It all began with a few devotees who used to meet for celebrations of Jain sacred days: Paryushana in a small house from 1969 onwards…
• In 1973, with the increased Jain population in Leicester, a constituted body named Jain Samaj Leicester was established. During his tenure between 1973 and 1977, its first chairman Mr Manhar Mehta and the executive committee laid foundations for Jain Samaj; increased membership and activities.
• Dr Natubhai Shah, a visionary, succeeded Manharbhai. During his tenure from 1977 to 1989, he put Leicester on the Jain map of the world by the following achievements:
• Jain Samaj Leciester was registered as a charity in 1978. The Chairman dreamt the concept of the Jain Centre, where all major Jain traditions can study and worship under one roof.
• 1979 – A spacious church building was purchased in Oxford Street, situated in the heart of Leicester, and renamed The Jain Centre. Dr Shah helped to build a rapport with the local community in Leicester, local and national Interfaith organisations, Jains in the UK, Antwerp, India and other parts of the world and also the media. Jain Centre obtained substantial grants from Leicester City Council, Man Power Service Commission and Department of Environment. He convinced Jains in India to gift the temple for the Leicester Jain Centre. For this purpose, Jinalaya Trust was established, in India, under the chairmanship of Shrenikbhai Sheth who looked after the construction of the temple and its carvings. To get equipment and stain glass windows for the Centre, the Jain Centre trust was also established under the Chairmanship Mr Kantilal Talakchand Shah. The Jain Social Groups Federation gave full co-operation for the Jain Centre development.
• 1980 – The Jain Samaj Leicester was expanded as a European body, so that any Jain living in Europe could become a member and participate in its activities. Jain leaders in India and Acharyas of all major Jain traditions supported this noble cause. Gurudev Chitrabhanu and Acharya Shushilkumarji blessed the development of Jain Centre. Acharyaa Chandanaji helped to create the beautiful museum at the Centre.
• 1982 – Jain Samaj opened an office in London, to cope with the growing interest Jains in London.
• 1983 – On 10th November, Shinalayas ceremony, the laying of the foundation stones for the first fully consecrated Jain Temple in the western World, was performed.
• 1984 – On 14th December, the Anjanshalaka ceremony was carried at Pali (Rajasthan) to the images of Shree Shantinath (79cm), Shree Parshwanath (64cm) and Shree Mahavirswami (64cm) which is currently situated at the Jain Centre.
• 1985 – On 25th August, a festival of entrance ceremony for 8 days was held at De Montfort Hall, Leicester and the above images were brought into Jain Centre. Chandubhai Trivedi (Somapura), SnehkantShroff and Gallery Associates helped to create the on marvellous temples and refurbished the Centre.
• Leicester city council and Leicestershire Museum helped in the administration of the grants. Diocese of Leicester helped the administration of the Jain Centre by allowing the services of Rev Michael Ipgrave as an administrator at Jain Centre for 3 years.
• 1988 – Temple was completed in 1988 on 8th July. The images entered in Garbhagriha (permanent place of abode) on 20th July. The Pratistha (installation ceremony) of the images was performed. The PratisthaMahotsav was for 16 days starting from 8th July 1988 to 23th July 1988.
• In addition to the UK Jains, about 2000 Jains from India and Overseas came for the celebrations. To accommodate the devotees all the Leicester Hotels and the University Hostels were booked.
• 1989 to 2012 – Successive Presidents – Manharal .L. Mehta, Dr Natwarlal .K. Shah, Dr Ramesh .L. Mehta, Ramesh .S. Mehta, Sharad .H. Bakhai, Haresh .R. Shah, Dr Jagdish Shah, Kirit Kothari, Kalpit Doshi, Miss Smita Shah, Mrs Usha .R. Mehta consolidated the activities and made the Jain Centre a vibrant place for the all Jains and major place of pilgrimage for the Jains and major tourist attraction for city of Leicester.
Jain centre had visits of many dignitaries including High Commissioners of India, Chief Minister of Gujarat, Artists and Actors. The Jain Centre was honoured by British Prime Minister John Major’s visit in 1997 and Royal Family visit in 2000.
The media in India, UK and other parts of world gave publicity of Jain Centre and its development and visits by dignitaries. The Jain Samaj Europe is thankful to all who have helped to build this unique Centre and for its progress to the present stage.
The Svetambar Jinalay presents a magnificent piece of Jain architecture constructed from the yellow Jaselmere of Rajasthan, India. This has 44 pillars, 13 arches, a beautiful temple dome and ceiling, all finished in intricate traditional Jain carvings. The Jinalay has white marble floor, mirrored framed walls, concealed lighting and traditional door to the images enclosure (Garbhagriha). Initial carving of all the components was carried out in India by several well-known artisans specializing in Jain architecture. Later they were precisely assembled and finished here by the same artisans over a period of several months.
