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Bahai Faith House of Worship
Bahai Places of Worship
A Bahá'í House of Worship, sometimes referred to by its Arabic name of Mashriqu'l-Adhkár (Arabic: مشرق اﻻذكار, "Dawning-place of the remembrances of God"), is the designation of a place of worship, or temple, of the Bahá'í Faith. The teachings of the religion envisage Houses of Worship being surrounded by a number of dependencies dedicated to social, humanitarian, educational, and scientific pursuits, although none has yet been built to such an extent.
History of the Bahá'í House of Worship
The Bahá'í House of Worship was first mentioned in Bahá'u'lláh's book of laws, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, as the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár (Arabic: مشرق اﻻذكار "Dawning-place of the Mention of God"), and the details of the institution were then elaborated by both Bahá'u'lláh and his successor, `Abdu'l-Bahá.
Bahá'í literature describes that a House of Worship should be built in each city and town, and emphasizes that its doors must be open to all regardless of religion, or any other distinction. The Bahá'í laws emphasize that the spirit of the House of Worship must be 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 may be set to music by choirs, no musical instruments may be played inside. Furthermore no sermons may be delivered, and no ritualistic ceremonies practiced.
All Bahá'í temples share certain architectural elements, some of which are specified by Bahá'í scripture. 'Abdu'l-Bahá stipulated that an essential architectural character of a House of Worship be that it requires to have a nine-sided circular shape ( Nonagon ). 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 may be displayed within the House of Worship and no pulpits or altars incorporated as an architectural feature (readers may stand behind simple portable lecture stands). To date all the Houses of Worship built or planned have a single, undivided room under their dome. Furthermore, in all seven, the seats in the auditorium face the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká, Israel. While each of the Houses of Worship are unique, the designs, through the selection of materials, landscaping and architecture, reflect the indigenous cultural, social and environmental elements of their location, to a greater or lesser degree.
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Bahá'í literature also stipulates that the Houses of Worship be surrounded by a complex of humanitarian, educational, and charitable institutions such as schools, hospitals, homes for the elderly, universities, hostels, and other social and humanitarian institutions to serve the areas in which they stand. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, stated that the functions of the House of Worship would be complementary to those of the Bahá'í centre, and that it would be desirable if both these buildings would be on the same site. He also describes the future interaction between the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár (worship) and its dependencies (service) as "capable of removing the ills that have so long and so grievously afflicted humanity".
The seven existing Houses of Worship were built as the Bahá'í community could support their construction through voluntary contributions. There are no collections during services and only Bahá'ís are permitted to contribute to the Bahá'í funds, including funds for the construction and maintenance of the House of Worship. The Houses of Worship are administered and maintained by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the country in which they are located. The Shrine of the Báb and other buildings at the Bahá'í World Centre are not Houses of Worship, although tourists sometimes mistakenly refer to the Shrine as a Bahá'í temple.
History: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
The first Bahá'í House of Worship was built in the city of 'Ishqábád, then ruled by Russia and now the capital of Turkmenistan. It was started in 1902 and completed in 1908. The design was prepared by Ostad Ali-Akbar Banna, and the construction was supervised by Vakílu'd-Dawlih, later named one of the nineteen Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh.
'Ishqábád is located in the desert plain of western Turkmenistan near the foothills of the Alborz Mountains. Under the protection and freedom given by the Russian authorities, the number of Bahá'ís there rose to over 1,000 and for the first time anywhere in the world a true Bahá'í community was established, with its own schools, medical facilities, cemetery, etc. Eventually the Bahá'ís in 'Ishqábád decided to build the institution of the spiritual and social heart of the Bahá'í community: the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár.
The House of Worship itself was surrounded by gardens. At the four corners of the garden were four buildings: a school, a hostel where travelling Bahá'ís were entertained, a small hospital, and a building for groundskeepers. The Bahá'ís lived as much as possible in proximity to the House of Worship. It was the centre of the community materially, as well as spiritually. The House of Worship in 'Ishqábád has been the only house of worship thus far to have the humanitarian subsidiaries associated with the institution built along side it.
After serving the community for two decades, the House of Worship was expropriated by the Soviet authorities in 1928 and leased back to the Bahá'ís. This lasted until 1938, when it was fully secularized by the communist government and turned into an art gallery. A 1948 earthquake seriously damaged the building and rendered it unsafe; the heavy rains of the following years weakened the structure, and it was demolished in 1963 and the site converted into a public park.
Existing Bahai Faith Structures
There are currently seven Bahá'í Houses of Worship, with an eighth under construction.
- Wilmette, Illinois, U.S.
Bahá'í House of Worship, Wilmette, Illinois.
