Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Blessed Footsteps -- Shoghi Effendi's laying out of the Baha'i Gardens

The Hands of the Cause of God have described the method of Shoghi Effendi in beautifying the Baha'i Holy Places:
One evening, Shoghi Effendi came to the dinner-table with an expression of inner joy and determination on his face. After the usual greetings and before we started our meal, he looked around and said: 'Early tomorrow morning we all shall go to Bahji; I am asking every available man to be there, as we have some very important work to do.' This was the beginning of one week of intense labour which completely changed the nature and aspect of the grounds - already described as a 'sea of sand' - into a garden and paradise of incomparable beauty.

The reader can hardly imagine what took place in those blessed days. All able-bodied men were there at the appointed hour. Shoghi Effendi with his masterly skill, already demonstrated in his beautification of the surroundings of the shrine of the Báb followed a plan preconceived in his mind. Assisted by his chauffeur, who carried a ball of string and some wooden pickets, he traced all the paths, nine in number, which like a fan were to radiate from the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh towards a semicircular line (130 degrees; that is, about one-third of an arc) one hundred and ten metres away.

Guided by the strings which marked the paths, some of the gardeners dug small trenches in which to plant hedges of thyme. The widest path was the one leading from the 'circle' to the door of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. With a joyous expression on his face, Shoghi Effendi said: 'Finally we have a dignified way to reach the Shrine, the approach to which I shall further beautify.' A group of small dilapidated buildings cluttering the south end of the space between the Mansion of Bahji and the Shrine was in no time torn down and the stone used to build a level platform in front of the Mansion on the side of the main entrance.

Everyone was working with alacrity and high spirits, as we were conscious of the process of purification of that holy ground - often blessed by the presence of God's Manifestation - and of the creation of the 'Haram-i-Aqdas', to surround forever that Most Sacred Spot. Each one was doing a chore; personally, I was helping Shoghi Effendi with the tracing of the paths and the star shaped flower beds. I was so entranced with his speed and resolution in giving form to a life-long dream that I had no eyes for anything else but him.
(Hand of the Cause Ugo Giachery, “Shoghi Effendi - Recollections,” p. 127)


. . . his method was to look, as he walked about the property, at the land he planned to develop; a pattern would suggest itself to his mind and he would study this, not only on the spot through observation of his area, but through drawings he made himself. Though many ideas in all fields of his work came to Shoghi Effendi in a flash, and although he may sometimes have seen at a glance the over-all design he planned to use for a garden, he worked out the dimensions and details painstakingly in his drawings which were not made to scale - as this would have taken a great deal of extra time - but on which all dimensions were calculated and indicated. For example: his main path was going to be, let us say, 25 metres long and 2 metres wide; beside this he allowed 25 centimetres for a border, a strip 1.20 metres wide for cypress trees, which were to be planted 1.50 metres about, and so on. When he had it all planned he would go and stand and instruct the gardeners how to lay it out. Through string tied to pegs, giving long lines, a peg and string acting as a compass for circles, using the span (the space between thumb and little finger when fully stretched apart) as measurement of distance between trees,having light-coloured soil poured out to indicate a line, and other such simple methods he would, often in a single afternoon, have an entire section of garden laid out in full detail. Usually, knowing exactly what he intended to do, Shoghi Effendi would call other gardeners to follow along behind those that were laying out the design, so that as the plan was measured out on the ground, holes for cypress trees were dug, trees planted and flower beds set out and borders planted, all while Shoghi Effendi advanced with his measuring process in front of them!
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 86

This was the result:
(Click on photo for larger picture, from Baha'i Media Bank Copyright 2006, used with permission  

This is Shoghi Effendi, preparing this same pathway:


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