Bahá'í Faith in India

Bahá'í Faith in India

Even though the Bahá'í Faith in India is numerically small and tiny in proportion of the national population, it has a long history culminating in recent times with the notable Lotus Temple, various Bahá'í schools, and increasing prominence.

History

Established

Bábí Period

The roots of the Bahá'í Faith in India go back to the first days of the Bábí religion in 1844. [http://www.bahaindia.org/intro/history.html The Bahá'í Faith - Brief History] National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India.] Four Babis are known from India in this earliest period. [http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/notes/vol5/hunud.htm Historical Accounts of two Indian Babis: Sa'in Hindi and Sayyid Basir Hindi] By Sepehr Manuchehri, Research Notes in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies, Vol. 5, no. 2 (April, 2001)] The first was Sa'id Hindi - one of the Letters of the Living from India and second a remarkable believer only known as Qahru'llah. [http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~bahai/notes/vol3/taqiya.htm The Practice of Taqiyyah (Dissimulation) in the Babi and Bahai Religions] by Sepehr Manuchehri, Research Notes in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies, Vol. 3, no. 3 (September 1999)] , and Sa'in Hindi and Sayyid Basir Hindi. Additionally four other Indians are listed among the 318 Bábís who fought at the Battle of Fort Tabarsi. [http://bahai-library.com/bsr/bsr09/9B2_momen_jamal.htm Jamál Effendi and the early spread of the Bahá’í Faith in Asia] by Moojan Momen, Baha'i Studies Review, Volume 9, 1999/2000] There is little evidence of any contact from these early Indian Babis back to their homeland.

Early Bahá'í Period

During Bahá'u'lláh's lifetime he encouraged some of his followers to move to India. [ [http://bahai-library.com/encyclopedia/history.html Bahá'í History] by Moojan Momen and Peter Smith] Some who settled in India including Hájí Sayyid Mírzá and Sayyid Muhammad who had become Bábís after meeting Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad in the 1850s. Hájí Sayyid Mahmúd also traded in Bombay. These individuals were very successful as general merchants and commission agents but it was near another 50 years before native converts began. A Baha'i teacher was asked for and Jamál Effendi was sent approximately 1875. Still in these early years another member of the Afnán family, Mírzá Ibrahím, helped establish the first Bahá'í printing and publishing company, the Násirí Press, in Bombay and began to publish Bahá'í books from about 1882-3 onwards. The Book of Certitude and the Secret of Divine Civilization were both published in 1882. [http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/bhpapers/india1.htm The Baha'i Faith in India: A Developmental Stage Approach] by William Garlington, Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies, No. 2 (June, 1997)] Much later - in the 1891 - Jamál Effendi was confused with a terrorist and reported on by British agents among the Indian population and those records have been found (though Indian government national archives.) Following the passing of Bahá'u'lláh, as the leadership of the religion fell to `Abdu'l-Bahá, he in turn sent further emissaries in his stead - both Persian and American.

Professor Pritam Singh is believed to be the first member of the Sikh community in India to accept the Bahá'í Faith, and the first to publish a Bahá'í weekly magazine in India. He received the message of Bahá'u'lláh from Mirzá Mahmud soon after his graduation from the University of Calcutta in 1904. By 1908 the work of Baha'is and `Abdu'l-Bahá's emissaries had produced functioning communities in Bombay, Calcutta, Aligarh and Lahore. Narayenrao Rangnath Shethji is believed to be the first Baha'i from Hindu background. Better known as Vakil, he was born in a well-known Hindu family in Nawsari. He became a Bahá'í in 1909. Representatives of the Indian Zoroastrian community had been sent to Persia to help their coreligionists. There they came into contact with the Baha'i Faith and supported its activities. Later, several Iranian Zoroastrian converts to the religion traveled to Bombay (notably Mulla Bahram Akhtar-Khavari) and actively promulgated their new religion among local Zoroastrians.

As early as 1910 the national community in India is being urged to destinguish itself from Islam by Baha'i institutions of America. [ [http://bahai-library.com/file.php5?file=abdulbaha_star_west_1&chapter=11 Letter from the House of Spirituality of Bahais, Chicago, Ill., U. S. A. to the Assembly of Bomday India.] ] National coordinated activities began and reached a peak with the December 1920, first All-India Baha'i Convention, held in Bombay for three days. Representatives from India's major religious communities were present as well as Baha'i delegates from throughout the country. The resolutions arrived at included the collection of funds to build a "Baha'i temple", the establishment of a "Baha'i school" and the "growth of teaching and translation work" - goals reached before the end of the century (see below.)

