How Many People Does It Take …?

9 Mar

A 700,000 square meters Hindu temple—the world’s second-largest Hindu temple—was recently inaugurated in New Jersey. The sect that built the temple is known for building many other elaborate temples, see, for instance, the temple in Delhi (TripAdvisor rates it as the second biggest attraction in Delhi) or the temple in Abu Dhabi. What is more wondrous that many of these temples have been built in the last two decades.

BAPS Temple in Robbinsville, NJ

BAPS is not the OG of non-state groups building astonishing religious monuments in the modern era. That title rests with the Bahai. The oldest extant Bahai house of worship dates back to 1953. Since then, the Bahai have built many masterpieces, including the Santiago Bahai Temple and the Lotus Temple in Delhi.

Such architectural feats make you think of tens of millions of wealthy followers. The reality is more modest and hence more impressive. “After over 100 years of growth, the organization [behind the Akshardham temples] has … over 1 million followers” (BAPS website). The Bahai have more followers (~ 8 million at the maximum), but they have been relentlessly persecuted over the last century. It makes me wonder what we could accomplish if more of us came together.

p.s. The flip side is the harm that relatively small groups of people can impose on the world. For instance, the Taliban forces are no more than a couple of hundred thousand.

p.p.s. It is striking that we don’t have parallel secular achievements that are non-state and non-billionaire funded. I suppose the closest we have is open source software (though a lot of the work on major projects is done within companies).