Dignitaries launch silver jubilee year for Lotus Temple
NEW DELHI, India — Prominent political figures praised the impact made by the Baha'i House of Worship on Indian society, as the building's 25th anniversary year got underway in New Delhi.
More than 400 guests – including government officials, along with representatives of the diplomatic community and non-governmental organizations – gathered at the House of Worship for the festive inauguration of its silver jubilee year.
"When I am in this beautiful Baha'i temple environment," the former President of India Dr. A.P.J. Kalam told the gathering, "I see everywhere around me harmony in thinking, harmony in action and harmony in every way of life."
Describing the House of Worship as "a temple of peace, a temple of happiness and a temple of spirituality," Dr. Kalam extended his best wishes to the Baha'i community in its efforts to eradicate prejudice, disharmony and conflicts in society.
"One of the greatest missions of this temple of harmony is to transmit the message to give and give to the entire humanity," he said.
India's current President, Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil sent her "warm greetings and felicitations," in a special message to the celebration, held on 20 March.
A traditional Indian-themed dance performance, titled Rainbow, led by renowned dancer and choreographer Swagatha Pillai, was also part of the evening's programme.
After the speeches and performances at the Temple's Information Center, guests attended a special service in the House of Worship, which included prayers from the children's choir of the Little Angels School of Gwalior.
An "iconic structure"
The Baha'i House of Worship, popularly referred to as the "Lotus Temple", is one of the most visited monuments in the world. Completed in 1986, it has received an average of 4.3 million visitors every year – from all nations, religions and walks of life.
Kumari Selja, Indian Minister of Culture, described the House of Worship as "certainly one of the many facets that make India incredible."
"The Temple itself stands as an iconic structure reflecting the true essence and cultural ethos of our great nation which has welcomed people of all Faiths to its shores and sheltered them," Ms. Selja wrote in a message for the occasion.
"Like the lotus which blossoms pure above muddied waters, we too can rise above differences of caste, creed, class, community, nationality and gender and put forth our best efforts towards making the world a beautiful place," she wrote.
The promotion of communal harmony as a prime focus of the Baha'i community was highlighted by Nazneen Rowhani, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India.
"While the edifice of the Temple is dedicated to the worship of God," Ms. Rowhani said, "it should not become divorced from the social, humanitarian, educational and scientific pursuits which shall in the fullness of time afford relief and sustenance to the poor, solace to the bereaved, and education to those who suffer from lack of it."
India's Minister for Tourism, Subodh Kant Sahai, highlighted Baha'i social and educational activities in his message to the gathering. "As its contribution to the advancement of Indian society," he wrote, "the Baha'i House of Worship serves as a venue for non-denominational activities such as the spiritual and moral education for children and young people, as well as gatherings where adults systematically study spiritual principles and their application in daily life."
The House of Worship symbolizes India, wrote Mr. Sahai, "combining eternal and universal values with a forward looking approach."
Further events are planned throughout the year in every state of India to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the House of Worship.