India has long enjoyed the well-deserved reputation of the «wonderland». The local residents seem extremely difficult to be surprised. However, the Lotus Temple erected at the end of the twentieth century according to the Indians’ opinion spoiled by all sorts of miracles has become one of many legendary buildings of antiquity. Today the stunning Lotus Temple is the most vivid architectural monument in New Delhi.
Lotus has long been considered as a sacred plant for many peoples, especially for the eastern ones. It is believed that any object that depicts the lotus is able to protect, heal and give power. It is universally used in the ornamentation of finery and in the symbolism of religions. Mantras, prayers, meditations, poems and songs are dedicated to it. «The Art of the Lotus» is one of the first stages for comprehending the complete control over thought. Studying this every person remembers what was long ago laid in his sublime soul. A popular spiritual practice called the «Lotus Flower» helps a person come to the natural enlightenment or awake of his immortal soul and it helps get out of the chain of previous reincarnations according to the belief of its admirers. In India lotus is a symbol of purity and the miraculous birth of a new life. But in this country the largest flower blossomed according to the human will and desire .
The beginning of creating the project of the future temple dates back to 1921. At that time the young Bahá'í community of Mumbai applied for permission to build the temple to Abdu'l-Bahá. Soon the answer allowing them to build a temple in the center of India was given. The erection of this Baha'i temple was conducted solely on the means of the faith adherents throughout the world. In 1953 after long planning and calculations the land to build the future Lotus Temple was acquired. The construction was started in 1980 and completed in 1986. Thus, this large-scale project was built for more than 6 years. Fariborz Sahba, the 28-year old Canadian of Iranian origin, was chosen as the architect. He was given the honour of designing the Bahá’i temple. He traveled to India for inspiration and spiritual guidance. During his trip Sahba realized that symbols played a very important role throughout the country. The lotus flower in particular was omnipresent. In addition, he learned that other religions also embrace this flower as a symbol of spirituality. So he chose not only an elegant design but also a symbol that is a perfect match for a welcoming religion. The structural design was undertaken by the UK firm Flint and Neill over the course of 18 months and the construction was done by ECC Construction Group of Larsen & Toubro Limited. The major part of the funds needed to buy this land was donated by Ardishír Rustampúr of Hyderabad, Sindh, who gave his entire life savings for this purpose. A portion of the construction budget was saved and used to build a greenhouse to study indigenous plants and flowers .
The purity of the lotus can remove any contradictions. So the new temple was built with the intention of creating a new type of religion that would become one for all countries and beliefs. The Lotus Temple is one of the 7 Baha'i temples erected on various continents of our Earth. The imagination of the talented architect gave him the mysterious appearance of a half-blown bud of lotus with petals that arranged in three tiers. Giant petals are rising to a height of 34 meters. They are made of concrete and covered with white marble slabs on the outside. There is nothing superfluous, only the huge white petals closed in the dome. Perhaps it was the genius idea of the architect to repeat what has already been invented by nature itself without decorating and not changing this natural perfection and grace. In keeping with Bahá'í scripture the design for the House of Worship in New Delhi is an impressive building that consists of twenty-seven elegant flower petals. The closer you get, the more impressive these enormous petals look. These snow-white petals of a huge stone flower rise above the mirror surface of nine pools. It creates the impression that a temple indeed stands on the water like a lotus flower. At the same time, the pools symbolize nine paths of a true Baha'i believer. The central hall of the Lotus Temple has stunning dimensions. It is 75 m in diameter and 31 m in height. The Temple can hold up to 1300 people at the same time. The surface of the House of Worship is made of white marble from Penteli mountain in Greece, the same marble from which many ancient monuments (including the Parthenon) and other Bahá'í Houses of Worship are built. Along with its nine surrounding ponds and the gardens, the Lotus Temple property comprises 26 acres (105,000 m²; 10.5 ha) .
The temple is constructed primarily of concrete and clad in Grecian marble, resulting in the Lotus Temple’s pristine white exterior while the interior of the structure is revealed in true Expressionist fashion, with the precast ribbed roof exposed in the worship spaces. The Lotus Temple and Sahba have been the recipient of multiple international design awards .
The main feature of the building is the absence of straight lines in its form. There are only ovals and semicircles which are symbols of the infinity and unfading spiritual life. Particular attention also deserves the ventilation system of the Lotus Temple. It operates on the same principles as ventilation in ancient Indian buildings. Heated air comes out from the central building of the temple through a special hole in the dome, and cool air enters the building through channels in the foundation and reservoirs with water. Due to this ventilation system, the Temple of the Lotus constantly maintains the necessary temperature for meditation and prayer.
Many tourists who have already visited the temple say that it is much more interesting to look on it from the outside than from the inside. There are no any images associated with religion and objects of worship in the inside. Here the believing person comes for direct communication with God. There is only a pulpit on a small hill with many rows of long benches intended for worshipers. Tourists also note that it is very cool and quiet here, especially in comparison with the noisy Delhi. It's so nice to forget about all the worries and just relax. The temple looks especially magnificent with the onset of darkness, at this time the special lights up and they very beautifully illuminate petals so it even more resembles some divine miracle.
The whole artistic value of the Lotus Temple is in its unique architectural solution. It took two years to create a computer model of the future temple and 6 years of construction work to realize the project. More than 800 people took part in this. The temple is built in the shape of the most famous flower in the East and there are no sculptures, frescoes or moldings on it, no symbolic images associated with religion. There is nothing that all of us used to observe in other churches. There is only a huge golden sign of the Bahá'ís under the dome .
Speaking about the functioning of the temple at present it should be said that visiting this wonderful place is absolutely free. Foreign tourists visit the Lotus Temple in small groups which are formed directly near the entrance. It is worth noting that the photo and video are strictly forbidden inside the temple as well as any conversations. Tourists who neglect these rules will be led out of the temple. Due to these rules the atmosphere of peace and quiet reigns in the temple. It is noteworthy that it is not simple priests that serve in the church, but voluntary servants who read prayers and sacred writings, they also accept visitors. Anyone who enters the temple can pray on his own. Also in the temple there are places that are devoted to various confessions of the world. On the territory of the Lotus Temple there is a small museum, the exposition of which acquaints with the construction of this great building. There are photos, models and even the tools that had been using in the process of erecting the temple. At present it can be said without exaggeration that the Lotus Temple is the most visited place in Delhi because its unusual architecture really causes great interest among people from all over the world .
Thus, the modern Temple of the Lotus in a new way supports the ancient tradition of the national culture of India. This structure is charged with a deep philosophical meaning, it is extremely symbolic. Sprouting as a symbol of beauty and togetherness, the Bahá’í Lotus Temple welcomes all religions and peoples to worship. The pristine white petals of the temple are meant to symbolize folding man and nature into a wholesome oneness. It seems like the Lotus Temple imitating the flower carries a specific philosophical message to every person who sees and visits it. It would be impossible to choose a more suitable form for a modern temple than the exalted divine-pure bud of lotus. Due to this, the Lotus Temple by right became one of the most popular and visited architectural sights of the Indian city of New Delhi.
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