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The Lotus Temple, an Architectural and Engineering Feat

Marie studied at Michigan State University four years in English (creative writing). She writes content, poetry, and stories.

Introduction

I had never heard of this temple until I happened to work an online jigsaw puzzle at Crazy4Jigsaws. I was struck by the image of the temple. It had to be a challenge for architects and engineers. After researching, I learned that, indeed, the challenge was very real.

Today, over five million people in India follow the Bahá'í Faith and form the largest international community of Bahá'ís. At the time of its creation, the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, India, was one of only seven Bahá'í temples in the world.

The Temple's Background History

Ardishir Rustampur of Hyderabad gave away all his life's savings in 1953 for the Lotus Temple to be constructed, a process that did not begin until 1976. The acreage on which the temple was to be built was located in the village of Bahapur, Kalkaji, south of New Delhi and west of Connaught Place.

Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba won the Excellence in Religious Art and Architecture Award by the the U.K. Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) for producing a building "so emulating the beauty of a flower and so striking in its visual impact." The award was given even before the temple was completed.

Flint and Neill, a U.K. engineering firm, accepted the structural design project, and the construction was undertaken by the Engineering Construction Contract (ECC) Group, a company in India. The Lotus Temple was consecrated and opened to the public in December 1986.

Sahba Discusses His Design of the Lotus Temple

Building the Lotus Temple

The white marble edifice rises to a height of more than 130 feet (40 meters) and is set on an elevated plinth in a 26-acre (10.5-hectare) expanse of landscaped gardens. The surrounding nine pools of the building are bordered by red sandstone walkways and help cool the inner prayer hall.

Aerial View of the Lotus Temple and Garden

Aerial View of the Lotus Temple and Garden

Structural Description

The structure is circular and has nine sides. The building is made up of 27 free-standing marble petals arranged in clusters of three layers to form the shape of a lotus. The petals in the first ring face outward, forming canopies over the nine entrances. The second ring covers the outer hall. In the innermost ring, the petals curve inward to partially enclose the central prayer hall that can accommodate 2,500 people. This central worship area is capped with a glass and steel skylight.

The prayer area and marble floors.

The prayer area and marble floors.

The glass and steel skylight.

The glass and steel skylight.

The Lotus Temple in New Delhi was the first temple to use solar power, providing 24% of the building's electrical use. Natural air circulation helps keep the building cool with openings in the basement and at the top of the structure, thus reducing the need for electricity.

An engineering feat that will set standards for centuries.

— The Tribune, New Delhi's English newspaper regarding The Lotus Temple

The Lotus Temple at Sunrise

The Lotus Temple at Sunrise

Interesting Facts

  • The marble used comes from the Penteli Mountain of Attica, Greece.
  • The project cost an estimated $10 million.
  • The lotus, a symbol of purity and tenderness, is India's national flower.
  • No formal religious ceremonies or sermons are allowed at the temple.
  • The worship hall can seat 1,300 and accommodate 1,200 standing people.
  • An average of over four million people visit this place of worship annually.

About the Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'ís primary messenger, Bahá’u’lláh, explained that the religions of the world come from the same source and are, in essence, successive chapters of one religion from God. Other messengers the Bahá'ís recognize include Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad.

I personally know one friend who practices the Bahá'í faith. She is an Iranian who came to the United States to study and practice dentistry. English was a second language for this kind, dedicated woman. I supported her language competency from her early internship, through her duties as president of the Iranian-American Dental Association, and, finally, when she opened her own dental practice.

Recommended Reading

National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India, The; Dawning Place of the Remembrance of God; Baha'i Publishing Trust India (2002)

White, Roger and Rai, Raghu (illus.); Forever in Bloom: The Lotus of Bahapur; Time Book International (1992)

Resources

The Institute of Civil Engineers (Structural Description and Miscellaneous Info)

Prevaling History (Additional Miscellaneous Facts)

The Bahá'í Faith (Basic Tenets of the Bahá'ís)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Danny from India on October 29, 2020:

Thanks Marie, for acknowledging my comment... Yes the temple is truly spectacular in design and the center of the Bahai Faith.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on October 29, 2020:

I wish to thank my readers for their wonderful comments. Danny's comment about getting the feeling of floating in space is especially intriguing. I can only imagine what a visit to the temple would be like. Until I become a world traveler, I will have to be content with my article, the comments, and other online resources.

Blessings!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 28, 2020:

The temple is beautiful. Thanks for writing this good article about the temple as I knew nothing about it before now, Marie.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 27, 2020:

Thanks, the place and your writing are wonderful.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 27, 2020:

What a magnificent place. I would have loved to have been in on the designing phase. I like making models but would have no idea about structural stress and whatever. I would have to leave that part up to the experts. Ha.

Blessings,

Denise

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 27, 2020:

This temple is phenomenal. Thanks for the research and presentation.

Danny from India on October 27, 2020:

Yes, this one is an architectural wonder. It gives a feeling of floating in space. The lotus shape is meditative and serene and being inside makes you blissful.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on October 27, 2020:

What a gorgeous structure! It kind of reminds me of the Sydney Opera House. Thanks for sharing this architectural treasure with us!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 27, 2020:

What an amazing building. I had not heard of this temple before. It reminds me a little of the Sydney Opera House. Would love to visit someday. Great job.

Ashutosh Joshi from New Delhi, India on October 27, 2020:

Besides all that's been said, I would like to add - It's not just another temple and that's important especially in Indian context.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on October 27, 2020:

I thought it to be an amazing subject to write about, Liz. I was especially awed by the fact that unskilled laborers carried buckets of concrete to make the petals.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 27, 2020:

I had not heard of this temple before. It looks like a fascinating building. Your article introduces it and explains it well.