Lotus Temple – Baha’i’s House of Worship
What is the Bahai Faith? Early Traces Of Cultural And Social Designation?
Gender, Religion, Caste, Creed, Income…. etc. etc. It’s funny enough to think that the criteria of division within the society have always been on a rise even in the 21st century, without hinting at any notion of slowing down in the future. A sad state of things to understand, yet its root cause can be traced directly to the social inequalities and biases that we have encouraged since the beginning of time. Such a practice has been imposed from birth and subtly influences younger generations to carry it forward without any restriction, while the only few who do are sadly termed as “rebels” or anti-social towards “traditional” systems.
Such an impulse of segregation and the biases that carry it forward are not unique to one country or a continent alone as they are unapologetically followed by almost all societies across the world in one way or another. Though subtle and not generally favourable to the majority of the people, such a practice of “Hate” has sadly been classified as a norm throughout the world.
A radical innovation was screaming for existence in a world such as this and Bahá’u’lláh was one of the many to reciprocate.
Being the founder of the Bahai faith early on in the 19th century in modern Iran and the Middle East, he was instrumental in showcasing a model of equality and unity towards the people and in making them aware of the “Hate” that was slowly influencing their life choices. Bahai faith being a relatively new religion, did not align itself completely with any particular religious structure and instead aimed to combine the general goodness in the majority of these religions into a single medium.
Bahai faith officially recognizes nine of the most popular world religions and incorporated most of their positive teachings as part of educating society regarding the worth of all religions in the world, thereby promoting the overall unity of people.
What is the Bahai faith’s teaching?
Its teachings propagated the importance of how God is a single entity, where all of the major religions prevalent across the world contribute equally as the orderly Manifestations of God. These figures including Christ, Krishna, The Prophet Muhammad and Buddha amongst several others who were the central figures of major world religions throughout history are believed to be the incarnations of these manifestations who’s aim is to unify the world into a collectively beneficial and thriving society.
Even though fundamentally what they preach may be viewed as different in varied social interpretations, their ultimate purpose has always been the unity of all people, thereby rejecting segregation or any form of racism based on religion, caste, gender etc. This is the ultimate essence that Baha’i as a faith wishes to signify and fulfil.
Why lotus temple was built?
With the changing times that came with the changing world’s, the overall aesthetical reach of Bahai faith has crossed the five million mark in its range along with the breaking down of continental boundaries in its expansion, eventually reaching the land of the seven rivers soon enough. The Lotus Temple of Delhi, established in 1986 as part of its reach into the Asian subcontinent was one of the first-ever Bahai faith’s worship centres in South Asia and has played a major role in advocating the abolishment of racial or discriminative stereotypes within societies.
The initial Idea’s regarding the need for a centralized structure for worship started prospering post Independence itself as the influence of Bahai faith as the practice was gaining prominence throughout the Indian subcontinent. Though extremely small in comparison regarding sheer numbers, their ideological equality and overall aim to promote unity was a refreshingly positive prospect in the already diverse Indian society. While early traces of some of the first-ever followers began from as back as 1910, they were only recognised popularly by the 1920s under the spiritual leader Shoghi Effendi.
In 1961, they were less than 1000 in number but we’re quickly rising in prominence and popularity, eventually reaching almost 65,000 by the late 1960s and were quickly identified as a distinct minority in the Indian subcontinent. This period has also brought about the innate need for a centre of worship, which would only show major developments ten years down the line.
Architectural Innovation And Structures
Designed by an Iranian architect named Farizborz Sahba in 1976 with plans to being constructed in Kalkaji, Bahapur in New Delhi, the project witnessed an 18 – month delay were several structural and compositional changes were suggested and included by Flint & Neill, a UK based architectural firm.
Later on, with a working budget of over 10 million $ construction works soon kicked off under the guidance of the ECC Construction Group of Larsen & Toubro Ltd. Most of the funds were donations collected by the followers in India and from across the world, with the residue amount being redistributed amongst the poor or were used to build a greenhouse zone around the temple.
The 27 “Petals” which were marble-clad figures designed specifically for the composite structural outlook was based on the traditional lotus design, a symbol of unity and equality as described in the teachings of Baha’ism. These marble petals are arranged into a collection of three’s and are symmetrically aligned to form nine different sides. Each of these nine sides consists of direct doors which lead to a central hall that is almost 34 meters high on aggregate, which can hold a capacity of almost 2,500 people.
The surface and walls are lined by Pentalic marble directly imported from Greece, a striking must-have feature that is witnessed in almost all the famous shrines of Baha’ism as well as in several other ancient structures. The exterior of all of these nine sides is lined by greenhouse gardens and ponds spread about almost 26 acres of land which provides an aesthetical dimension to the entire outlook of this House of Worship.
It took almost ten years for all these plans were to be fruitful, with the eventual completion of the Lotus Temple becoming finished only by December 1st in 1986, with its grounds officially opening to the public on January 1st of 1987 marking the beginning of the New year. The event marked an attendance of over 10,000 people from across all parts of India which was a significant step forward in attesting India’s claim for unity in diversity.
Over the years the overall prominence and popularity of the structure have increased drastically up till the contemporary era where it has been hailed as one of the most visited architectural innovations in the 21st century.
Accolades And Social Significance Over The Years
Several accolades have followed it constantly since its inception and have been a constant feature in several worldwide articles and magazines along with it being the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including the Maharashtra – India Chapter of American Institute Award for “ excellence in a concrete structure” in 1989, as well as winning the GlobArt Award from the GlobArt Academy based in Vienna, Austria in the year 2000.
The lotus Temple was featured in the Encyclopedia Britannica version of 1994 and received exceptional applause for its architectural prowess. Perhaps the most important distinction that it has received was being named as one of the most visited architectural and worship-based buildings in the world in a report by the global media giant CNN.
Even with all these achievements in hindsight, the overall ability of the temple is becoming a symbol of unity and prosperity that discourages discrimination and encourages collective harmony has been the biggest achievement that it has succeeded in.