The second week of every month with Project Conversion will cover various aspects of the arts and culture associated with that month’s particular faith. What makes the Baha’i Faith so interesting is that while the Faith was born in Persia (what is now Iran), it rose out of a need to create a world community, tethered by an impetus for social and religious change. The result is a Faith that quickly becomes global and therefore a nebulae of different cultures and tastes. Few aspects of Baha’i culture and art exemplify this blending of the world’s tastes and vision than in the Houses of Worship found all over the world.
Although each breath-taking structure reflects the culture of its native soil, such as the unmistakable lotus design of the New Delhi House of Worship, each House must adhere to a few common attributes.
- Each must have nine sides/entrances. This symbolizes that there is no “back door” and that all of mankind is welcome, no matter where they come from.
- The interior of each House of Worship is used for meditation and prayer–regardless of religious background. Separate buildings for other functions such as teaching, discussion, and/or community work are to be located nearby to serve the locale in which they stand.
- No pictures, statues, or images are displayed, nor any pulpits or alters incorporated into the design.
- No offerings/donations are expected nor taken, as each House is seen as a gift from the Baha’is to humanity. Only Baha’is may contribute to the building funds.
- The House is to be surrounded by gardens so that all who come are surrounded by beauty.
- The only instrument permitted inside the House of Worship is the human voice.
As symbols of unity in brotherhood and religion, the Baha’i Houses of Worship are visited by millions of people every year. There are no rituals, sermons, or clergy. The doors of these structures are open–not as an invitation to convert those who enter–but as a way to allow all who would come to worship God in a beautiful, safe, free, and inspiring way. In the words of Baha’u’llah concerning the Houses of Worship:
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, not with images and effigies. 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.
–Baha’u’llah, from The Kitab-i-Aqdas
Here is an interview of the architect who designed the House of Worship in India. For more information regarding the Baha’i Houses of Worship, including service times and programs, please visit the International Baha’i Website and locate the House of Worship near your country of origin.