In the heart of New Delhi, the bustling capital of India, a lotus-shaped outline has etched itself on the consciousness of the city's inhabitants, capturing their imagination, fuelling their curiosity, and revolutionising the concept of worship. This is the Bahá'í Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, better known as the "Lotus Temple". With the dawning of every new day, an ever-rising tide of visitors surges to its doorsteps to savour its beauty and bask in its serenely spiritual atmosphere.
Since its dedication to public worship in December 1986, this Mother Temple of the Indian sub-continent has seen millions of people cross its threshold, making it one of the most visited edifices in India. As an evocative symbol of beauty and purity, representative of divinity, the lotus flower remains unsurpassed in Indian iconography. Rising up pure and unsullied from stagnant water, the lotus represents the manifestation of God. This ancient Indian symbol was adopted to create a design of ethereal beauty and apparent simplicity, belying the complex geometry underlying its execution in concrete form. The Lotus Temple proves to be a remarkable fusion of ancient concept, modern engineering skill, and architectural inspiration.
Its soothingly quiet Prayer Hall and tranquil surroundings have touched the hearts of the Temple's numerous visitors, awakening in them a desire to trace its inspirational source and capture a bit of its peace for themselves. The aura of silence surrounding the Hall instills reverence. Some are moved by its 'eloquent silence' and 'divine atmosphere’. People are affected in varied degrees by the peace and beauty of the sanctum sanctorum.
The construction of the Bahá'í House of Worship of Bahapur was a significant chapter in the making of Baha'i history on the Indian sub-continent. Bahá'ís have endeavoured to their utmost to build houses of worship as beautiful and distinctive as possible. They have been inspired by writings of Baha'u'llah and His son Abdu'l-Bahá.
Not only does it embody the spiritual aspirations and basic beliefs of the world-wide Bahá'í community, but, significantly in a land of myriad religions, it has begun to be seen as providing a unifying link, bringing divergent thoughts into harmony by virtue of its principle of oneness - of God, religion, and mankind. The Temple, with its total absence of idols, elicits bewilderment as well as favourable response. Visitors express perplexity at the absence of any deity and yet are awed by the beauty and grandeur of the edifice. A typical response is: "There is silence and the spirit is eloquent. One feels one is at last entering into the estate of the soul, the state of stillness and peace".
The Lotus Temple is one of the 100 canonical works of this century, a powerful icon of great beauty that goes beyond its pure function of serving as a congregation space to become an important architectural symbol. As a symbol of faith and human endeavour expended in the path of God, the temple has become the recipient of accolades and worldwide acclaim. In 2000, the temple received the "GLOBArt Academy 2000" award in recognition of "the magnitude of the service of [this] Taj Mahal of the 20th century in promoting the unity and harmony of people of all nations, religions and social strata, to an extent unsurpassed by any other architectural monument world-wide".
"Architecturally, Artistically, Ethically, the edifice is a paragon of perfection”, said a renowned Indian poet, in the praise of the temple.