Leicester Jain Temple - U. K.
32, Oxford Street, Leicester Le1 5xu, United Kingdom
It is the first consecrated Jain temple in the western world. It is also the first centre in the whole world, which is a symbol of Jain unity. The Jain Centre development took place in 1980, in the heart of Leicester City through conversion of an old spacious church building. The vision was to establish a modern European centre for Jain doctrine.
The City and County Councils have accepted the Jain Centre as a tourist attraction. It has become a place of pilgrimage for Jains and we get visitors from schools, universities, tourists and dignitaries. The Prime Minister John Major visited the Jain Centre in 1997. The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have shown the Centre at times, and the local media has taken a lot of interest. It has appeared in national newspapers and newspapers in India.
The temple presents a magnificent piece of Jain architecture, made from Jaselmere yellow stone.
The front elevation of the building has transformed the landscape of the area and one cannot fail to admire the marvel whist passing through the Oxford Street. The elevation is made up of white marble cladding and eight pillars depicting symbolic Jain architecture.
The staircases are hand-carved by Indian artisans. The painting on the stairway describes the early life of Mahavira presented by an American non-Jain artist.
The main temple has 44 pillars, hand-carved in yellow limestone or marble, depicting symbolic Jain doctrine in the front elevation, a beautiful temple dome, ceiling with traditional Jain carvings, white marble floor, mirror finished walls, concealed lighting and the traditional doors at the Garbhagriha.
It has taken 254,000 man-hours to carve and assemble the temple here. In the last 60 years, even in India, such beautiful carving has not been done. Even Mumbai has nothing like this! People ask: why in Leicester? Our answer is it is Leicester's luck!
Shows one portion of ceiling and say that every portion has different carving. It took 6 months for 6 persons to carve one portion of the ceiling. We have the put mirrors in to emphasise the grandeur. On the pillars are carved the heavenly attendants of the Tirthankaras and mythological figures of the Indian culture.
The stained-glass windows also describe the life of Mahavira.
The main statue is of Shantinatha, who was the 16th Tirthankara and in his time there was great peace. When we select the main statue, we study the stars and astrology of the City and the organisation or the individuals who have been instrumental in making such a temple. It was suggested that for Leicester the image of Shantinatha was most appropriate. On the right-hand side of him is Parsvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara and on the left-hand of him is Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara.
We have also put the statues of past, present and future 24 Tirthankaras with names as mentioned in the scriptures in three niches in the mirror wall. You also find the statues of heavenly attendants of the Tirthankara, who encourage the devotees for worship of the Tirthankaras and protect them from devil powers and if they are pleased they are capable of giving the material rewards to the devotees.
Morning service consists of bathing the statues, various types of puja - rituals- and aarati, the ritual of waving lamp. Every ritual has meaning behind it. The worship includes hymns - songs of praise for the Tirthankaras - and we believe worship is only beneficial when we try putting into practice their teachings.
Once the images are consecrated, they have to be worshipped daily. We have morning and evening services, which are compulsory.
Worship:The statues are made with exact specifications and before they become worshipable they are consecrated. Senior monks in India perform the ceremony of consecration - by mantra of the conception, birth, renunciation, being omniscient and achievement of moksa. The statues are representation showing the characteristics of a liberated soul. We worship their purified soul as an example and if follows the path completely and gets rid of karmic bondage, one can be just like them. We do not ask for any favours from them, but we ask for the strength to follow their path of purification. The Jain temples are clean and serene. In Jain temples people - even children - do not eat or drink.
Sthanakvasi Upashraya: - It is place where monks or nuns preach and devotees perform ritual of equanimity. A sect started in the 16th century, believing that image worship is not necessary. The Jain literature says that in initial stages of the spiritual development image worship is needed as an example. But once one reaches beyond the seventh stage of the spiritual development one can meditate on one's own soul. There are 14 stage of spiritual development.
Mahavira established the Jain Sangha, which consists of the fourfold order of monks (saadhus), nuns (saadhvis), laymen (sraavakas) and laywomen (sraavikaas). One has to admire the genius of Mahavira and his followers for the fact that after more than 2,500 years this fourfold organisation of Jains is still very much in evidence. The laity respect and learn Jain teachings from the ascetic order.
The career of Jain monks and nuns begins with the ceremony of initiation into asceticism (diksaa) by acceptance of the obligations of the five great vows, and continues unbroken to the end of their lives. The ascetic state is a permanent commitment; the discipline is strict, yet, those who leave ascetic order are few. The monks and nuns inspire the laity to establish temples, upashrayas, libraries and other welfare institutions for the community.
The ascetics walk barefoot; do not use vehicles; do not accept, possess or hoard money; and stay in one place only for a short time, on average a maximum of five days, except during the four months of the monsoon, when they do not travel. Svetambara ascetics wear white unstitched cloth, but have no attachment to them. Digambara ascetics discard all clothes and are 'sky-clad'.
Nuns (saadhvis) are an important part of the fourfold order of the Jain Sangha. They observe the same rules as monks. The laity accords a similar respect to all ascetics, regardless of gender.
Because of vow of total non-violence - not harming any living being, they cannot come to U. K.
The Digambara Temple: It is made of white marble and has statues of Risabhdeva (1st Tirthankara), Nemnatha (22nd Tirthankara) - who was cousin of Lord Krishna, and Parsvanatha (23rd Tirthankara). Behind them are the statues of Chakreswari (heavenly attendant of 1st Tirthankara) and Ambika (heavenly attendant of 22nd Tirthankara).
You will also see the 6½ ft statue of Bahubali, who was famous for his meditation. As he wanted to be equal in status to his younger brothers (who had renunciated earlier and attained omniscience), he meditated for one year; so deep that creepers grew on his feet; but because of slight lack of humility towards his younger brothers, he was not attaining omniscience. His sisters came to his rescue and told him: "Brother come down, come down". He immediately realised his fault, became humble and decided to pay respect to his brothers. The moment he started walking towards his brothers, he attained omniscience.
Guru Mandir: This is a room dedicated to Mahavira's chief disciple Gautam. He was very knowledgeable and had special ability to preach and convince that anybody whom he preached became omniscient and liberated. But he did not himself attain omniscience, as he had attachment to Mahavira, his master. He became omniscient when Mahavira died. On the left hand side, there is a statue of a modern monk- Acharya Vallabh Vijay - who believed in Jai unity and who died in 1952.
You can also see a statue of guardian attendant Manibhadra, which is recent addition.
Srimad Rajchandra Jnan Mandir: On the 2nd floor we have dedicated a room to Srimad Rajchandra, spiritual mentor of Mahatma Gandhi.
On the Ground floor in the lobby you will find display panels, which explain Jainism and Jain way of life in brief. In the Auditorium you will find a specially commissioned exhibition of the special events in the life tirthankaras, monks, nuns, Jain architecture and Jain way of Life.
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Information Courtesy : Mr. Hetal Kurji, E-Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Mail to : Ahimsa Foundation
Date : R17112001