Although to outward seeming the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár [Bahá’í House of Worship] “is a material structure, yet it hath a spiritual effect. It forgeth bonds of unity from heart to heart; it is a collective center for men’s souls.”
– Bahá’í Writings
The Temples of the Bahá’í Faith are well known for their architectural splendor, and the House of Worship constructed in Delhi is a continuation of this rich tradition. Before undertaking the design of the Temple, the architect, Mr. Fariborz Sahba, had travelled extensively in India to study the architecture of this land and was impressed by the design of the beautiful Temples, as well as by the art and religious symbols wherein the lotus invariably played an important role. He was influenced by this experience, and in an attempt to bring out the concept of purity, simplicity and freshness of the Bahá’í Faith, he conceived the Temple in Delhi in the form of a lotus.
The Temple gives the impression of a half-open lotus flower, afloat, surrounded by its leaves. Each component of the Temple is repeated nine times. Flint & Neill Partnership of London were the consultants and the ECC Construction Group of Larsen & Toubro Limited were the contractors responsible for constructing the Temple. Spread across 26.5 acres of land, the Temple complex consists of the main House of Worship; the ancillary block which houses the library, conference hall and the administrative building. Recent additions to the premises are the Information Centre which was open to the public in 2003 and the Education Centre which was inaugurated in 2017.
10,000 sq. meter of marble was quarried from Greece and cut to the required size & shape in Italy. The shells inner and outer are cladded with this marble using specially designed stainless steel brackets and anchors.
All around the lotus are walkways with curved balust-rades, bridges and stairs, which surround the nine pools repre-senting the floating leaves of the lotus. Apart from serving an obvious aesthetic function, the pools also help ventilate the building.
The lotus, as seen from outside, has three sets of leaves or petals, all of which are made out of thin concrete shells. The outermost set of nine petals, called the ‘entrance leaves’, open outwards and form the nine entrances all around the outer annular hall. The next set of nine petals, called the ‘outer leaves’, point inwards. The entrance and outer leaves together cover the outer hall.
The third set of nine petals, called the ‘inner leaves’, appear to be partly closed. Only the tips open out, somewhat like a partly opened bud. This portion, which rises above the rest, forms the main structure housing the prayer hall. Near the top where the leaves separate out, nine radial beams provide the necessary lateral support. Since the lotus is open at the top, a glass and steel roof at the level of the radial beams provides protection from rain and facilitates the entry of natural light into the prayer hall.
While the temperature outside can rise to more than 45 degree Celsius in summer, the interior space remains relatively cool owing mostly to the nine pools surrounding the superstructure which, while adding to the Temple’s aesthetics, allows cooled breeze to enter inside through various ducts placed under the steps inside the prayer hall. In addition a set of exhaust fans are arranged in the dome to cool the concrete shell and prevent transference of heat into the Temple, while another set of fans funnel air from the prayer hall into the cold basement, where it is cooled and recycled back.
The interior dome receives light filtered through the inner folds between the petals which get diffused throughout the hall.
With a seating capacity of 1,300 individuals, the Temple welcomes all people with the vision of creating an environment that evokes a feeling that this House of Worship belongs to them.
The physical structures of the Houses of Worship provide a space for a growing number of people to gather to worship and to serve their community. It is important, therefore, that the space created be welcoming to all. Thus, the physical requirements, like the practice of worship inside the Houses of Worship, are simple: It must have nine sides with nine entrances, signaling its openness to all. Inside, there are no pulpits or altars, and no pictures, icons, or statues. Most importantly, it should be beautiful and as perfect as is possible in the world of being, so as to act as a means of nurturing an attraction to the sacred.