The Bahá'í Faith has been established in India almost since the founding of the religion in 1844. An important early follower of Bahá'u'lláh, Jamal Effendi, arrived in India in 1872 to promulgate the Faith. Today, following a period of growth beginning around the 1960s, Indian Bahá'ís number perhaps some 22 lakh members (2.2 million),
making it the largest national contingent of Bahá'ís in the world.
However, the Bahá'í Faith in India has a visibility even exceeding its numbers, thanks to the famous 'Lotus Temple', a major New Delhi landmark that attracts an average of four million visitors per year (around 13,000 each day). Much praised for its striking and graceful architecture, this is currently the sole Bahá'í House of Worship for the Asian continent. The Lotus Temple attracts tens of thousands of worshippers on Hindu holy days.
The growth of the Bahá'í Faith in India has been greatly assisted by the recognition of Krishna as a Messenger or Manifestation of God, alongside Jesus, Muhammad, Zarathustra and Bahá'u'lláh himself. Bahá'ís have thus been able to reach out to Vaishnava Hindus, as well as to some extent Muslims, Adivasis (or tribal people), and others. Bahá'ís have in fact presented Bahá'u'lláh as the Kalki Avatar of Vaishnava tradition and the Mahdí of Shia tradition.
Indian Bahá'ís have incorporated several elements typical of the bhakti movement, including the singing of bhajans, into their worship.
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India is the standing all-India organizational body for the Bahá'í Faith, and is headquartered in New Delhi.
In the 1991 census 5,575 people identified themselves as Bahá'í. This apparently low count has been explained through caste factors, multiple religious identities, and rapid subsequent growth of the religion. Alternatively, the later, much larger membership figures may reflect only a nominal adhesion to the Bahá'í Faith.
Bahá'í Faith Believes
Unity is very highly emphasized in the Bahá'í writings. Three core assertions of the Bahá'í Faith are the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of mankind; a single, all powerful God, revealing His message through a series of divine messengers or educators, regarding them as one progressively revealed religion, to one single humanity, who all possess a rational soul and only differ according to colour and culture.
This idea is fundamental not only to explaining Bahá'í beliefs, but explaining the attitude Bahá'ís have towards other religions. Bahá'ís regard most other religions as divinely inspired, although they are now superseded by a new revelation; Bahá'u'lláh in many places states that denying any of the previous religious founders, which Bahá'u'lláh termed Manifestations of God, is equivalent to denying all of them, and God Himself.
Bahá'í Faith God
Bahá'ís believe that there is one supernatural being, God, who has created all the creatures and forces in the universe. God is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty." (GPB, p. 139) Bahá'ís believe that although people have different concepts of God and His nature, and call Him by different names, everyone is speaking of the same one Being. God is taught to be a personal God in that God is conscious of His creation, has a mind, will and purpose. At the same time the Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully understand Him or to create a complete and accurate image of Him. Bahá'u'lláh attributed titles to God such as the All-Powerful, and the All-Loving, which are derived from the limited human experiences of power, love, or justice. Bahá'u'lláh teaches that human knowledge of God is limited to those attributes and qualities which are perceptible to us, and thus direct knowledge about the essence of God is not possible.
Furthermore Bahá'u'lláh states that the knowledge of the attributes of God is revealed to humanity through the messengers he sends to humanity. Bahá'ís believe, thus, that through daily prayer, meditation and study they can grow closer to God.