Hari had visited the Lotus Temple of Bahai’ faith in Delhi, India, many years ago; but I did not get a chance (though I stayed near Delhi for a near 5 year period !) Suddenly one fine Sunday (Labor Day weekend), we were sitting at home and Hari was in a mood for traveling. When he said we would go to Chicago, I was not particularly excited as we go to Chicago very frequently and I had seen Chicago many times. Sears Tower does not attract me any more. I have seen almost all temples there (atleast I thought). But when he made a detailed plan including Swami Narayan Temple (BAPS), which is the richest temple in USA and Baha’i temple, my interest was aroused as I have never before gotten into touch with Swami Narayan Sampraday of Gujarat and also the Baha’i Faith. I know that the Lotus temple existed in India, but I was unaware of what Baha’i meant and its significance. We undertook a kind of pilgrimage to these temples and other before-visited temples on the Labor Day weekend.
Before starting, we looked through the websites of Baha’I and Swami Narayan temples so we don’t miss the timings. Baha’i is open all through the day for worship, where as Swami Narayan temple had some pre-set timings for darshan, puja and arati. You cannot imagine how happy, overjoyed I felt when the Bahai’ web site opened with a Tyagaraja’s classical kirtana, a tribute to Lord Rama –
jagadaananda kaarakaa, jaya jaanaki prananayakaa…
(O Abode of Bliss, O Beloved of Janaki ..)
Bahai Temple was our first destination en route. The route was very scenic, with old and mature sub-divisions, which are also palatial in appearance. Finding parking was difficult as lot of people, from different places and cultural backgrounds are to be seen there. We spotted the Temple’s white tower from few blocks away. Finally after two to three complete turn-arounds, we managed to park in a small place. The family photographer (my husband, Hari) was ready with all his paraphernalia. There was a beautiful garden enclosing the temple and he managed to get few pictures of the roses, hibiscuses, geraniums and magnolias. (He always asks me to be in the picture, but I was so engrossed looking around that I am absent in most of the photos).
Baha’i Temple is situated on the banks of the Michigan lake. The aerial view is very beautiful (We have browsed through some aerial view photographs of the Temple). The architecture is wonderful. Baha’i faith believes in the unity of all religions and is propounded by Baha’u’ llah’, an Arabic title, which means “Glory of God”. Baha’u’llah’ is believed, according to this faith, to be the messenger of God for this age. He was born in the then Iran, Persia, to a very royal family. Since his childhood, he was very kind and compassionate and spread the message that “God is One”. To this effect, inside of the domes in all Baha’i temples are written phrases which reinforce this idea. Some of the fundamentalist religious leaders of Muslims did not like the teachings of Baha’i and hence Baha’u’llah was exiled to a prison in Palestine, where he died eventually. His followers were tormented very much. When we saw the pictures of innocent people being brutally murdered in the display, we felt very sad.
As you can see from the photos, the symbolic representations of all religions are carved on the pillars. But, the symbol “OM” which is the essence of Hindu religion is not depicted. Instead, it is represented by another symbol, Swastik. Inside the lrage-domed prayer room, there are pews and you can do silent worship and meditation as much as you like. The dome seems to be reaching the sky with an inscription in Urdu on the top. Such inscriptions, which signify the unity of all religions and as found in Baha’i teachings, encompass the dome.
And when we were returning, an elderly woman has kindly offered to take our photograph infront of the temple. After the pictorial ceremony, she said that she loves the Lotus temple of New Delhi and that it is where her heart is. She also wished us by joining her palms, (representative of “Namaskaram”, Salutations to thee!) and we felt vert happy. We could not stay much longer as we needed to go Swami Narayan temple also and this concluded our visit to Baha’Ii temple.