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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

With broad outlook, scientific approach, Baha'is gel well

Hillary Victor, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, November 01, 2013
First Published: 10:13 IST(1/11/2013) | Last Updated: 10:17 IST(1/11/2013)

You may be surprised to know, but the city is also home to the Baha'i community - people who believe in the oneness of God. It was in 1959, when a Canadian pioneer, Edmond Sanche, settled in Chandigarh along with his Indian wife. Since then, their number has grown and today nearly 2,000 of them are settled in the tricity.

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Baha'is hold their community functions and social gatherings at Baha'i House in Sector 8, which was purchased in 1979. Most of the community people are middle-class families and most of them are into the profession of teaching, law and IT sector.

With the formation of Chandigarh as the state headquarters, the centre of Baha'i activities too shifted to the City Beautiful.

The first local spiritual assembly of the Baha'is was formed in 1964. Today, the community meets once in every 19 days, to celebrate 19-day feast, which falls on the first day of every Baha'i month. Interestingly, the Baha'i calendar is solar calendar containing 19 months of 19 days each. Rest of the days are known as intercalary days (means days of charity).

The community respects local customs and culture and believe in unity in diversity. They lead a pure and chaste life. Smoking, taking alcohol or drugs is condemned. Vegetarian diet is recommended and great importance is given to prayers, meditation and fasting.

Regarding the contribution to the city, Baha'is have been organising regular medical camps, moral classes for children, literacy classes for adults and tutorial schools.

The Baha'is celebrate unity in diversity. They are cauldrons of different cultures from Persian to African to Indian to American. The Baha'i-inspired songs, skits, dances and drama are imbued with the unity paradigm and the need for reform in the present day world order.

In Chandigarh, the work of the Baha'i Youth group has been very much appreciated. With little resources, they produce wonderful dances, songs and skits spreading the message of peace and harmony touching the hearts of viewers, especially on the occasions of Baha'i Holy Days and New Year Celebrations on March 21 every year.

Prof Anil Sarwal, secretary, Regional Baha'i Council of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh, was one-year-old when his parents settled in the city in 1956. Explaining that the basic teachings of Baha'i faith that centres on the oneness of God, oneness of religion and oneness of humankind, he says the city has given us lot of love and our community has never faced any problem till date. In fact, the spirit of the city seems in sync with the principles of Baha'i faith that are broad in their outlook and scientific in their approach, Sarwal adds.

"We have requested the UT administration give us some land for construction of our buildings, like they have given to other communities," he adds.

The popular icon of India, the Lotus Temple (the Baha'i House of Worship) in New Delhi epitomises these Baha'i teachings.

RL Arora came to Chandigarh in 1962 and is now settled here as retired deputy secretary, Punjab School Education Board, SAS Nagar.

Arora, who is also the chairman of Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of SAS Nagar, says, "The city has accepted us with open hands. The basic amenities in city cannot match with any other city of the country. We respect local customs and culture and strongly believe in unity in diversity."

Nand Kishore, an auxiliary board member and a teacher by profession, feels the Baha'i Youth are the backbone of the Baha'i community of Chandigarh.

Sharing his recent experience when he travelled with a group of about 50 youths from Chandigarh to participate in International Baha'i Youth Conference in New Delhi, he says "All youths want to work for the transformation of society of which the education of junior youth and children is the key. All these youths have promised to carry out the transformational activities along with their studies and profession."

Auxiliary board member Geeta Thapa, who is also a teacher by profession, has experience of conducting Bahai Children Moral classes for children from all backgrounds for several years.

She feels that the moral, spiritual and value-based classes are not only the necessity of today's time but they also help and assist young ones to acquire upright character which is the need of the hour.

Arrival in the region

The Baha'is came to Punjab soon after its inception in Iran in 1844. A glance at the Baha'i history reveals that there were local believers in Punjab as early as in 1890s. The first Persian Baha'i to settle in Punjab was Dr M Zarghani, who opened his clinic in Lahore. He was instrumental in bringing to the faith Prof Pritam Singh, one of the first Baha'is from Sikh background, in 1921.

Burial ceremony

The Baha'i burial ceremony is very simple and is carried out by the members of the community that has no priests. The ceremony is held at Baha'i Cemetery in Sector 25. A lot of prayers are offered for the departed soul and the Holy Writings in connection with the progress of the human soul are read on the occasion.

Know the community

Population: 2,000
Food: Vegetarian diet and importance is given to prayers, meditation and fasting.
Meeting point - Baha'is House, House Number 1026, Sector 8, Chandigarh.
Place of worship: Lotus Temple in New Delhi

Facts about community

The Baha'i Faith was founded by Baha'u'llah in 19th-century Persia, who was later exiled for his teachings, from Persia to the Ottoman Empire and died while officially being a prisoner.

In Baha'i Faith, religious history is seen to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and the capacity of the people. These messengers included Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus Christ and Muhammad.

Three core principles establish a basis for Baha'i teachings and doctrine: unity of God, unity of religion and unity of humanity. According to the Baha'i teachings the human purpose is to learn to know and love God through such methods as prayer, reflection and being of service to humanity.
The Baha'i came to Punjab soon after its inception in Iran in 1844.

They community established in city after Canadian pioneer Edmond Sanche settled here in 1959.

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