A haze lies over Delhi when I am on my way to the Lotus Temple one day after Christmas. The sun seems to manage to make its way through to earth, and when we approach the temple, I can clearly see the contours - a remarkable structure. While preparing my visit, I had a look at the Lotus Temple on Google Earth, and noticed a perfect 9-point shape surrounded by 9 ponds. From the ground, of course, I get a completely different view. I wait at the entrance for my friend, and when she arrives, we make it to the back of the line, which has been growing fast since I arrived. Once inside, we first visit the information centre, which gives a good introduction to the temple, the its construction, and also the background of the Baha'i faith. After all, the Lotus Temple is a house of worship for Baha'i followers.
Then, we walk the long straight lane at the end of which the white Lotus Temple is standing. It reminds me of the Opera House in Sydney: similar colour, same daring architecture. We are surrounded by many others: in fact, the Lotus Temple is one of the most visited buildings in the world. We leave our shoes in a bag, and continue up the stairs towards a large balustrade that surrounds the building. From here, we can look down on the ponds, and up to the huge white petals that rise up to form the lotus flower. We sit down, to soak in the view, and to watch people walking past. It is soon clear that although this is a house of worship, it is mostly a sightseeing destination for almost all visitors. People take selfies, pictures of each other, or walk down the stairs towards the pond to simply relax. The december sun is quite warm, and for a while, we are happy to just sit here, watch, and talk. Then, when the crowds seem to thin out a little, we line up to enter the Lotus Temple. It is all meticulously organized: a lady directs how we need to line up, gestures us forward, asks us to walk towards the temple and wait. There, we get an explanation in Hindi and English about the rules of conduct inside the Lotus Temple.
Once inside, I am surprised to find most of the benches empty. The hall is spacious, and daylight comes in through the hole in the centre of the lotus flower. Nine is the holy number also inside: there is a 9-point shaped star on the ceiling. No sermons can be held here, nor can religious ceremonies be carried out. It is not allowed to take pictures inside, or talk, but many people do not observe these basic rules. Even here, the temple that is open to adherents of all religions, where people of any faith can pray if they want to, feels peaceful, but not necessarily spiritual. Once outside again, we walk down to the ponds, where families take pictures, couples relax on the stairs, and we get great views of the temple reflected in the blue waters surrounding it. At the higher level, people are still waiting to get in; and on a side entrance, group after group of uniformed Indian schoolgirls and boys wait in line. We leave the compound, and walk around it for better views of the temple.
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