Bahai Faith in India
The Baháʼí Faith is an independent world religion that originated in 19th century Iran, with an emphasis on the spiritual unity of mankind. Its teachings on the unity of religion and its acknowledgement of Krishna as a divine Manifestation of God have created a bridge between religious traditions that is accepting of Hinduism.
During the lifetime of its founder, Baháʼu'lláh, several Baháʼís settled in Mumbai, and the community in India remained relatively small but active for its first 100 years. Baháʼís in India were mostly urban and of an Islamic or Zoroastrian background until teaching efforts in the 1960s gained numerous enrollments in rural areas, initially in the state of Madhya Pradesh. By the mid-1990s the Baháʼí community of India claimed a membership of 2 million, the highest of any country, though the active participation was only about 5% (100,000) in 2001, the lowest of any region. According to the Annual Report of the Baháʼí community, there were 61,650 Baháʼí core activities taking place in July 2020, with 406,000 participants.
New Delhi's Lotus Temple is a Baháʼí House of Worship that opened in 1986 and has become a major tourist attraction that draws over 2.5 million visitors a year and over 100,000 visitors a day on some Hindu holy days, making it one of the most visited attractions in the world. In 2021, construction began on a local House of Worship in Bihar Sharif.
The Indian Baháʼí community is overseen by a National Spiritual Assembly, a nine-member body elected annually at a convention of delegates. There are also elected regional and local councils that run teaching and consolidation at the state and local levels, and four appointed Baháʼí Continental Counsellors have jurisdiction over India. Baháʼí community life in India is similar to that of Baháʼís elsewhere in the world. Communal study of Baháʼí scripture is done in classes designed for children, youth, or adults. Prayer meetings, along with celebrations of Baháʼí Feasts and Holy Days, the observance of the fast and other social behavior, are all practiced to varying degrees. Baháʼí teachers in India generally approach Baháʼí practices gradually and do not require converts to abandon traditional patterns of behavior, though no distinctions based on caste are recognized.
Baháʼís in India have developed a number of educational institutions, some organized by the national Baháʼí organization, and others run by individual Baháʼís, known as "Baháʼí-inspired". The New Era High School is an example of the former, and the Barli Development Institute for Rural Women is an example of the latter. Other educational institutions in India are designed to teach the Baháʼí Faith directly, such as Indore Teaching Institute, which was established in 1962 during mass-teaching to help consolidate and train new Baháʼís in remote villages.