are also accompanied with the hashtag #घरवापसी_कीओर (#Towards_Homecoming) and #जय_श्रीराम (#Jai_ShriRam)

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These photos have been viral at least since 2015 with the claim that they were taken during the inauguration of a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi attended by local “Arab leaders” where they had lunch on banana leaves.


Image 1

For the first image, we performed a reverse image search and found that it is from 2018 when the PM was on a four-day visit to Palestine, the UAE, and Oman. The photo was taken when PM Modi had visited Abu Dhabi on the second leg of his three-nation tour. A delegation of BAPS Sadhus and Temple Committee had visited the Crown Prince to express their gratitude to him for his gift of land for the BAPS Hindu Temple in Abu Dhabi.

Image 2

For the second image, we again performed a reverse image search and found the photos to be from 2013 when the BAPS was on a Satsang Tour of UAE, Oman and Bahrain.

The words that are written in Arabic on the building behind read ‘مجلس النواب’ (Majlis Al-Nuwab) i.e., Council of Representatives. It is the parliament building in Bahrain.

Below, we have juxtaposed the photos of the BAPS delegation on tour with a publicly available image of the parliament in Bahrain to show the similarities between the two.

The BAPS Cultural Center in Dubai was inaugurated during the tour but there’s no mention of an inauguration of a temple. Moreover, the viral image was shot before Narendra Modi assumed the office of the prime minister and it is from Bahrain, not the UAE.

Image 3

We found that the photo of sheikhs eating on banana leaves was first uploaded on Reddit in 2015 via Imgur.

The description on the image claims, “Emarati locals are having onam sadhya in Dubai.”

There are few points to observe here:

1. Most viral posts claim that the photo is from a “temple inauguration in Abu Dhabi”. But the construction of the first temple in Abu Dhabi was only announced in August 2015 during PM Modi’s first visit to UAE.

2. The foundation stone of the temple was laid this year and the temple is expected to be completed by 2023. So the sheikhs could not possibly have had a meal inside a temple still under construction.

3. The oldest reference of the image of sheikhs eating a meal on banana leaves says that they were consuming the “Onam sadhya” which is the traditional multi-course vegetarian meal served on the festive occasion of Onam celebrated by Malayali in and outside Kerala. UAE has a substantial Keralite population and the practice of eating sadya predates PM Modi’s visit in 2015. The image below is from 2014.

A set of photographs of unrelated events was shared to build a fictitious narrative that the Arabs have started embracing the Hindu culture after PM Modi’s visit to the UAE.

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About the Author

Kalim is a journalist with a keen interest in tech, misinformation, culture, etc