Houses of Worship: Worship Blooms in The Lotus Temple
Delhi, capital of India, second most populous city in the world and growing nearly three percent annually, is home to dozens of churches, temples and mosques. Of the multitude of historic and popular houses of worship in the region, one stands out among the most visited sacred sites on Earth: The Lotus Temple of Bahá’í Faith.
The Lotus Temple, also known as Kamal Mandir or Lotus of Bahapur, is visited by 4.5 million a year, even more than the Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel where the remains of the herald of the religion is buried. The temple was opened in 1986 and had already seen 100 millions visitors before its 30th year.
The temple’s 26 acres are covered by lush flora, and surrounded by nine blue reflecting pools and red sandstone walkways leading to the nine entrances. The temple itself consists of three rings, each ring with nine petals made of white marble forming the iconic image of the lotus flower in bloom floating in water. A prayer hall within the temple holds 2,500 and is sunlit through the glass roof at the center of the flower.
A Bahá’í temple is called a mashriq al-adhkār in Arabic, which means “place where the uttering of the name of God arises at dawn.” Its unique construction has nine sides and nine doors. Bahá’í beliefs assign great importance to the number nine as explained by Shoghi Effendi, grandson and successor of ʻAbdu’l-Bahá, appointed to the role of Guardian of the Baháʼí Faith from 1921 until his death in 1957. “First, it symbolizes the nine great world religions of which we have any definite historical knowledge, including the Babi and Bahá’í Revelations; second, it represents the number of perfection, being the highest single number; third, it is the numerical value of the word ‘Bahá’.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá—eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the religion—said, “When the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár is accomplished, when the lights are emanating therefrom, the righteous ones are presenting themselves therein, the prayers are performed with supplication towards the mysterious Kingdom, the voice of glorification is raised to the Lord, the Supreme, then the believers shall rejoice, the hearts shall be dilated and overflow with the love of the All-living and Self-existent God. The people shall hasten to worship in that heavenly Temple, the fragrances of God will be elevated, the divine teachings will be established in the hearts like the establishment of the Spirit in mankind; the people will then stand firm in the Cause of your Lord, the Merciful. Praise and greetings be upon you.”
The architect of the Lotus Temple, Fariborz Sahba, was chosen by the Universal House of Justice in 1976 to design and build a temple on the Indian subcontinent. He had previously worked on the design of the Seat of the Universal House of Justice on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, and later returned to design the terraces of the Shrine of the Báb.