Is Lotus temple the epitome of dome structures of 21st century?

Dome of Lotus temple

Lotus temple is an excellent example of architectural and engineering marvel our country has ever seen. Also known as the Bahai temple of worship, it is one of the eight temples of Bahai religion. The ninth temple is under construction in Chile. Besides faith, all these temples are binded by one common element: its dome. With its multifunctional qualities of the dome of lotus temple, is there any other structure which can compete with this?

Often the Lotus temple is criticized for similarities with the Sydney Opera house, due to its leaf-like elevations. Maybe, the construction technology is the same, but, the concept and the function behind the two are different. The roof of the opera house, which is known as “shells”, was derived from a single imagined sphere, as shown in figure 2. The form is not inherited inside the structure, ie concert halls etc. On the other hand, lotus temple is purely a dome, enclosed in its outer leaves. This dome is the result of complex geometry which allows natural light inside the structure, regulates air flow, conducts passive cooling and creates an atmosphere of peace for worship and meditation.

Cut-out sphere showing the derivation of the shape of Opera house

Lotus temple is not the only temple for meditation which is under a dome. The reason being that, many practitioners of meditation believe this geometry helps reorganize the cells of the body, helping to improve health and creativity. They use domes to enhance their practice with great success. Musicians enjoy practicing and performing in domes. Adopting this inter-relationship, the Dhyanalinga temple at Coimbatore boasts a large dome for meditation. It houses an elliptical dome of diameter 72 feet made of brick and mud and other composite materials.

Shrine under the dome of Dhyanlinga temple

The dome is so powerful that it concentrates all the energy in the center as soon as one enters through the vaulted archway. The dome is not naturally lighted unlike lotus temple. Next in the list is the Global Vipassana Pagoda in Gorai which again works on the same concept and is similar to Dhyanalinga temple. This Pagoda also claims to be the largest dome in the world built in stone with inner diameter of about 86 meters. The project team wanted the structure to last for thousand years, therefore it was built in stone. People from all over India visit this place to imbibe the teachings of Lord Buddha and meditate in this atmosphere.

Global Vipassna Pagoda and its interior

The lotus temple does not hold record of any sort. With the invention of geodesic domes in place, there is no chance of bagging the largest and most complicated dome award. The last but not the least, is the Matrimandir at Auroville, a geodesic dome structure. This structure is different from the ones mentioned above. It is surreal in itself. The main area is the inner chamber which is so magnificent and calm, that one would feel the world has come to a halt. In the center is the world’s largest optically perfect glass globe, which harvests a beam of sunlight, made powerful by lenses situated at the top of the dome. People visiting the place describe their experience as ‘the loudest silence ever heard’.

Matrimandir, Auroville

Despite all of these, lotus temple occupies a warm place in the hearts of people. It may not be the most complex structure till date, but functions extremely well for which it was designed: “peace”. It is not only beautiful from outside but soothing from inside too. Though it is not the epitome of 21st century, it will serve as a milestone in the history of Indian architecture.



  1. AD Classics: Sydney Opera House / Jørn Utzon–
  2. Dhyanalinga–
  3. Global Vipassana Pagoda–
  4. The Loudest Silence You Ever Heard–
  5. Featured image credits: To my photographer friend Shreya Pawar


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Is Lotus temple the …

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