Monday, July 11, 2011

Getting closer to God

The first Jain temple has come up in Kochi. It took four years to build and is expected to be a tourist attraction

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photo by Manu R. Mavelil

On May 8, at 11.43 a.m., this year, during the auspicious prana pratishtha puja, members of the Jain community in Kochi got a jolt of surprise. Just 15 ft above the dome of the temple, a helicopter suddenly appeared, its rotor blades making a staccato sound, and at a particular point, it dipped, and a shower of petals – rose, marigold, lotus, and jasmine -- rained down.

“The timing was perfect,” says C.P. Jain, one of Kochi's leading businessmen. “It was an auspicious moment for us.”

All this happened during the inauguration of the first Jain temple in Kochi. Incidentally, the Jains have been living in this city for the past 150 years.

The 2000 sq. ft. temple, on Srinivasa Mallan Road, near Padma theatre, took four years to build. It is made of spotless white marble brought especially from Rajasthan. “If there was a slab with a single black spot, we would return it,” says C.P. Jain, a trustee of the Sree Swetambar Murtipujak Jain Sangh, which built the structure. “More than 40 truck loads were used.”

Skilled artisans from Rajasthan were hired to do the designs on the pillars and the walls. “Ours is a close replica of the Dilwara Jain temple on Mount Abu in Rajasthan,” says Mohanlal Jain, one of the seniors in the community.

Indeed, there are sharp carvings of a wealthy lady sitting on a chair placed on the back of a caparisoned elephant, as well as three Mangal Murtis, or statues of the gods placed in alcoves in the outer walls of the temple

Inside the Sanctum sanctorum, there are three Tirthankaras placed side by side. The main God is Shri Vasupujya Swami, who is the 12th Tirthankara. The statue is made of milky white marble. The god is sitting cross-legged, with a gold necklace and garlands around his neck and red roses on his feet.

“The Jain muni (monk), Panyas Ravisekhar Vijayaji Maharaj Saheb, studied the horoscope and the stars, and said that for the prosperity of Kochi and Kerala, the 12th Thirthankara would be the ideal one,” says Mohanlal.

Sitting on either side of Shri Vasupujya Swami is the 7th Tirthankara, Shri Pashvanath, and the 20th, Shri Munisuvrat Swami. Behind them, on the wall, are etchings of creepers and of devotees, done in a mix of gold and silver. It looks wonderful and awe-inspiring.

At one side, on the wall, there are numerous palm prints in red. “During the inauguration, people placed their palms in wet kumkum powder and pressed it on the wall,” says Jeevraj Jain, a community member.

The doors have silver etchings. On one, there are illustrations of the 14 dreams that Queen Trishala saw, before giving birth to Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara.

They include an elephant, a bull, a lion, Goddess Laxmi, a beautiful garland, the full moon, a bright sun, a large flag on a golden stick, a golden vase filled with water, a lake full of lotuses, the ocean, the celestial plane, a heap of jewels, and a smokeless fire.

Build at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore and based on the donations of the community over 21 years, the members are thrilled at their achievement.

“It was one of the happiest moments of my life when the prana pratishtha puja took place,” says Pravin Togani, a businessman. “Every morning we can now go to a temple and pray to God, instead of doing it in our house, as we did for so many years.”

(The New Indian Express, south India and Delhi)

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