Lotus Temple (Bahai Mandir)
The Lotus Temple is originally known as the Bahá’í House of Worship which prominently sits on a massive expanse of land measuring 26 acres surrounded by well trimmed lawns near Okhla and has become one of the major and prime attractions of Delhi visited by thousands of tourists and locals throughout the year that culminates to about 13,000 visitors in a day. The temple took six years and eight months to complete and was inaugurated on 24th December 1986 which was attended by 8,000 people from 125 Countries across the globe.
The Lotus Temple was designed by Mr. Fariburz Sabha, a Canadian architect and a Bahá’í follower of Iranian descent, who is known as one of the world’s top architects. The temple was constructed at a budget of INR 10,000,000 which was largely funded through voluntary contributions made only by Bahá’í followers from across the globe and a large amount provided by the Bahá’í believers in India. Ardishír Rustampúr from Hyderabad donated his entire life savings towards the funds to purchase this land in 1953 which formed a major part of the fund contribution. The main consultants hired for this job were ‘The Flint and Neill’ partnership of London and the contractors selected were M/s Larsen and Toubro of the ECC Construction Group. It took 40 engineers, 800 labourers and numerous skilled Bahá’í believers to build this magnificent masterpiece. In fact the architect managed to save some amount from the construction budget which was used to construct a greenhouse close to the temple complex.
The architectural excellence of the Lotus Temple can be described as one of a kind which is depicted in the shape of a half opened lotus flower [which symbolises the ‘National Flower of India’] made of pure marble floating on a pond. The exterior part of the temple has three sets of which the outermost set has nine petals that form the nine ‘entrance leaves’ and are opened outwards surrounding the main lotus petals. These petals are surrounded by nine pools that depict the leaves of the lotus flower. The nine pools in turn are surrounded by beautifully curved railings with supporting balusters, bridges, stairs and pathways. The next set has nine petals known as the ‘inner leaves’ that are seen as half closed while the last set has petals that close to form the central dome that houses the main central hall which has a glass roof supported by strong steel through which natural sunlight reaches the central hall. This auditorium or central hall can accommodate almost 2,500 people at one time.
The marble used for the lotus petals of the Lotus Temple was excavated from the mines of Mount Pentitikon in Greece. It was sent to Italy where each panel was carefully cut and carved into the required shape and size and then transported to Delhi. This engineering delight has won the temple many accolades and awards and has named it as the ‘Taj Mahal’ of the 20th Century.
The Lotus Temple can be called as a monumental excellence that was constructed for spiritual enlightenment, prayer and meditation visited by people from all walks of life and religious background. The interior of the temple is depleted of any pictures, images, paintings, carvings, idols, sermons, rituals and any sounds. The temple is meant for people to express themselves through silent prayers and connect with God in silence however, daily services are conducted which are carefully prepared from a selection of verses from various religious Holy Books.
The Complex of the Lotus Temple consist of the main temple or house of worship, a basement and the supporting blocks which homes a reception, the main administrative centre and a library that holds a wide collection of religious books from all religious sects. Tourists and visitors can enjoy an audio-visual introductory presentation showcased on an hourly basis.
The Lotus Temple has been graced by many renowned visitors from Ambassadors, Foreign Ministers and dignitaries, Indian Ministers and well renowned musicians and artists who exclaimed with awe and pride that the temple is the Art of God. Entrance into the temple is free of cost including the parking facility. The Temple is opened to all from Tuesdays to Fridays excluding all Mondays and Saturdays and Sundays that allow entry only for special groups. The temple opens between 0900 hours and 1900 hours in summers and between 0930 hours and 1730 hours in winters.
The entrance of the Lotus Temple welcomes you with a pathway fringed with beautiful blossomed flowers and a well trimmed lawn. Shoes are not allowed on the grass or the temple premise; hence, you must remove your shoes and deposit them at the shoe room. You may then proceed to the main central hall within the Lotus Temple for a silent prayer session. Please note that noise, music, mobiles, radios, cameras, video camcorders, smoking and eating are not allowed within the temple premises. For further detail about the religion and the temple itself, you can seek assistance from volunteers who are available within the temple complex and the information centre. Prayer sessions are held at certain time intervals which you can attend and the schedule can also be attained from the temple information centre itself.