Learning about India: The Lotus Temple and Sacred Geometry
This month, as we began our study of India with the Global Learning for Kids series, I decided to explore with the boys the beautiful Lotus Temple of New Delhi.
This gorgeous temple, just completed in 1986, is one of the Bahá’í Houses of Worship located throughout the world, the most recent being the one currently under construction in Santiago, Chile. The Bahá’í temple in India – often called the Lotus Temple – receives on average 8,000 – 10,000 visitors a day and is now one of the most visited buildings in the world. One recent visitor was the Dalai Lama, who gave a talk on peace and compassion.
The Lotus Temple has received a number of architectural awards and been featured in numerous documentaries. But I was interested in showing the boys the meaning that infuses this beautiful architecture and brings it to life for its many visitors and admirers around the world.
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We started by learning more about the concept of sacred geometry – that is, the idea that buildings can convey a message to us about God. What does this mean? First, we had to dive into the concept of symbols – things that stand for something else. Shapes and images used in architecture can stand for ideas, helping remind us of things that are important.
We reviewed the book Geometry through Architecture: The Chartres Cathedral (a great global STEM book for kids), looking especially at the symbols that were used in the cathedral. Monkey especially liked the labyrinth built into the floor of cathedral, which encourages introspection and focus as visitors work their way through.
Turning back to the Bahá’í temples, they are also full of symbolism. For example, all have nine doors. Since nine is the highest single digit, it is a symbol for unity, showing that all people are welcome to worship there.
As for the Bahá’í temple in India, why was the lotus symbol chosen? What importance does the lotus have in India?
The lotus is an ancient symbol of the divine in India. It was mentioned in the oldest Veda and features prominently in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It is a powerful symbol of beauty, purity, and divine birth/everlasting life. It can also mean detachment from this earthly life, just as the lotus floats above the murky water, maintaining its purity. It can also represent life, fertility, and prosperity. The lotus can also symbolize potential, especially spiritual.
Since we learned a bit about origami in our study of Japan last month, I thought it would be fun to make some origami lotus flowers. They turned about beautifully and were so much fun to make!
There are a number of tutorials available online to make really beautiful origami lotus flowers – including this one that really looked like the Lotus Temple! – but most were too complicated for my five year old. Instead I opted for this simpler tutorial. The number of steps was just the right length for Monkey, plus it was very easy to follow. And despite this, our flowers really turned out beautifully!
To learn more about the Lotus Temple, be sure to visit the website of the Bahá’í House of Worship in India.
This post is part of our new series Global Learning for Kids. This month we are learning all about India, so link up below any old or new posts designed to teach kids on India–crafts, books, lessons, recipes, music, and more!
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