The afternoon heat clung to me like a thick overcoat. It was 4:30 pm and the air still felt humid and sticky. I stood in front of the Grand Hotel in Delhi waiting for a taxi to take me to the Lotus Temple Delhi. It was the end of a long day for me, working at my company’s India office. My boss, who was traveling with me, was up in her room taking a rest. But I wasn’t quite ready to call it a day, yet. It was my first time in India, and I wanted to see as much of Delhi as I could in the five days I was there.
My guide book recommended a visit to the Lotus Temple Delhi. Apparently, it was pretty close to my hotel. According to the guidebook, the Lotus Temple Delhi is a Baha’i temple designed to look like a lotus flower. It was built in the 1980’s and is visited by thousands of worshipers and visitors each day.
I’ve always enjoyed visiting places of worship during my travels. As such, I figured this was right up my alley. I was also interested in seeing what a Baha’i temple was like. In the past, I had visited cathedrals, mosques, Hindu shrines, Buddhist temples, and even Shinto shrines, but I had yet to see a Baha’i temple. A Baha’l temple would be a first for me.
Learning about the Baha’i
In college, one of my really close friends was a Baha’i man. Because of our friendship, I was always intrigued by his religious beliefs. And I often found similarities between his faith and mine. As young twenty year olds in Seattle, full of youthful pretentiousness, we would spend hours engrossed in philosophical discussions about spirituality, politics, and social issues. Growing up in a place where my religious beliefs was in the minority, it was nice to spend time with someone who shared that similar experience.
After college, we both went our separate ways. But I still attribute my appreciation and interest in the Baha’i faith to him. So when I read about the Lotus Temple Delhi in my guidebook prior to arriving in India, I knew that I had to visit that place during my trip.
Visiting the Lotus Temple Delhi
The taxi arrived and took me to my destination. From the outside, the Lotus Temple Delhi looks like any other place in the city. It was teeming with people and surrounded by the chaotic flow of cars, motorcycles, auto rickshaws, and pedestrians. As I walked through the gates into the grounds of the temple, I was immediately transported into a world of serenity and calm.
The area surrounding the temple structure consisted of mainly lush green grass and trees. Brick walkways led visitors to the temple. As I made my way to the center of the grounds, I had to pause several times to take pictures.
As simple as the architecture of the temple was, I couldn’t help but feel in awe of how beautiful it was. In the late afternoon heat, with the sun in the last leg of its descent, the Lotus Temple Delhi did in fact look like a giant flower, opening its petals to the world. The temple was surrounded by small pools of water and brick walkways. Directly below the main area of worship was a covered area that had posters and placards with information about the Baha’i faith.
I walked around the temple, admiring the design, and contemplating for a few minutes whether I should join in on a worship service inside that was about to begin. But I decided against it, and instead spent the rest of my visit walking around the outside of the temple, people watching.
An appreciation for places of worship
I don’t know what it is that draws me to places of worship. Perhaps it helps reaffirm my belief that we are all intrinsically the same. On the outside, the human race is diverse and varied. We come in all shapes and sizes, and even all shades of skin color. Even our cultural practices are diverse. As a traveler, I love being able to witness this diversity, and learn about all the ways that make each culture unique.
But at the same time, as different as we all are, there are certain qualities that make us all alike. We care for our family. Community is an important part of who we are. And we continually seek out a greater purpose for our lives. We find ways to express our emotions, thoughts, and beliefs through various forms and mediums.
The father of the Baha’i faith, Baha’u’llah, once wrote, “the earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Have you visited the Lotus Temple Delhi? Share your experience in the comments!
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