Hotels in India » Religion-culture in India » Bahai Faith - Where Religion Worships Unity

Bahai Faith - Where Religion Worships Unity

Religion divides, spirituality units, is a well known aphorism. Here is a religion with a difference: the Bahai faith. The core of the faith is unity.

Often religion has met its defeat at the very hands of those who are its staunch believers. The Bahai faith is devised to do just the opposite. Founded a century and a half ago, the essential message of this faith is unity: all religions are one, all people are one.

The faith’s Founder was Baha’u’llah, a Persian nobleman from Teheran who gave up a princely existence of comfort and security to preach the new faith. He believed that there is only one God. No religion is in opposition to another. They are all but the different ways in which God revealed Himself and expressed His will. In fact the followers of the Bahai faith see Baha’u’llah as the most recent among the Divine messengers: Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ and Muhammad. The faith has no sects or sub sects.

The history of the Baha’i Faith in India started with the inception of the Faith in Iran when the Bab (literally, the Gate) inaugurated a new era in the history of the human race. The Bab himself had appointed one of the Indian believers as the ‘Letter of Living’ in 1844-45, the first year of His Ministry. Since then, India is spiritually connected with the Baha’i Faith.

As foretold by the Bab, the promised one of all ages and peoples, Baha’u’llah (literally the Glory of God) revealed himself in 1863. He, himself, dispatched one of the distinguished Baha’i teachers, Jamal Effendi, to teach the Cause of God in the years 1874-75. Jamal Effendi traveled to many States and was successful in attracting many learned people. A series of teachers from the East and the West continued visiting India and traveling throughout the country during the time of Abdu’l-Baha (literally, the Servant of Baha), the much-loved Master of the Baha’i Faith and established close contact with the Master Abdu’l-Baha. Some of them went for pilgrimage and enjoyed Abdu’l-Baha’s famous hospitality in Haifa and Akka. Among them was Mr. Narayan Rao Vakil from Surat (Gujarat), the first Indian believer from Hindu background, who enjoyed this unique privilege to be the guest of the Master.

My introduction to the Bahai faith came when I went to the Bahai temple in New Delhi. I was told it was beautiful and when I looked down from the aircraft I was bewitched to see a white, romantically lit lotus standing in an otherwise dark setting. The first thing I did the next morning after I arrived in the Indian capital was visit this structure.

I was drawn to it by the fact that the Bahai faith should have chosen to shape their place of worship in the form, of a lotus. The lotus is a flower that has a lot of symbolism in Hindus and Buddhist thought. The lotus flower signifies purity and peace, rising pure and unsullied above stagnant, muddy waters. It is a recurring symbol in Indian architecture. This ancient symbol has been given a modern and contemporary form in the stucture of the Baha’i House of Worship drawing into its sanctum sanctorum people from all races, religious backgrounds and culture from around the globe.

I looked for more information on the choice of a lotus as the architectural design and its implementation. I found that the structure of the House of Worship is composed of three ranks of nine petals; each springing from a podium which elevates the building above the surrounding plain. The first two ranks curve inwards, embracing the inner dome; the third layer curves outward to form canopies over the nine entrance. All Bahai palces of worship have nine faces. The number nine has a special significance in the faith.

The petals, constructed of reinforced white concrete cast in place, are clad in white marble panels. The double layered interior dome, modeled on the inner most portion of the lotus, is comprised of 54 ribs with concrete shells between. The central hall is ringed

By nine arches that provide the main support for the superstructure. Nine reflecting pools surround the building on the outside, their from suggesting the green leaves of the lotus flower.

In the construction of the Bahai temple in New Delhi traditional Indian means of construction were employed coupled with the most modern Western engineering design.

Fariborz Sahba, Canadian architect of Iranian origin, spent 10 years in designing and project management. With the help of a team of about 800 engineers, technicians, artisans and workers he brought to realization one of the most complicated constructions in the world. The conversion of the lotus into structural designs and working drawings alone took the architect and his structural consultant Messrs. Flint and Neil partnership nearly 18 months of work.

The second thing that impressed me at the temple was the belief itself which deified peace and unity. Harmony amongst men and women, the Utopian ideal was now being elucidated upon. Maybe therein lay a possibility of reaching Utopia! This thought itself made me feel peaceful.

Then the final impression was made when I went into the large hall within the lotus. It has no deity, no altar, there is just a microphone and a row of chairs. People are expected to maintain silence within the hall. The hall is for meditation. For long hours I sat there.

It was cool. Ventilation and cooling seemed to be based on techniques traditional to the Indian subcontinent. Fresh air, cooled as it passes over the fountains and pools, is drawn in through openings in the basement and up into the central hall, and expelled through a vent at the top of the interior dome. During the humid season a set of exhaust fans in the basement recycles air from the main hall into the cool basement and back.

According to the statistics available, more than 50 million visitors have so far visited the temple. I saw the thronging crowds. Buses emptied out and people streamed in. Tourists, local people, people out on a day long outing, just so many different types with noisy children.

Yet I felt a strange sense of peace. I knew that this is what religion is all about: respect for brethren and love for humanity.