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Baha'i House of Worship

A '''Baha'i House of Worship''', sometimes referred to by its Arabic name of Mashriqu'l-Adhkar ,

is the designation of a place of worship, or temple, of the Baha'i 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.

Only eight Houses of Worship have been built around the world , with a ninth soon to be constructed in Chile. Baha'i communities own many properties where Houses of Worship remain to be constructed as the Baha'i community grows and develops further. The Houses of Worship are open to the public, and are exclusively reserved for worship, where sermons are prohibited and only scriptural texts may be read. Most Baha'i meetings occur in local Baha'i centres, individuals' homes, or rented facilities.


The Baha'i House of Worship was first mentioned in Baha'u'llah's book of laws, the Kitab-i-Aqdas, as the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar ( "Dawning-place of the Mention of God"), and the details of the institution were then elaborated by both Baha'u'llah and his successor, `Abdu'l-Baha.

Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i laws also stipulate that only the holy scriptures of the Baha'i 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 Baha'i temples share certain architectural elements, some of which are specified by Baha'i scripture. 'Abdu'l-Baha 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 Baha'i Houses of Worship have a dome, they are not regarded as an essential part of their architecture.Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, pg 311 Lights of Divine Guidance (volume 1). Baha'i 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 Baha'u'llah in 'Akka, 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.

Baha'i 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 Baha'i Faith, stated that the functions of the House of Worship would be complementary to those of the Baha'i 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-Adhkar (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 Baha'i community could support their construction through voluntary contributions. There are no collections during services and only Baha'is are permitted to contribute to the Baha'i 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 Baha'is of the country in which they are located. The Shrine of the Bab and other buildings at the Baha'i World Centre are not Houses of Worship, although tourists often mistakenly refer to the Shrine as a Baha'i temple.


Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

''See also Baha'i Faith in Turkmenistan.''

The first Baha'i House of Worship was built in the city of 'Ishqabad, 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 Vakilu'd-Dawlih, later named one of the nineteen Apostles of Baha'u'llah.

'Ishqabad 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 Baha'is there rose to over 1,000 and for the first time anywhere in the world a true Baha'i community was established, with its own schools, medical facilities, cemetery, etc. Eventually the Baha'is in 'Ishqabad decided to build the institution of the spiritual and social heart of the Baha'i community: the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar.

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 Baha'is were entertained, a small hospital, and a building for groundskeepers. The Baha'is 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 'Ishqabad 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 Baha'is. 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 structures

There are currently seven Baha'i Houses of Worship, with an eighth under construction.

Wilmette, Illinois, U.S.

The cornerstone for the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois was brought to the site by Nettie Tobin and accepted in 1912 by 'Abdu'l-Baha 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 Baha'i House of Worship. Known by Baha'is as the "Mother Temple of the West" and formally as the "Baha'i House of Worship for the North American Continent", it stands in north suburban Cook County, on the shores of Lake Michigan, at . 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.

The height of the auditorium is 138 feet (42 m), and the diameter of the dome is 90 feet (27.5 m). The auditorium seats 1,192 visitors. Like some other Baha'i temples, it has a gallery balcony from which choirs or soloists may perform. No instrumental music is allowed during services in the auditorium, although all kinds of music may be performed in the meeting room below. In general, no videography, photography, or any other activity inconsistent with quiet meditation is allowed in the auditorium. The building is open to visitors every day of the year. Currently, devotional services are held at 9:15 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 5.15 p.m. daily. A Visitor's Center, located underneath the main auditorium, includes restrooms, offices, a bookstore, library and research room, a viewing room for films, and a Foundation Hall, which is used for large meetings and holy day celebrations. The large underground area also contains offices not regularly open to the general public, including a media center, studios, and the Baha'i Archives, which can be visited by appointment.

The principal architect was Louis Bourgeois, but the interior cladding was designed by Alfred Shaw of Shaw, Metz, and Dolio. Engineering plans were prepared by Allen McDaniel of The Research Service of Washington, D.C. The general contractor was George A. Fuller, Co. Both the pioneering exterior and interior cladding were fabricated and constructed by John Joseph Earley and the Earley Studio.

The Baha'i House of Worship is a place of worship for all people. The only decorative art inside and out involves shapes and designs made by intersecting lines. There are no images of people or places. The building itself is decorated inside and out with verses from the Baha'i Writings, all of them by Baha'u'llah. As there are nine entrances to the building, there are nine verses above the doors and nine inside the buildings above the alcoves.

