The Baha’i “Lotus” Temple, New Delhi

14 October 2007 / 22 Mizan 1386

And now for something completely different: the Lotus Temple.

couple at the entry to the temple grounds

The mood for me was set by this couple: I think they may be in their eighties. They held hands as they walked towards the temple. Powerful testament to love and long relationships.

approaching the temple

They did not move very fast; they set a stately pace of approach to the temple.

at the temple base

view from the south side

The forms used for the ‘leaves’ of the temple are clearly derived from the Sydney Opera House. But here they are used to form an abstracted version of a blossom.

view 2 from south

and the execution is exquisite.

infrastructure clash

Perhaps taking Mies van der Rohe’s advice, they reverence God in the detailing.

lap view

Inside you are not supposed to take pictures because it can distract visitors from reverential worship. So I apologize to Baha’is worldwide for these pictures. Fortunately my tiny, silent Cybershot went unnoticed by all the folks who were, as you see, profoundly chilled out.

ceiling view

The shell-petals are resolved into a crisscross open rib structure on the inside. Here I see influences of Pier Luigi Nervi, as well as the historic Iranian design of ribbed vaults.

a space of reverence and reflection

The worship space itself is spare by the standards of any religion; comparable with Quakers. No altar; minimal podium; no knick-knacks. You have to notice the emptiness, the calmness, and its relationship your own inner state.

In a gentle testimony to the power of this place, hundreds of visitors are quietly lined up to enter. They seem to come from all over the world and all levels of Indian society.

devoted maintenance

Devoted maintenance: I did not ask but I get the sense that the guys on ropes, resealing the joints in the marble, are all Baha’is.

India Gate

After visiting the Baha’i temple I returned to India Gate to try to capture a picture of the sun setting at the end of the mall, which I had seen on the day that I arrived. In the intervening six days the sun had moved south, though, so it no longer lines up. Still, sunsets at the gate are fabulous, because it is one of relatively few places within the city where you get a long view to the west through the rosy haze.

sun setting

The India Gate is a very well-used public space. Lots of evening picnickers.


There is a tension when an obvious tourist is photographing people in a public space like this. I had been in this spot for several minutes, and the woman in the foreground noticed that I was taking pictures (because at the same time a boy was trying to sell me toys, and I kept telling him to wait while I was catching this sunset). Although she had been facing away from me, she turned to be directly in this shot. It reminds me that when I am in Kabul on a bus and someone notices that I am a foreigner, I have gotten used to letting them stare at me. Why not? I am a curious presence on a city bus in Kabul. And recently, Afghans have started photographing foreigners using cameras and mobile phones. Fair turnabout.

tired moth

Just before I went out that evening I saw a moth in the stairwell of our hotel, and it was very confused by the walls. After flying frantically for several minutes it landed here. I expect it had used up most of its food reserves. In any case, it was too tired to fly away from me, so I got this close up on macro. Its wings remind me of the color and pattern of many textiles I have seen here.

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