The cornerstone for the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois was brought to the site by Nettie Tobin and accepted in 1912 by 'Abdu'l-Bahá during his only visit to the United States and Canada. Construction began in 1921 and was completed in 1953, with a delay of several years during the Great Depression and World War II. The Wilmette House of Worship is the largest and the oldest surviving Bahá'í House of Worship. Known by Baha'is as the "Mother Temple of the West" and formally as the "Bahá'í House of Worship for the North American Continent", it stands in north suburban Cook County, on the shores of Lake Michigan. The cladding is made of white portland cement concrete with both clear and white quartz aggregate. It has received numerous design awards, and is a prominent Chicago-area landmark. In 1978, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Symbols of many religions on a pillar of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, U.S.
- Kampala, Uganda
The Mother Temple of Africa is situated on Kikaya Hill on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. It was designed by Charles Mason Remey. Its foundation stone was laid in January 1958, and it was dedicated on January 13, 1961.
The green dome is made of fixed mosaic tiles from Italy, and the lower roof tiles are from Belgium. The walls of the temple are of precast stone quarried in Uganda. The colored glass in the wall panels was brought from Germany. The timber used for making the doors and benches was from Uganda. The 50-acre (200,000 m2) property includes the House of Worship, extensive gardens, a guest house, and an administrative center.
- Sydney (Ingleside), Australia
The Temple in Sydney, Australia was dedicated on September 17, 1961 and opened to the public after four years of construction. The initial design by Charles Mason Remey was approved in 1957, and given to Sydney architect John Brogan to develop and complete. Construction materials include local hardwoods and concrete surmounted by a dome, with seating for six hundred people. The building stands 38 metres in height, has a diameter at its widest point of 20 metres, and is a highly visible landmark from Sydney's northern beaches.
The surrounding gardens contain native plants including waratahs, several grevillea including the unique caleyi, the native pea, wattle and woody pear, plus three species of eucalypts. Other buildings located on the site include a visitor's centre, bookshop, picnic area, hostel, caretaker's cottage, and the administrative offices of the Australian Baha'i community.
The property is set high in a natural bushland setting of 380,000 square metres (38 hectares) in Ingleside, a northern suburb overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This Temple serves as the Mother Temple of Australia.
- Frankfurt (Langenhain-Hofheim), Germany
The Mother Temple of Europe is located at the foot of the Taunus Mountains of Germany, in the village of Langenhain, in the Frankfurt suburb of Hofheim, Hesse. The design was made by Teuto Rocholl. It was completed in 1964 and is made of steel, aluminum, and glass. 540 diamond-shaped windows give the dome an optical lightness and permit the sunlight to play in it. The outstanding characteristic acoustics of this setting are created by the reverberation within the dome and the resonance of its myriad window ledges. Choirs here sometimes sing while standing around the circumference of the temple floor, with the audience in the center.
- Panama City, Panama
The Bahá'í temple in Panama City, Panama, completed 1972, designed by Peter Tillotson. It serves as the mother temple of Latin America. It is perched on a high cliff, "Cerro Sonsonate" ("Singing Hill"), overlooking the city, and is constructed of local stone laid in a pattern reminiscent of Native American fabric designs.
The dome is covered with thousands of small oval tiles, and the entrance gates of the temple are constructed in a unique three-dimensional design each consisting of an equilateral triangle of three vertical posts with multiple rows of bars stretching between them at various angles, each row of which gradually changes from vertical to horizontal.
- Tiapapata, Samoa
The Bahá'í House of Worship in Tiapapata, 8 km from Apia, Samoa, was completed in 1984 and serves as the Mother Temple of the Pacific Islands. The design was by Hossein Amanat, and was dedicated by Malietoa Tanumafili II, King of Samoa (1913-2007), who was the first reigning Bahá'í monarch. Its 30-meter domed structure is open to the public for individual prayer, commemoration of Baha'i holy days, and weekly devotional meetings. The structure is completely open to the island breezes.
The Universal House of Justice has chosen 123 sites for future houses of worship.
- Lotus Temple, Delhi, India
The Bahá'í temple in Delhi, India was completed in 1986 and serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent. It has won numerous architectural awards and been featured in many newspaper and magazine articles. The architect was an Iranian, who now lives in Canada, named Fariborz Sahba. 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.
Nine doors open on to a central hall, capable of holding up to 2,500 people. Slightly more than 40 meters tall, its surface shining white marble, the temple at times seems to float above its 26-acre (105,000 m²; 10.5 ha) nine surrounding ponds. The site is in the village of Bahapur, in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The major part of the funds needed to buy this land was donated by Ardishír Rustampúr from 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 New Delhi had by 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" by Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís alike. 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.
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