Following the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith was named and Shoghi Effendi soon set about the formation of the first round of National Spiritual Assemblies in the world in 1923 and India's was in that first wave. [ [http://bahai-library.com/?file=handscause_statistics_1953-63&chapter=1#22 The Bahá'í Faith: 1844-1963: Information Statistical and Comparative, Including the Achievements of the Ten Year International Bahá'í Teaching & Consolidation Plan 1953-1963] , Compiled by Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land, pages 22 and 46.] The first Baha'i summer school was able to be held in Simla in 1938 and in 1941 three new local communities with functioning Local Spiritual Assemblies had been established: Hyderabad, Kota and Bangalore. These activities reached a peak with occasional awareness of the social leaders in India like Mohandas K. Gandhi. [ [http://bahai-library.com/books/gandhi/node10.html Mahatma Gandhi and the Bahá'ís] - Striving towards a Nonviolent Civilization, by M. V. Gandhimohan, Copyright © 2000, Bahá'í Publishing Trust of India, New Delhi, ISBN 8186953825] In time his comment "The Bahá'í Faith is a solace to humankind." appeared in the Bombay Chronicle newspaper on May 24, 1944, during the centenary of the Bahá'í Faith and the Indian Bahá'í community consisted of twenty-nine Local Spiritual Assemblies.

Through the first half of the Twentieth Century the Baha'is continue to grow with a focus away from the large cities and had the notable achievement of the conversion of Kishan Lal Malviya, a scheduled caste leader from Shajapur (a district northeast of Ujjain) and another scheduled caste leader, Dayaram Malviya, also converted setting the stage for a rural dynamic of growth called "mass teaching".

Growth

After more than a century the Baha'i Faith in India had only reached around 1,000 and for a significant time there hadn't even been an Indian-based community in India. Various social and religious forces encouraged a broader outreach for the aims of the proselytizing activities of the religion. It was a time of "Mass Teaching". The Bahá'í teachings were adapted for presentation to a clearly Hindu context familiar to the people of the countryside - using principles and language familiar to them. - :*the presentation of Bahá'u'lláh as the kalki avatar who according to the Vishnu Purana will appear at the end of the kali yuga for the purpose of reestablishing an era of righteousness:*emphasizing the figures of Buddha and Krishna as past Manifestations of God or avatars, :*references to Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita,:*the substitution of Sanskrit-based terminology for Arabic and Persian where possible (i.e., Bhagavan Baha for Bahá'u'lláh), and the incorporation in both song and literature of Hindu holy places, hero-figures and poetic images.:*Hindi translations of Baha'i scriptures and prayers that appeared during this period which are so heavily Sanskritized as to make it difficult to recognize their non-Hindu antecedents.

Together with the teaching of the unity of humanity these approaches attracted many of the lower castes. [ [http://bahai-library.com/?file=nolley_bahai_population_india Notes on Bahá'í population in India] by Charles Nolley and William Garlington, 1997-03] In short order a most of a tiny village of some 200 people mass converted to the Baha'i Faith. The following year hundreds of people adopted the Baha'i Faith thanks to an open air conference where speeches could be heard. In two more years almost as many people became Baha'is as had been Baha'is through regions of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. In 1961 there were a total of 78 Local Spiritual Assemblies and less than 1,000 believers and in 1963 there were some 65,000 [Citation | first = N. Richard | last = Francis | contribution = Rahmatu'llah Muhajir - Hand of the Cause of God, the Treasure of All Humanity | year = 1998 | publisher = Bahá'í Faith Website of Reno, Nevada | url = http://bahai-library.com/file.php5?file=francis_muhajir_biography&language= ] and by 1970 these figures had risen to 3,350 Assemblies and 312,602 believers. However in contrast to the Neo-Buddhist movement no effort was made to denounce Hinduism and progress along Bahá'í ideals progressed - Assemblies formed in response to growing numbers of Baha'is, the House of Worship for India was built, and schools were established - all goals of the 1920, first All-India Baha'i Convention (see above).

During this period of growth, six conferences held in October 1967 around the world presented a viewing of a copy of the photograph of Bahá'u'lláh on the highly significant occasion commemorating the centenary of Bahá'u'lláh's writing of the "Suriy-i-Mulúk" (Tablet to the Kings), which Shoghi Effendi describes as "the most momentous Tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh".cite book |first=Shoghi |last=Effendi |authorlink=Shoghi Effendi |year=1944 |title=God Passes By |publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust |location=Wilmette, Illinois, USA |id=ISBN 0-87743-020-9 |url=http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/GPB/|pages = pp. 171] After a meeting in Edirne (Adrianople), Turkey, the Hands of the Cause travelled to the conferences, 'each bearing the precious trust of a photograph of the Blessed Beauty, which it will be the privilege of those attending the Conferences to view.' Hand of the Cause Abul-Qasim Faizi conveyed this photograph to the Conference for Asia at India. [cite book
last = House of Justice
first = Universal
authorlink = Universal House of Justice
title = Wellspring of Guidance, Messages 1963-1968
publisher = National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States
date = 1976
location = Wilmette, Illinois
pages = p. 109-112
url = http://bahai-library.com/published.uhj/wellspring.html
doi =
id =
isbn = 0877430322
]

