In a country of more than a billion people where close to 70% people are Hindus and nearly 28% adhere to Islam, the Bahá’í form only a small community, less than five million. Despite their small numbers, the followers of this one of the newest religions in the world have built one of the largest temples in the world which due to its magnificent architectural design has compelled many to term it as “the Taj [Mahal] of modern India.” Officially known as the Bahai House of Worship, this structure in New Delhi is more famous as the Lotus Temple or the Bahai Temple, because of its partly-opened Lotus shaped praying hall. It’s one of the six major Bahai houses of worship in the world. The other five are in Apia, Western Samoa; Sydney, Australia; Kampala, Uganda; Panama City, Panama; Frankfurt, Germany and Wilmette, USA.
Architecture of the Lotus Temple
Award Winning Canadian architect Arthur Erickson has described the architecture of the Lotus Temple as “one of the most remarkable achievements of our time, proving that the drive and vision of spirit can achieve miracles.” The temple is so excellently designed that it’s discernible at a distance of more than a kilometre at night. The 27-petal, half-opened lotus is surrounded by delicately kept lawns and nine pools. The 40 m tall temple was opened to worshippers on 24 December 1986. Since then it has attracted over 70 million people. Currently an estimated 10,000 people visit the temple everyday. The base of the lotus spans approximately 70 m and the hall inside can accommodate over 1,300 people.
The Bahai Religion
One of the most remarkable things about the temple is that although it’s been made by the Bahá’í community, the temple is open to worshippers from all over the world irrespective of their religion, nationality, ethnicity or colour. A 19th century Iranian spiritual leader named Bahá’u'lláh is the founder of the faith which recognises Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed and now Bahá’u'lláh as one of the messengers of god. Bahá’u'lláh took traditions from Abrahamic religions and combined them with Eastern religions to create this new faith. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá’ís in the world, of whom 3.6 million live in Asia. The Bahá’ís call theirs a global religion. The core believes are: monotheism, oneness of religions and oneness of mankind.
Bahaullah, the founder of Bahai Religion
Bahá’u'lláh was born in Iran in 1817. As a young man he was deeply impressed by a new religious movement in Iran known as Bábism. The moment didn’t differentiate between humans as regarded them all as a big family. Bahá’u'lláh deeply believed in it, declared himself a prophet and that that the time had come for the humans to unite. He was exiled for his beliefs. He went to Palestine where he died at the age of 74.
The Lotus Temple in the 21st century
In the 21st century the temple serves as much a place of worship as a famous tourist destination. According to some estimates it’s one of the most visited buildings in the world. In 2002, more people flocked at the Lotus Temple during that year than at any other building excluding the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal.
Lotus Temple Address:
Bahá’í House of Worship
New Delhi – 110019
Lotus Temple Visiting Hours
Winter: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Summer: 9:00 am to 7:00 pm