Baha’i Houses of Worship (or temples, as they often called) are places of prayer built by Baha’is, but open to people of all faiths, religions and beliefs. In the Baha’i Writings, they are also referred to as Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, which is Arabic for “The Dawning Place of the Mention of God”, and they are not simply buildings, but are considered sacred institutions. Baha’u’llah describes this sacred institution with these words:
O people of the world! Build ye houses of worship throughout the lands in the name of Him Who is the Lord of all religions. Make them as perfect as is possible in the world of being, and adorn them with that which befitteth them […]. Then, with radiance and joy, celebrate therein the praise of your Lord, the Most Compassionate. Verily, by His remembrance the eye is cheered and the heart is filled with light.1
Baha’i temples are physical manifestations of two “essential and inseparable aspects of Baha’i life: worship and service.”2 They are designed to be places of prayer for all, with subsidiary humanitarian branches that could include hospitals, schools, universities, hospices, and shelters for those in need. When describing the House of Worship in Wilmette, just outside of Chicago in the United States, Shoghi Effendi explained:
…however inspiring the conception of Baha’i worship, as witnessed in the central Edifice of this exalted Temple, it cannot be regarded as the sole, nor even the essential, factor in the part which the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, as designed by Baha’u’llah, is destined to play in the organic life of the Baha’i community. Divorced from the social, humanitarian, educational and scientific pursuits centering around the Dependencies of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, Baha’i worship, however exalted in its conception, however passionate in fervor, can never hope to achieve beyond the meagre and often transitory results produced by the contemplations of the ascetic or the communion of the passive worshiper. It cannot afford lasting satisfaction and benefit to the worshiper himself, much less to humanity in general, unless and until translated and transfused into that dynamic and disinterested service to the cause of humanity which it is the supreme privilege of the Dependencies of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar to facilitate and promote.3
Where Are Baha’i Temples Located?
In their very essence, the seeds of a House of Worship exist in every community that comes together in praise and worship of God and in service to others.
There is currently a “Mother Temple” on each inhabited continent. They are located in:
- Wilmette, USA
- Santiago, Chile
- Panama City, Panama
- Kampala, Uganda
- Langenhain, Germany
- Sydney, Australia
- Apia, Western Samoa
- New Delhi, India
In its Ridvan Message of 2012, the Universal House of Justice called for preparatory work to begin in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Papua New Guinea in designing and building national Houses of Worship. In addition, the first five local Houses of Worship were announced to be built in Battambang, Cambodia; Bihar Sharif, India; Matunda Soy, Kenya; Norte del Cauca, Colombia; and Tanna, Vanuatu. Currently two of the five local Houses of Worship have already been built, the one in Battambang, Cambodia and the one in Norte del Cauca, Colombia.
Some Interesting Facts
- Baha’i temples are open to all people no matter what their religious beliefs.
- Presentations, talks, meetings or sermons are not permitted inside the temples.
- All Baha’i temples are built with nine entrances, and they all have a version of “The Greatest Name“, a calligraphic representation of the invocation “O Glory of the All-Glorious” placed inside as the temple’s crowning piece.
- Baha’i temples can be built in any way, and with any materials. The structural requirements of all Baha’i temples are that they have a dome, are round and have nine sides. The sides are symbolic of the essential unity underpinning the great religions of the world.
- The House of Worship in New Delhi, often called the Lotus Temple, is one of the most visited buildings in the world. On average 8,000 to 10,000 visitors are welcomed to the temple every day.
- The House of Worship in Wilmette took 50 years to build; its construction continued through two World Wars and the Great Depression. The building was financed entirely by voluntary contributions from Baha’is around the world. You can watch a short video about the construction of this temple here on Baha’i Blog.
- The first Baha’i House of Worship was built in the city of Ashkhabad in modern day Turkmenistan, and it enjoyed only a brief 20 year history before it was relinquished to the hands of the Soviet authorities. It was later destroyed following one of the deadliest earthquakes in modern history. You can read more about it in this Baha’i Blog article.
- The House of Worship in Germany includes 540 diamond-shaped windows that give the dome an optical lightness and permit sunlight to play. You can see some stunning photos of its light-filled interior in these photos.
- Malietoa Tanumafili II, King of Samoa (1913-2007), who was the first reigning Baha’i monarch, attended the inauguration of the Samoa’s House of Worship.
Further Readings, Videos, Images & More!
- You can read more about the significance of Baha’i temples on bahai.org or you may wish to check out a new compilation on Mashriqu’l-Adhkars put together by the Research Department at the Baha’i World Centre (which you can read online here).
- Michael Day shared his thoughts on the significance and the unique features of Baha’i Houses of Worship in this article.
- You may enjoy this gallery of images of Baha’i Temples: 21 Stunning Photos of Baha’i Houses of Worship
- Siamak Hariri, the architect of the Baha’i House of Worship for South America in Santiago, Chile, joins Rainn Wilson in conversation and talks about the spiritual effect our surroundings can have. You can listen to that episode here: Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson – Epidose 23: Siamak Hariri.
- You can see how the interior of the House of Worship in Wilmette inspired the work of artist Kate Vestlie in this short documentary: The Art of Kate Vestlie
- Test your knowledge of Baha’i temples with this quiz!
- Lindsey Lugsch-Tehle has created a stunning series of paintings inspired by the Mother Temples of the world. You can see a gallery of her work here on Baha’i Blog.
- Enjoy this visual feast of photos of the House of Worship in Kampala, Uganda in this Baha’i Blog images post.
[*NOTE: All images for this post courtesy of the Baha’i International Community.]