Considering the position of Jain Samaj Europe in Leicester within the Universe in a traditional way of astronomy and horoscopes, sixteenth tirthanakr Shantinath was decided to be the principal image of the Svetambaraderasar. This image resides centrally in the Garbhagriha. Shantinath were born in Hastinapur in the royal household of king Vishvasen and queen Achiradevi. After learning the arts of weapons in childhood, he became Chakravati King at a youngage. On realising true knowledge, after glancing at the mirror; he gave up wealthy and material world in search for liberation. His distinguishing attribute (lanchan) is deer. He is highly revered among Jains and is said to have revived Jainism during his time. Over the time he came to be invoked to avert calamities and ensure calm in the world as his name suggests (shanti meaning peace and nath – lord).
The image of the twenty thirdtirthanakr Parshvanath resides to the left of Shantinath. About 2900 years ago, he was born in the royal family of king Ashvasen and queen Vamadevi in Kashi. This extremely bright child was named Parshvanath as Vamadevi has seen a black serpent in a dream during conception (parshva meaning serpent).
Through his knowledge he has saved a pair of snakes from being burnt in fire when Kamath an esoteric mendicant, was practicing the ‘ordeal of five fires’. Later when through various atrocities Samavara,Kamath of earlier birth, tried to disturb the meditating Parshvanath, Dharnendra and Padmavati protected the Jina. This couple were snakes in an earlier birth. The seven hooded canopy over the Parshvanath reminds us that only who that remains unmoved in tolerable adversity can become Parshvanth.
To the right of Shantinath the image of current twenty fourth tithankar, Mahavir Swami, is present. About 2600 years ago in KhastriyaKund of Bihar state, a child was born in the household of king Siddharatha and queen Trishala. He was named Vardhman (vardh meaning growth and man prosperity) as the prosperity of the kingdom grew on his birth. Inrecognition of his unrivalled bravery, he was later named Mahavir (maha meaning great and vir – brave). Mahavir achieved salvation at the age of 72. His distinguishing mark is lion.
Saraswati Devi is the goddess of the learning and wisdom. Since knowledge plays a fundamentally important role in Jainism, Saraswati Devi has remained one of the most popular Jain goddesses. Her image is seen on the right side at the entry to the Jinalay. Her mount is a swan.
The image of Lakshmi Devi is visible on the left side at the Jinalayentrance. She is goddess of wealth and is known as Padma, Rama, Shri, Kamla and Indira. She is the subject of the fourth dream of Mahavir’s mother.
The image of Padmavati is located on the right side at the rear of the Jinalay. She is divine guardian of Parshvanath and is also the spouse of his principal Yakshaattendant, Dharnendra. Snakes are her principal attribute and her mount is rooster – cum – snake. (kukutasarpa).
Ghantakarna Mahavira is the thirtieth of the fifty-two vir (heroes) and his image resides. On the left side at the rear of the Jinalay, He is celestial being and guards welfare of the faithful Jains; He is regarded as very important figure for the Svetambara Jains.
A group of twenty-four tirthankaras (Chovisis) is established over every predetermined time cycle, comprising of millions of years, Largely only the current group of Jinas are revered by the Jains today, however, it is important to know about the other Jinas, For this reason, along with the present Jinas, the group of the past and the future tirthankaras are displayed in the glass cabinets on the left side of the Jinalay.
|SHRIMAD RAJCHANDRA GYAN MANDIR
Rajchandra was born in 1867 in a village called Vavania in the state if Gujarat. His mother Devbai was a Jain and father Rajivabhai was a Hindu. He was a remarkably intelligent child and blessed with prodigious memory, it is said that he covered the seven year school curriculum in two years. In his teenage years Shrimad gave evidence of his remarkable intellectual powers in the exhibitions by the carrying up to one hundred activities simultaneously. He also regularly wrote for various publications in his native language Gujarati.
Later his life took a spiritual incline and became known as Shrimad Rajchandra after attracting a number of followers. At the age of 21 he married to Zabak and has four children. After marriage he practiced jewellery business in Mumbai.
Shrimad Rajchandra had considerable influence on Mahatma Gandhi. They first met in 1981 when gandhiji returned to India after studying law in England. Gandhiji has noted in his autobiography Shrimad’s wide knowledge of sacred writing, religious zeal and simplistic life style. Shrimad gave gandhiji an anchor to confirm the values of Indian religious traditions when he was uncertain of the direction of his faith.
Amongst many writings of Shrimad, for spiritual and ethical enhancement, the best known of his work Atma Siddhi were written at the age of 17. The fairly short poetical work was published after his death and translated in many languages. An Atma-Siddhi state that, (1) the soul exists, (2) it is eternal, (3) it is the doer of its own actions, (4) it enjoys the fruits of these actions, (5) there is liberation and (6) there is means of achieving liberation.
In his last two or three years he reduced his business commitments, giving more time to religion, practicing meditation, fasting and austerities, and becoming a celibate. Towards the end of his life, Shrimad became thin to the point of emaciation; a photograph of Shrimad Rajchandra at this time is seen in the GyanMandir. He died in 1901 at Rajkot at the age of 33 years. Shrimad Rajchandra achieved a lot in a short life span and left behind memories of a great soul and an example which has inspired many to follow him.