The verses outside are engraved into the stone, in large legible letters. Above the doors are small engraved versions of the "Greatest Name", one of several Baha'i symbols and an elaborate decorative design that includes the letters ABHA, representing the prayer "Allah u Abha" (God is Most Glorious) in Arabic. It is the numerical value of these four letters in the words abha and baha (for Baha'u'llah) that add up to total nine, one of reasons Baha'i House of Worships are nine-sided.

The most decorative element on the outside of the building is the tracery on the nine towers. These are intertwined with the generally recognized symbols of many world religions, including the Cross, the star and crescent, the Star of David, and the original swastika design, an ancient symbol having arms bent at right angles, used for thousands of years as a representative symbol of world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The only decorative symbol inside the auditorium is a large, lighted version of the Greatest Name in the exact center of the inside of the dome.

For many years the Baha'i House of Worship was associated with a "home for the aged", operated by the U.S. Baha'i community. The Baha'i Home has since closed, although the building remains in use for a local Baha'i School and regional training center.

On April 30, 2007, the Baha'i House of Worship was named one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois by the Illinois Bureau of Tourism representing the Chicago metropolitan area.

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 building is more than 130 feet (39 m) high, and over 100 meters in diameter at the base. The dome, composed of lace-like tiles, rises over 124 feet (37 m) high and is 44 feet (13 m) in diameter. The foundation goes 10 feet (3 m) underground to protect it from earthquakes common in this part of the world.

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 property includes the House of Worship, extensive gardens, a guest house, and an administrative center. See Baha'i Faith in Uganda.

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.

In 2005-2006 this temple was threatened by nearby bush fires which approached but never reached the temple grounds. See also Baha'i Faith in 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.

Currently there are plans to construct a home for the aged as the first dependency of this House of Worship.

Panama City, Panama

The Baha'i 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. See also Baha'i Faith in Panama.

Tiapapata, Samoa

The Baha'i 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 Baha'i 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. See also Baha'i Faith in Samoa.

Delhi, India

The Baha'i 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 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 Ardishir Rustampur from Hyderabad, who gave his entire life savings for this purpose in 1953.

Since its inauguration to public worship in December 1986, the Baha'i 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 .

This House of Worship is generally referred to as the "Lotus Temple" by Baha'is and non-Baha'is 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. See also Baha'i Faith in India.

Planned construction

The Universal House of Justice has chosen 123 sites for future houses of worship. These are a few of the most notable:

Tehran, Iran

While a site has been selected, and plans drawn up for the Baha'i Temple of Teheran, Iran, the construction or planning of such a temple is impossible in the current political situation in Iran.

Upon the request of Shoghi Effendi, Charles Mason Remey provided a design for this House of Worship, but it was not approved before the death of Shoghi Effendi.

Santiago, Chile

In late 2002, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Chile and the Universal House of Justice announced a competition for the design of the mother temple of South America, to be built outside Santiago. The selection chosen was designed by Siamak Hariri of Toronto, Canada. Scott, Alec . "Higher Power: Toronto architect Siamak Hariri ascends to architectural greatness", CBC.ca Arts.

Its sides will be composed of translucent panels of alabaster and cast glass. The interior structure will be a lattice structure of steel supporting the inside of the upper dome. Construction has been delayed while a suitable location is found. The final location will be defined and announced by the Universal House of Justice. See also Baha'i Faith in Chile.

Haifa, Israel

A site has been selected for a Baha'i Temple in the vicinity of the Baha'i World Centre on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. It is near the spot where Baha'u'llah chanted the Tablet of Carmel, the "Charter of the World Spiritual and Administrative Centers of the Faith on that mountain" according to Shoghi Effendi. A design by Charles Mason Remey was approved by Shoghi Effendi. In August 1971 the Universal House of Justice erected an obelisk on the site, on the side of which is the Greatest Name.

Other sites

As of 1963, sites in the following cities had also been chosen for future temples:

External links

The Baha'is: Baha'i Houses of Worship

The Baha'i Houses of Worship around the world as seen from Google Earth

Official Website of the Baha'i House of Worship in Australia

Official Website Baha'i House of Worship in Chile

Baha'i World News Service: Translucent temple for Chile

Official Website Baha'i House of Worship in Germany

* Baha'i Chants at the European House of Worship

Official Website Baha'i House of Worship in India

The official Website Baha'i House of Worship in Samoa

* Royal welcome at jubilee gathering in Samoa

Baha'i Community of Uganda celebrates its 50th anniversary

Official Website of the Baha'i House of Worship in the United States

* Video of the Baha'i House of Worship in the United States

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