Bahai Temple is a house of worship also called the Mashriq I’-Adhkar which acts as a spiritual gathering place open to all people in the world. Bahai faith was introduced in Uganda in 1951 which makes it one of the earliest Bahai communities in Eastern Africa. Bahai Temple is located in over 2,800 localities throughout the country and has members who represent every tribal religious background. In Uganda, the Bahai Temple was constructed about 50 years ago between 1958 and 1961 on Kikaya hill above every other landscape 3km away in all directions, 4miles from Kampala on Gayaza road. It is sitting on 52 acres of land, 124 feet high, 44 feet diameter, 84 feet diameter in the interior with a circumference of 265 feet and 55 hectares compound. It was the first Bahai house of worship on the African continent which has become a known landmark in Kampala because of its nature settings of beautiful fruit trees, flowers and the path leading to the dome.
Each continent in the world has only one Bahai Temple and Uganda is Africa’s spiritual heart for the Bahai because it has the Mother Temple in Kampala and over 10 Bahai centers distributed throughout the country. It is estimated to have 1000 followers. Bahai Temple in Uganda is the only temple in Africa among 7 others in the world including the USA, India, Panama, Chile, Germany, Australia and Samoa.
Bahai faith was introduced in 1844 by Baha’u’llah who was from Iran and his name Baha’u’llah means God of glory who wrote about Bahai faith. According to his writings, heaven and hell are not places but states of being reached when someone does something good and bad and to the Bahai heaven is the presence of spiritual qualities while hell is the lack of these qualities or imperfection. Bahai Temple has a unique architectural design that stands tall in the middle of the green conical dome shape made of tiny glazed mosaic tiles from Italy, 9 big pillars and 27 smaller pillars which support the temple to stand upright. Bahai Temple has 9 doors which signify the 9 ways or religions whose messengers Bahai followers believe in and the doors are always open during prayer and sessions of meditation where the followers speak to embrace the nature of God. Bahai Temple has a daily minimum of three prayers where people meet and adore God under this dome which symbolizes his divine uniting force. The Temple doesn’t have a dedicated day of the week to meet that is set by Bahai holy law, therefore, it’s up to the Bahai followers to decide which day is convenient for them but the followers in Kampala go there on Sundays with over 100 followers.
The temple usually fills on special days like the two days commemoration of the birth of Baha’u’llah and Bab which takes place either in October or November, these two men are important people in the Bahai faith. It also declares new converts and children who turn 15 years with declaration cards instead of baptizing them the way other religions. During prayer, the holy scriptures of Bahai faith and other religions can be read inside the house of worship in any language with no sermons delivered and musical instruments played.
During the construction of Bahai Temple in Uganda, different countries contributed various building materials which include the lower roof tiles which came from Belgium, colored glass from Germany, steel and window frames fittings from Britain, timber, and branches for making doors and walls of pre-cast stone quarried in Uganda. The Bahai Temple doors are decorated with flower gardens at the entrance hence giving it a unique architectural design based on a spiritual vision.
The interior of Bahai Temple has a higher platform just like in other religions, three assembled rows of wooden pews facing one side of the circular temple, lighting from the multi-colored huge glass plane windows and no pictures or statues are inside because they believe that God is the glory of all glory.
Due to its quietness, fresh and peaceful environment visitors who go to Bahai Temple fall in love with prayer the first time they enter the temple, however there are guidelines to be followed which are, the temple is open every day to anyone and welcomes everyone regardless of religion because its main purpose is to promote unity of faith among people since all religions believe in God, taking of photos inside the temple is not allowed, phones must be off or in silence while in the temple, plucking of flowers and plants, use of drugs, alcoholic drinks among others is prohibited since the temple is a worship place.
Bahai Temple is located on Kikaaya hill in Kanyanya, 3km north of Kampala and approximately 7km on Gayaza road and when going to Bahai temple you can get a taxi which is public means of transport in the park and take Gayaza road, get off the taxi at Gaz fuel station in Kanyanya and get a Bodaboda to take you to Bahai Temple on the hill.
Activities carried out at Bahai Temple
Bahai Temple has a number of activities that the visitors can engage in while at the temple including:
- Children’s class sessions: this where children who come from the neighboring communities and schools learn about the Bahai faith, Learn about the Bahai writings of faith which affirm that the spiritual education is the heart of an education process which leads to the transformation of the human spirit. Bahai followers believe that each child is unique and has talents that were given by God hence taught different lessons including memorization of quotations, storytelling, songs, art, and games among others. The children at Bahai Temple are taught the spirit of kindness, truthfulness, trustworthy, unity, love, justice, the oneness of God, humanity, religion, oneness regarding their religion or tribe which are used in their daily lives and helps them to grow spiritually.
- Junior youth classes: some youth at the age of 11 to 14 go for camping at Bahai Temple and while there they participate or are involved in youth classes that develop their spiritual intellectual capacities. The youth are taught how to make moral decisions, understand the spiritual code of conduct and put the spiritual princes into practice, express their power through drama, art and craft, singing among others.
- Study circles: Bahai community developed a series of courses that are designed to help the individuals to create a conscious basis on how to respond to their community needs. The study circles can be conducted in small groups with a tutor to facilitate the learning process. The courses consist of bookings which are in 3 units including the first unit of understanding the Bahai writings like why the followers should read the sacred writings, second unit is prayer where they learn the benefits of prayer, why they should pray and the third unit is life and death where they learn the purpose of life, nature of the soul, the condition of the soul after death among others. These courses help the individual to learn how the Bahai teachings can be applied in life and in the community, strategies to improve on their spiritual conditions, understand and reflect upon the topics or units through interaction with the word of God.
- Devotional gatherings or meetings: this is an activity where the individuals share prayers in a group so as to strengthen the unity of the Bahai faith. Neighbors or families living in the same building will gather to pray together where stories of different individuals will be shared, play music depending on the interests of different individuals. However, the main purpose of the devotional gathering is to unite the souls of all those present through the power of prayer from different individuals.
- Bird watching, due to its natural environment with different tree species and flowers Bahai Temple is a home of 8 bird species that use the trees for shelter. The visitors while in the gardens will hear the sweet sounds of the birds singing in the trees and also view some birds including Red-billed fire finch, Ross’s Turaco, Black kite, Great blue Turaco, Stripped kingfisher, Bronze Sunbird, Grey woodpecker, Palm-nut vulture, Grey parrot, Brown parrot, Black and White casqued hornbill, Pied crow, Hadada ibis, Ring-necked dove, Red-eyed dove, Laughing dove, Spotted wood-dove, Double-toothed Barbet, Common bulbul among others.
Bahai Temple has other activities like sensitization and awareness about the Bahai faith by the Bahai followers to the local communities at local council levels, engaging the community in various activities to bring peace, developing social facilities around the temple by the administrators where the temple has plans of building schools and other centers on Bahai Temple grounds.
Bahai Temple is a great place for family visits, picnics, praise, and worship visitors to have a quiet time, peaceful, fresh and enjoy the environment with beautiful trees and green gardens for relaxation, resting from the noisy city, bird watching, nature walks in the gardens among others which give you a great lifetime experience.
“If you are looking to do some Religious tourism in Uganda, book your self a Uganda Safaris tour that includes a visit to the Bahai Temple in Kampala and you will learn about a whole other faith that has spread its wings across the globe”