22 January 2010
As with all other Bahá'í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all regardless of religion, or any other distinction, as emphasized in Bahá'í texts. The Bahá'í laws emphasize that the spirit of the House of Worship be that it is a gathering place where people of all religions may worship God without denominational restrictions. The Bahá'í laws also stipulate that only the holy scriptures of the Bahá'í Faith and other religions can be read or chanted inside in any language; while readings and prayers can be set to music by choirs, no musical instruments can be played inside. Furthermore no sermons can be delivered, and there can be no ritualistic ceremonies practiced.
All Bahá'í Houses of Worship, including the Lotus Temple, share certain architectural elements, some of which are specified by Bahá'í scripture. `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, stipulated that an essential architectural character of a House of Worship be that it requires to have a nine-sided circular shape. Inspired by the lotus flower, its design is composed of 27 free-standing marble clad "petals" arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. While all current Bahá'í Houses of Worship have a dome, they are not regarded as an essential part of their architecture. Bahá'í scripture also states that no pictures, statues or images be displayed within the House of Worship and no pulpits or altars be incorporated as an architectural feature (readers may stand behind simple portable lecture stands). The nine doors of the Lotus Temple open onto a central hall, capable of holding up to 2,500 people. The central hall is slightly more than 40 meters tall and its surface is made of white marble. The House of Worship, along with the nine surrounding ponds and the gardens around comprise 26 acre (105,000 m²; 10.5 ha).
The site is in the village of Bahapur, in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The architect was an Iranian, who now lives in Canada, named Fariborz Sahba. He was approached in 1976 to design it, later oversaw its construction and saved money from the construction budget to build a greenhouse to study which indigenous plants and flowers would be appropriate for the site. The major part of the funds needed to buy this land was donated by Ardishír Rustampúr of Hyderabad, who gave his entire life savings for this purpose in 1953.
Since its inauguration to public worship in December 1986, the Bahá'í House of Worship in Delhi has, as of late 2002, attracted more than 50 million visitors, making it one of the most visited buildings in the world. Its numbers of visitors during those years surpassed those of the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal. On Hindu holy days, it has drawn as many as 150,000 people; it welcomes four million visitors each year (about 13,000 every day or 9 every minute).
This House of Worship is generally referred to as the "Lotus Temple". In India, during the Hindu festival Durga Puja, several times a replica of the Lotus Temple has been made as a pandal, a temporary structure set up to venerate the goddess Durga. In Sikkim a permanent replica is of the Hindu Legship Mandir, dedicated to Shiva.