Spiritual leaders are highly regarded in Jainism as they form an essential link in the realisation process. For this reason, they are respected in the Namaskar Mantra.
|GURU GAUTAM SWAMI
Gautam Swami was a brilliant non Jain scholar and was earlier known as Indrabhuti. He decided to follow Mahavir after coming into contact with him, later he was named Gautam and became chief disciple of Mahavir. He would have achieved realisation quite earlier due to his tremendous knowledge, except for his attachment to Mahavir. Knowingthis,Mahavir has sent him away to preach at the time of his nirvana. On his returning, Gautam heard the news and realised that even his affection did not stop Mahavir passing away. At this moment he achieved omniscience (kevalgyaan) and liberated his soul at the age of 92.
Shri Nakoda Bhairavji is worshiped by the masses due to the miraculous peril-preventing power. He is also world-renowed that he is considered by the devotees as ‘Hatth ka Huzoor’ (lord at hand) and Jaagt jyout (living light). The name Nakoda is related to a person named Nakorsen who lived in the third century before Vikram era. It was Nakorsen who had founded a city called nakor, which in course of time became famous as Nakoda.
A big fair is held here on Poush Krishna Dashmi and hundreds of thousands of travellers come here from every corner of the world. The miraculous deity of shri Nakoda Bhairavji Maharaj was ceremoniously installed at our Jain Centre.
|VIJAY VALLABH SURISHWARAJI
Vijay VallabhSurishwarji is regarded as one of the greatest Jain Acharya(spiritual leader) of recent time. He was born in 1870 and was named Chhagan. Having lost parents at the tender age of ten, he passed most of the time in meditation and study of the scriptures and renounced possessions at the age of 17. He preached teaching of Mahavir saying that to achieve true happiness one should have amity, equanimity, integrity m honesty and tolerance towards all living things. He emerged as a scholar, a great saint and a social reformer during his life span of 84 years.
Manibhadra Dada is a celestial being and is regarded by the Jains as their protector. He us worshipped heartily for fulfilling wishes and for removing all difficulties.
In India at the places where Sthanakvasi Jain population is concentrated, normally nuns and monks would be stopping over at the Upashrayas, during their travels from one centre to another. This gives the community an opportunity to listen to those who are living with five onerous vows and build on their faith in the path followed by the Jinas. At the time of delivering sermons the sadhvijis and sadhus would take a seat on the wooden bench (pat) and the followers would sit on the floor. The renouncers do not travel during the monsoon season and stay at one place for a period of about four months (chomasu). This gives the religion activities, such as day camps (shibir), for recognition of the soul.
Lay persons would visit the Upashray to reverently greet the mendicants and receive their blessings, this provided an opportunity to ask the renouncers whether they need any permitted necessities such as medicines and writing materials, the nuns and monks bless local households (dharmalabh) by visiting them to accept essential items of food in their own utensils (patras).
Due to the strict observation of vows the renouncers are not able to come here from India and hence there is no one to sit on the pat. In this case, Kalpsutra is placed in it to represent symbol of knowledge.
Rishabdev, the first tirthankar is positioned as the central image of the DigambarJinalay. He is also known as Adinath and his recognizing symbol is a bull. He was born millions of years ago in the royal family of king. Nabhrai and queen Marudevi. He is understood to be responsible for the cultural revival and development of various forms of arts during his time. Many temples are dedicated to Adinath, including the most famous Shatrunjay in India.
To the right of Rishabdev, image of the twenty-second tirthankar Neminath is situated with his identifying symbol of conch shell. The famous story describes that Prince Neminath was shocked by the cries of the animals waiting to be slaughtered for serving a feast at his wedding. He let all the animals free, renounced the marriage and became monk. His intended bride, Rajul followed the example and became a nun.
The image of the twenty-third tirthankar Parshvanath is seen to the left of Rishabdev.
The image of Chakreshwari Devi is located on the right side at the rear of the Jinalay. She is the divine guardian of the Rishabdev and is also known as Shasan Devi. She is highly respected by Jains as she gives them spiritual guidance. Chakreshwari Devi has a wheel as her principal attribute and guard (a half-human, a half-aviancreature) as her mount.
The image of Ambika Devi is located in the left side at the rear of the Jinalay. She is divine guardian(Yakshini) of Neminath. She is worshipped by the Jain community as she offers them protection from obstacles. Her mount is a lion.
The statue of Bahubali is seen on entry to the Jinalay. He was the son of Rishabdev and is a very important figure for the Digamabara Jains. After fighting with his brother, Bharat, he carried out severe austerities in the forest for remorse. During this vines and snakes embraced his body and birds built nests in his overgrown hair. Despite this, he realised complete knowledge (kevalgyaan) only after forgiving his brother.
May famine and pestilence never come
May the people live in peace
May the highest religion of non-violence
Pervade the whole world and bring universal good to all.