President of Iceland visits Baha'i Temple in New Delhi14 November 2000
NEW DELHI — The President of the Republic of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, and his family visited the Baha'i House of Worship here on 29 October. He was the first head of state to visit the famous "Lotus Temple," as the House of Worship is popularly known, during an official state visit.
The President was accompanied by a delegation of about 30 Icelandic dignitaries, including the Foreign Minister, Haldor Asgrimmson, and his wife. They were met by the Secretary-General of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India, Ramnik Shah, the General Manager of the House of Worship, Shahin Javid, and a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors for Asia, Zena Sorabjee.
The Icelandic delegation included a member of the Baha'i Faith, Vilhjalmur Gudmundsson, who is Director for Market Development for the Trade Council of Iceland. Mr. Gudmundsson was on the advance team that visited India at the beginning of September to prepare for the President's visit.
"I really made a great effort in a very tight schedule to come to the Baha'i House of Worship and I was able to convince my partners, one from the Foreign Ministry and the other from the President's Office, to come along," Mr. Gudmundsson said. "When I came I was quite impressed and very much touched over the beauty of it. I mentioned to my partners that the President would appreciate to see this House of Worship, and that we had to find time in his very tight schedule to do so."
The Indian Government has often included the House of Worship in the itinerary of visiting dignitaries, but this was the first time it was included in an official state visit by a head of state.
The President's visit began with a briefing in the library on Baha'i social and economic development efforts in India, with an emphasis on recent efforts to contribute to a moral education curriculum for Indian schools. The delegation then visited the House of Worship's main hall for a brief prayer service. The entire visit lasted about 40 minutes. President Grimsson was presented with "Forever in Bloom," a book of photographs about the House of Worship.
Completed in 1986, the Baha'i House of Worship has become one of the most visited buildings in the world, with an average of 3.5 million visitors each year. It's distinctive lotus-shaped design, with concrete "petals" sheathed in marble, has won numerous architectural and engineering awards.