Lotus Temple by Fariborz Sahba
The temples of the Bahá’í Faith are well known for their architectural splendor, and the Temple constructed in Delhi is a continuation of this rich tradition. Before undertaking the design of the temple, the architect, Fariborz Sahba, had travelled extensively in India to study the architecture of this land and was impressed by the design of the beautiful temples, as well as by the art and religious symbols wherein the lotus invariably played an important role. He was influenced by this experience, and in an attempt to bring out the concept of purity, simplicity and freshness of the Bahá’í Faith, he conceived the Temple in Delhi in the form of a lotus. The temple gives the impression of a half-open lotus flower, afloat, surrounded by its leaves. Each component of the temple is repeated nine times. Flint & Neill Partnership of London were the consultants and the ECC Construction Group of Larsen & Toubro Limited were the contractors responsible for constructing the Temple.
The temple complex, as seen from the layout, consists of the main house of worship; the ancillary block which houses the reception centre, the library and the administrative building; and the restrooms block. The temple proper comprises a basement to accommodate the electrical and plumbing components, and a lotus-shaped superstructure to house the assembly area.
All around the lotus are walkways with beautiful curved balustrades, bridges and stairs, which surround the nine pools representing the floating leaves of the lotus. Apart from serving an obvious aesthetic function, the pools also help ventilate the building.
The lotus, as seen from outside, has three sets of leaves or petals, all of which are made out of thin concrete shells. The outermost set of nine petals, called the ‘entrance leaves’, open outwards and form the nine entrances all around the outer annular hall. The next set of nine petals, called the ‘outer leaves’, point inwards. The entrance and outer leaves together cover the outer hall. The third set of nine petals, called the ‘inner leaves’, appear to be partly closed. Only the tips open out, somewhat like a partly opened bud. This portion, which rises above the rest, forms the main structure housing the central hall. Near the top where the leaves separate out, nine radial beams provide the necessary lateral support. Since the lotus is open at the top, a glass and steel roof at the level of the radial beams provides protection from rain and facilitates the entry of natural light into the auditorium.
Below the entrance leaves and outer leaves, nine massive arches rise in a ring. A row of steps through each arch lead into the main hall (see Fig. 1).
The inner leaves enclose the interior dome in a canopy made of crisscrossing ribs and shells of intricate pattern. When viewed from inside, each layer of ribs and shells disappears as it rises, behind the next, lower layer (see section on p. 29). Some of the ribs converge radially and meet at a central hub. The radial beams emanating from the inner leaves described earlier meet at the centre of the building and rest on this hub. A neoprene pad is provided between the radial beams and the top of the interior dome to allow lateral movement caused by the effects of temperature changes and wind.