It is called the ‘Mashriqu’I-Adhkar’, the Persian translation for ‘the dawning place of the praise of God’. It is also the Mother Temple of Africa. Built about 40 tears ago on Kikaya Hill, four miles from Kampala on the Gayaza Road, the Bahai Temple soars above every other landscape. My afternoon journey to this unique and beautiful house pf worship is out of curiosity and sheer desire to travel. Yet, as the motorcycle strains and chugs along the dusty road towards Kikaya Hill, it turns out that I am taking an insightful spiritual journey. It is a pilgrimage in which I am to see the manifestations of peace and harmony in heaven and verily listen to the message from God.
In clear view of Kikaya Hill, from as far as 3km, I admire the breathtaking tree studded gardens set on an awesome 70 acres of ascending land. The soaring temple, perched on the hill’s crest, blends with the scenic view that projects harmony and joy. Arranged in rows, the exuberant flowerbeds spread out to form columns of gardens that widen from top to the foothill. It is a constant reminder of the proclaimed Christian imagery of the narrow path to heaven’s gate. The peace and quite in the lush gardens beckons hundreds to always travel to Africa’s only Bahai Temple. Each continent has got only one Bahai Temple and the decision to locate it here, turned Uganda into Africa’s spiritual heart for the Bahai.
The gardens are open to all. But while there, strict Bahai principles must be observed. Loud music, picking of flowers, immoral behavior, drinking of alcoholic beverages and use of intoxicating drugs are forbidden. Baha’ullah, the founder of Bahai faith, vehemently wrote against them. Hundreds of tourists on holiday come to picnic, lounge and gracefully wander through the peaceful gardens for long hours, the tourists constantly return as if seeking spiritual refuge from this mystical world marred by inhuman antics like savagery, immorality, prejudice, hatred and jealousy. While seeking for peace and harmony in the beautiful gardens visitors also find heaven and make a covenant with God.
According to Baha’u’llah’s writings, heaven and hell are not places but states of being reached when someone does something good and bad respectively. To the Bahai, heaven is the presence of spiritual qualities, while hell is the lack of these qualities, or imperfection. The sublime architectural design of the Temple is not merely a marvel to her visitors and people who catch sight of it from a distance. Its design is based on a spiritual vision. The nine doors that stand open during prayer and sessions of meditation speak of the all-embracing nature of God. All are to usher in people to meet and adore God under this dome that symbolizes His divine uniting force. Built in harmony with the Bahai principles, the 124 feet high and 44 feet diameter temple has because green conical dome shape. The interior screams with an air of piety and natural respect.
Rays that filter through the lofty colored glasses, richly illuminate the interior of the temple. I see a mystical interpretation of this radiance as a guiding light from heaven harmoniously articulating Baha’u’lla’s preaching -God is light and it is His light that mankind should seek. The exquisite Persian carpets grace the immaculately Polished chocolate-brown floor. Its gleam quality contrasting sharply with man’s spiritual impurity.
The smooth wooden pews, which accommodate up to 800 people, are arranged in systematic rows before an artistically designed mahogany stand- the temple’s symbol of a Universal crusade for social order. Since God is glorious of all glory, no pictures or statues are permitted inside His house. Only a sacred reading written in Arabic font is itched on the plain creamy wall at regular intervals. A translation by a guide humbles me: “All glory of all glorious,” it pronounces. The absence of priests and a pulpit, reiterates the need for equality within mankind. Anyone from the congregation can lead prayers. Readings from Holy Books, conceived from all the great religions, are used during prayers and meditation. The holy books are on Hindu, Christianity, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Islam and Babi.
Nine big pillars and 27 smaller ones support the temple up right. Different countries contributed various building materials as if to echo Baha’u’llah’s crusade for university. The green dome is made of tiny glazed mosaic tiles from Italy, while the lower roof tiles are from Belgium. The walls are of pre-cast stone quarried in Uganda. Steel and window frames and fittings are from Britain. The colored glass was brought from Germany. The timber used for making the doors and benches was from Uganda.
After four dedicated years of building, this venerated symbol of faith was successfully opened to the public on January 15, 1962. In the evenings, the delightful songs of the birds charm the lounging tourists and visitors in the garden. Like a choir of angels, they sweetly sing proclaiming the glorious destiny that awaits the human race.