The recent innagruation of Cambodia’s first Baha’i temple in Battambang definitley didn’t go unnoticed as hundreds of people decended to Odambang commune to mark the Kingdom’s newest house of worship.
Hou Sopheap, Baha’i House of Worship’s director who has been involved in the temples construction from the begining, said he was delgightesd to see the project officially open to the public earlier this week..
“The house welcomes all people, regardless of race or religion,” he added.
According to Sopheap, the Baha’i House of Worship was initiated in 2014 when the Universal House of Justice – the supreme body of the Baha’i faith based in Haifa, Israel– chose Battambang as the perfect location for the temple given the province has the largest Baha’i community in Cambodia.
Since the 1920s, Battambang has slowly amassed a Baha’i following of more than 12,000 believers.
The Baha’i community follow the peaceful teachings of the 19th-century Persian prophet Baha’u’llah.
While the entire site of the temple is located on 9 hectares of land and also consists of a meeting hall and administrative building, the Baha’i House of Worship has been built on a 1.5 hectare plot of land about 7 kilometres from Battambang city.
Sopheap said at its core, the Baha’i House of Worship is a sacred space that is a center of solidarity and symbolises the unity of all religions and mankind. At a cost of $1.5 million, the open-air building, he added, was built so that prayers take place facing the northwest, which is the direction of the Bahá’u’lláh residence in Israel.
Tang Sochet Vitou, a longtime architect who was involved in the temples design phase, said the Baha’i House of Worship was a unique architectural feet for modern Cambodia.
“I am very proud of my Cambodian ancenstors who have built different temples, so I think that as an architect, I should share my passion and art in the 21st Century so as to contiue the rich heritage of the country,” Vitou said.
“The goal of this Baha’i temple is to unite all religions without prejudice to build a place of love and harmony,” he added.
Vitou said that as an architect, one needs to design a building that embodies the meaning, culture and beauty of what it symbolises, which the architcturiral team was dedicated to achieve throughout the design process. Following the design work, the construction of the temple took about two years to complete.
“I’m happy with everyone’s creativity and the achievment of building the Baha’i House of Worship,” Vitou said with a smile.
While the temple itself adheres to the Baha’is central aesthetic principle of favouring nine-sided designs, the round building’s winged parapets are reminiscent of Vann Molyvann’s Chaktomuk theatre.
The Baha’i House of Worship in Battambang is understood to be the first local house of worship in the world. There are now nine Baha’i House of Worship’s which have been built in countries including Kenya, Chile and India.
In the future, Sopheap hopes the site will get involved in wider community social programs, such as providing a place to assist the elderly and orphans and even provide education opportunities for children.
Sopheap said that while the Baha’i House of Worship welcomes people of every religion from all walks of life who require a spirital sanctuary, he said the worshipers did have to follow some rules, such as no eating or drinking in the shrine or taking photographs inside the temple.