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21 May 2006

The Bahá’í Temple in India

The Bahá'í House of Worship in India. Source: Bahá'í BibliothequeALL THESE YEARS as a member of the Bahá'í Faith, I had seen the Bahá’í House of Worship in India only on paper, particularly during my years handling audio-visual materials at the Bahá’í World Centre in Israel. It is one of eight temples around the world, built as gathering places of prayer and meditation for people of all faiths.

Inspired by the lotus flower, the building has 27 free-standing marble "petals" clustered to form nine sides of a glass-contained prayer hall. At night, these "petals" float in a sea of spectacular lighting effect. This illuminated view of the Lotus Temple, as it has become known around the world, is what flashes in my mind whenever I think of it. It is an extraordinary vision.

Last Friday evening, I was not sure how I would handle that lingering view as the car I was riding in drove towards the temple site in New Delhi. It was my first-ever visit, and snaking through dusk-time traffic with the thought of seeing the beloved temple for the very first time left me restless. Suddenly the car broke away from the jam, sped through, turned to a corner, and drove uphill.

And then, just as abruptly, there it was.

The Bahá'í House of Worship in India. Source: Bahá'í BibliothequeDo you remember the first time you saw a movie in a cinema as a child? Remember the larger-than-life figures on widescreen? The soundtrack that wrapped you in delightsome music? Similar sensations rushed through me as I saw the temple emerging into full view. This time, though, the widescreen was much larger, the figures blurred, and the music surreal. I have visited another temple before—at Langenhain, Germany—but the potency of my visit to the Delhi temple is particularly enormous to me, being an Asian living next to the cradle of my Faith.

The potency of this visit is particularly enormous to me, being an Asian living next to the cradle of my FaithI first saw the top of those “petals”, and as the view became full, I knew that my stay in India now had a deeper meaning. The next sixty minutes came and went as I wrapped myself in prayer inside the temple. When it was time to leave, I looked back at the queues of visitors, foreigner and Indian, all entering the temple in collective silence. The serenity and splendor of its gardens and grounds prove once again the beauty and binding power of religion.

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