It’s funny, being in a place where the religion is just as foreign as the food and the language. Both Britt and I have a Christian background, so that’s the religion that we’re most knowledgeable about. Everywhere we traveled, from Africa to Russia to Finland there has been a sizable Christian community. That is not the case in India. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are some Christians here, it’s just that we don’t see them. The majority of people we come in contact with are Hindu, Muslim or Sikh.
You might not think that religion would play a big part in our experience of India, but it does. The Delhi skyline doesn’t compare to Chicago as far as height goes, but most of the tall buildings here are temples. There are temples everywhere (the most obscure location I’ve seen so far is the center of a round-a-bout)! Not only does religion affect how the city itself looks, but it affects how the people look. Turbans, robes, dots on the forehead, paint on the scalp, etc. etc. It also affects the local cuisine. In Hinduism, cows are holy, so no roast beef for us! In fact, most dishes here are vegetarian. Religion also makes up a huge part of what you hear in Delhi. Before the birds get a chance to warm up their vocal cords, a call to prayer is blasted on loudspeakers waking the neighborhood up just before 6 a.m. The loudspeaker prayers don’t end there, either. It seems that all throughout the day either prayers, a service, or a call to prayer is being bellowed over the city. It also affects what you smell. Incense plays a big role in these religions, and we are constantly reminded of that! Every morning our neighbors below us light up a stick, and by the time we’re up and moving our entire kitchen is permeated with the smell.
Religion in India has impacted us in so many ways, and it was only a matter of time before we ended up in one of these temples. We chose to visit the Bahai House of Worship, or more commonly known as the Lotus Temple.
We once again found ourselves on holy ground, and had to hand over our shoes in what looked like a potato bag.
The building itself is magnificent, and has been given many architectural awards since it was opened in 1986. What makes this temple unique, however, is that it is open to people of all religions. This place was created for people to come in and offer a prayer up to a god (or gods), regardless of what name you call him/her/it. The entire thing is made of white marble, making for quite a chilly prayer room! The building was modeled after a lotus flower, and once inside you can see a beautiful dome that tops the building. (pictures weren’t allowed inside, so just trust me when I say it was beautiful)
It wasn’t the beauty of the building itself that struck me as awe-inspiring, but the people inside of it. This is one of the only places in the world where I could (and did) sit side-by-side with a Muslim, a Hindu, a Christian, a Buddhist, or anyone else from another religion, and join them in prayer. While sitting on a freezing-cold slab of marble inside of the temple, I was overcome with a feeling of gratitude and offered up a simple prayer of thanks. I was thankful for having the amazing opportunity to travel and experience the variety of people and places that this world has to offer. I was thankful for my amazing parter who I get to experience all of these things and places with. I was thankful that a place exists where the destructive walls that separate religions could be torn down, and people of all faiths can come together. I was thankful for life … for everything, really.