Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lotus Temple of New Delhi, India

The Lotus Temple located in New Delhi, India
Photograph by Leticia Alaniz ©2008
All Rights Reserved
Among the world's most ancient surviving civilizations is India. And as such contains some of the worlds most amazing structures devoted to worship. It is a land defined by both tremendous spirituality and an extraordinarily rich intellectual tradition. In the capitol city of New Delhi, as the sun rises, an amazing structure glistening white of marble can be seen from many directions. It was constructed in the shape of the most venerated and appreciated flower of India. It is the glorious Lotus Temple of the Bahá'í Faith. As dawn approaches it opens its doors allowing visitors to enter into a space of tranquility and peacefulness, much appreciated in the bustling city.  It is quiet, calm, and serene and its visitors indulge in its beauty and spiritual atmosphere.

The Lotus Flower
To appreciate the architectural grandness of the building, one must understand the importance and significance of the lotus flower. It is considered as one of the most ancient and deepest symbols of great beauty and purity. The flower grows in soft soil water and rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty. Once it has glistened in the rays of the sun for the entire day, at night it closes its delicate petals and sinks underwater as if blanketing itself for the night's slumber. At dawn it rises from its water garden bed and opens again. Untouched by impurity, the lotus flower symbolizes the purity of heart, mind, and soul. It has long been regarded as the representative of long life, good health, honor and good fortune.

In many cultures, the lotus flower is considered a symbol of spiritual unfoldment. The Egyptians called it Sesen, and in their mythology it is the symbol of the sun, of creation and rebirth.

In the East, to the Tibetans it is considered sacred and represents their holy mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum, meaning, "Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus".

The Indian lotus flower symbolizes divinity, fertility, wealth, knowledge and enlightenment. In Hinduism, it is associated with the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi whom brings prosperity. She sits on a fully blossomed lotus flower. It is also revered and represented with Vishnu. Used as an example of divine beauty, Vishnu is described as the Lotus-Eyed One. It's unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. Most deities of Asian religions are depicted as seated on a lotus flower. The white and pink lotuses are national flowers of India.

The Lotus Temple
Taking into consideration the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the lotus flower, the international Bahá'í Faith adopted this symbolism in the architectural design of The Lotus Temple in New Delhi, India. The magnificent structure is considered internationally as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent.

It is located in the Kalkaji sector of the capital city, and its monumental structure can be appreciated from afar, given its large size and easily recognizable shape. The temple was carefully planned and designed to have the appearance of the revered lotus flower.

Since its completion in 1986, the temple has received recognition from all over the world. It is listed among the most visited monuments of India. The mastermind for building the beautiful and impressive temple of peace was the Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba from Canada.

The purpose and intention of the building of the temple was to provide a sacred place for people from all religions and faith, a space for meditation, worship, wisdom, peace and love.

The design is in the shape of a half open lotus flower with 27 freestanding petals constructed out of marble. The architect took into account the importance both culturally and spiritually of the flower and labored diligently with a team of 800 engineers, technicians, workers and artisans. It took ten years for completion of the temple. It is considered to be one of the most complex edifices of the world, integrating awe inspiring aesthetic and technological values.

Surrounding the beautiful structure are nine reflecting pools, representative of the flower growing from the water garden. Converting the geometry of the design that did not have any straight line to the actual structure needed a lot of effort and precise engineering.

There are nine doors all the way around that open to a central hall accommodating nearly 2500 people. It is about 40 meters high and it appears to be floating in water. Since its inception, it has been continually visited by people from many countries.

The Bahá'í Faith
Recognized as an independent world religion, the Bahá'í Faith, its leaders and followers are to be credited with ordering the glorious temple to be built. The religion has existed over 150 years and according to the Encyclopedia Britannica Yearbook, it is the second most widely spread religion in the world, with five million members residing in 232 countries and dependent territories.

The Bahá'í Faith began in ancient Persia, now known as Iran. Its history is intimately connected with the lives of it's leading figures:

'Alí-Muhammad, Titled the Báb.
Born in southern Iran in 1819, in 1844 he announced that he was the promised one or Mahdi expected by Muslims. He wrote scriptures in which he promulgated a new calendar, new religious laws, and new social norms. Opposed by Iran's Muslim clergy and ultimately by its government, thousands of the Báb's followers were killed; in 1850 the Báb himself was put to death.

Mirzá Husayn 'Alí, Titled Bahá'u'lláh.
Born in northern Iran in 1817, Bahá'u'lláh became a follower of the Báb in 1844 and was imprisoned for his beliefs. In 1853 he had a vision that he was the divine teacher the Báb had promised; he publicly declared himself a messenger of God in 1863. He spent the rest of his life in exile and prison, where he wrote over 100 volumes of scripture.

'Abbas Effendi, Titled 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Son of Bahá'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was born in 1844 and accompanied his father on his exile to Palestine. Bahá'u'llah appointed 'Abdu'l-Bahá his successor, the exemplar of his teachings, and the interpreter of his revelation. Under 'Abdu'l-Bahá the Bahá'í Faith spread beyond the Middle East, India, Burma to Europe, the Americas, southern Africa, and Australia. He died in 1921.
Portrait of Abdu'l- Bahá
Central Baháí teachings are the "oneness of God," that there is only one God and that God is actively concerned about the development of humanity; the "oneness of religion," that God sends messengers such as Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb, and Bahá'u'lláh to humanity to educate it in morals and in social values; and the "oneness of humanity," that all humans come from the same stock and deserve equal opportunities and treatment.

The Bahá'í Temple in New Delhi, occupies a unique position. 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. This, perhaps, is the reason for its unabated popularity among its visitors.


  1. Thank you Historias de la India. Everyone can agree on the beauty of the structure bringing together all world religions.

  2. I knew the lotus flower was very important in Asian iconography, but I did not know this amazing history of the Lotus Temple. Truly amazing photograph you captured.
    Mathew Johnson

  3. Mathew, thank you for reading. You can appreciate the temple from many directions, but it is truly the most beautiful at sunrise.

  4. You wrote an amazing architectural description of the Lotus Temple, that even if I never see it in person, I feel like I have visited based on your beautiful writing and photography.

    Dr. James Frederick

  5. Thank you Dr. James Frederick! Your flattering comment is much appreciated.

  6. Very nice post. I really liked your post. This exemplifies the true nature of Buddhist traditions, which lays emphasis on meditation as a means to experience divinity. Enjoy the lush green surroundings and maybe even lounge around for a picnic. Winner of a number of architectural awards, Lotus Temple is truly a sight to behold, especially in the night when it is all lit up in breathtaking splendour. Check out Lotus Temple timings, entry fee, visit duration etc.

  7. India is a beautiful place that has lots to offer to its visitors. There are so many captivating tourist places and historical landmarks that instantly grab your attention. A must to visit place!