The park is serene. The people well-behaved. All eyes – and camera lenses – are trained on a massive flower-shaped structure covered in white marble that sticks out from its green surroundings. A building which could very well be one of the most visited buildings in the world. The Lotus temple.
The temple promotes a noble message in a largely multicultural and especially multireligious city as it stands for equality, tolerance and freedom of choice. Unlike other places of worship the Lotus temple doesn’t cater to a single religion, but welcomes anyone who seeks a place to pray regardless of which God they hope is listening.
Overall, it’s a surprisingly clean, calm and peaceful place, more so when you consider that it’s located in a city as crowded and noisy as Delhi. But perhaps that’s exactly the point and it certainly adds to the symbolism of the pure, white lotus flower that emerges from dark and murky waters.
It doesn’t seem to be just a gimmick to attract tourists either. We were the only westerners present at the time, there was no entry fee and no-one tried to push any sort of service on us. Especially the latter two are a rarity around here.
So could this really be? A place built for the sole purpose of bringing unity? It certainly seems so and perhaps more importantly, it really felt that way too. It seems a little out of place that in a chaotic country not unknown to terror and surrounded by countries in (religious) conflict like Afghanistan, China, Myanmar and recently also Bangladesh is home to such a popular place of peace. Then again, perhaps these conflicts make them long for a peaceful place more and let’s not forget that the country has birthed many religions which have coexisted for a long, long time.
Whether we are religious or not, religions are what gave us our modern-day values such as loyalty, honesty and respect. They brought order and hierarchy where previously there was none. And while I’m certainly not religious myself, I do think there’s a core of truth within the majority of religions. Religion, in my eyes, gives people something to believe in and if that’s what gives someone the courage to perform a certain task or to make it through a difficult period and generally pursue a better standard of living then I’d say every God exists.
Tolerance, now that’s sophistication.