The largest Bahá'í community in the world in 2000AD following less than a century of mass teaching became India, with an official Bahá'í population of between 1.7 million [Source: Year 2000 Estimated Baha'i statistics from: David Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia, 2000; Total population statistics, mid-2000 from Population Reference Bureau] to 2.2 million, [ [http://www.bahaindia.org/ National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India] ] The expansion of the numbers and organization of the community has helped grow the publishing agencies of the religion until the Indian Baha'i Publishing Trust has an international reputation. [ [http://www.bahaindia.org/bpt/main.html Bahá'í Publishing Trust - Publishing Division of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India] ]

Emergence from Obscurity

The Mother Temple of the Subcontinent

The Bahá'í House of Worship in Delhi, India, popularly known as the Lotus Temple, is a prominent attraction in Delhi. It was completed in 1986 and serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent. It has won numerous architectural awards and been featured in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles [http://www.uga.edu/bahai/india.html Bahá'í Houses of Worship, India] The Lotus of Bahapur] and becoming "the most visited building in India, surpassing even the Taj Mahal with some 4.5 million visitors a year." [ [http://www.onecountry.org/e151/e15104as_Temple_50th_story.htm Commemorations in Chicago highlight the immense impact of House of Worship] OneCountry, Volume 15, Issue 1 / April-June 2003] Not a few international dignitaries have also visited. Lists of prominent individuals are listed article with short list of notable visitors [ [http://bci.org/religiousunity/BahArt/Architectural%20Marvel.htm An Architectural Marvel] by Prof. Anil Sarwal, First published in The Tribune, Chandigarh] and updated most recently in 2004 addition. [ [http://www.uga.edu/bahai/2005/050112.html Distinguished visitors praise Baha'i Temple] ]

Bahá'í Educational Institutions

There are some seven educational institutions the Baha'is of India have undertaken. [ [http://www.bahaindia.org/social/index.html Socia-Economic Development Projects] ] Two of the more well known are:
*The New Era High School is located in Panchgani in the state of Maharashtra, India is private internationalist Bahá'í school, drawing students from all over the world and is under the supervision of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India. [http://www.nehsindia.org/aboutus/background/background.php3 Background statement of the school] ] It was founded in August 1945, and was one of the first Bahá'í education projects in India.
*The Barli Vocational Institute for Rural Women in Indore is a Bahá'í inspired, though independent residential vocational education school providing programs for women in the vicinity of the city of Indore, India in the State of Madhya Pradesh as well as a base for outreach/non-residential training centers. The Institute was founded in 1985 under the suggestion and direction of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India. [http://www.wfdd.org.uk/programmes/case_studies/barli.pdf Empowering Young Women to Improve Rural Lives - The Story of the Barli Development Institute for Rural Women, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India.] A case study in Bahá'í Development. Prepared by The Bahá'í International Community for The World Faiths Development Dialogue (11 July 2003)] cite web | url = http://www.bahaindia.org/social/barlimore.html | title = Barli Development Institute for Rural Women | accessdate = 2006-09-15 | date= 2003-08-11 | author=bahaindia.org]

Prominence

Following the successes in large scale growth in numbers and organization with commitment to raise up a Temple and schools, the Baha'i Faith in India has awakened degrees of prominence.

*Amongst other important engagements during his state visit to India from 5-7 November 1999, Pope John Paul II attended an inter-religious meeting. Against a backdrop of protests by various sectarian groups against ecumenism, this particular function had aroused interest. Distinguished representatives of nine religions, including Mrs. Zena Sorabjee of the Baha'i community, shared the platform with Pope John Paul. Many ambassadors, highranking government officials, political and civic leaders and intellectuals, as well as cardinals, archbishops and other senior religious dignitaries, were present at this unique event. [ [http://bahai-library.com/newspapers/110799.html Pope Addressed by Baha'is in India] ]
*The situation of the Babri Mosque was commented on by Members of the India Supreme Court highlighting the approach of the Baha'is on multi-faith issues. [ [http://bahai-library.com/newspapers/SupCrtIndia.html Excerpts from the Supreme Court of India, Oct. 24, 1994 regarding the destruction of the Babri Mosque in the town of Ayodhya] ]
*Zia Mody is a prominent Bahá'í [ [http://www.itechlaw-india.com/2008/Zia_Mody.htm Zia Mody Profile, AZB & Partners - Mumbai] ] Indian legal consultant. She is a member of the Securities and Exchange Board of India's Standing Committee on Mutual Funds, and of the Capital Market Committee of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. She is the daughter of noted Indian jurist Soli Sorabjee.

ee also

*Religion in India
*Bahá'í statistics
*Major religious groups
*List of religious populations

Links

* [http://www.bahai.in/ Official Website]

References


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