Monday, June 23, 2008

How Jain minority status war was won

Nitin Mahajan
Indian Express
New Delhi, June 21

The Delhi council of minister’s decision, on June 10, to accord minority status to the Jain community in the Capital was not an easy one. Newsline has learnt that it came after a fair amount of lobbying by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Congress’s Lok Sabha MP from Chandni Chowk Kapil Sibal.

The decision was a difficult one, considering that a similar proposal had been shot down at least four times by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil. Congress sources said senior party leaders from the city, including Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president J P Agarwal, had to bat for the community’s “cause”.

And this, after the Chandni Chowk MP had sent several letters to Home minister Patil, making it clear that the community — of primarily traders and businessmen — had already been accorded such a status in several states: Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh.

After Patil’s refusal to act on the proposals, Sibal, who has a sizeable Jain population in his constituency, sent another letter to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, stating that the “power to recognise the Jain community as a minority vests exclusively with the state government”.
The letter says, “Jainism is a religion with the beliefs and faiths quite distinct from those of the Hindu religion.”

Before sending the letter containing various court rulings and judgments to buttress the Delhi government’s case, Sibal also discussed the issue with Dikshit over telephone and reminded her of the need for Jains to be accorded the minority status, insiders said.

The Union minister, sources said, also told Dikshit that she did not need the Home ministry’s approval since the state government was empowered to take such a decision. Sources said Dikshit called a meeting of her council of ministers the very next day and accorded minority status to the Jain community.

With Assembly polls barely months away, the move by the Congress government in Delhi is seen as a ploy to appease the community, otherwise is known to favour the BJP. Party sources said the Congress does not want to take any chances after the sealing controversy led to its defeat in the municipal elections last year.

The community has an estimated population of between 4 lakh and 5 lakh in the Capital — about 0.45 per cent of Delhi’s population — and is now at par with other minority communities such as Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims and Parsis, listed as notified minority groups under the Delhi Minorities Commission Act, 1999.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

New Jain Sites Found in Tamil Nadu

CHENNAI: Over the last three months, two rock art sites, two caverns with Jaina beds, and dolmens have been discovered within a radius of 25 km on the hillocks behind the Gingee fort in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram district.

Members of the team that found the sites, said the discovery of Jaina beds confirmed the earlier view that present-day Villupuram district was once a prominent centre of Jainism. The presence of the rock art sites and dolmens showed that the area had been under continuous human occupation for 3,000 years, they added.

On June 1, K.T. Gandhirajan, an explorer who specialises in art history, T. Ramesh, a researcher in archaeology, and others found a big cavern with Jaina beds and rock art on a hillock called Pancha Pandavar Kal, near Vadagal village in Gingee taluk.

The hillock, located 15 km behind the Gingee fort, forms part of a chain of hills in the area. The team found a series of Jaina beds on the floor of the cavern and pre-historic paintings on the boulder surface opposite the beds.

“The beds are of primitive nature. They are not evolved. They are about 2,000 years old,” said Mr. Gandhirajan.

Raised “pillows” had been hewn out of the rock-floor at one end of the beds. Channels were cut to drain out rainwater from the beds or the floor was scooped out to collect rainwater.

The rock art consists of a painting of a deer done in white kaolin with outlines in red ochre.
“This is really rare,” Mr. Gandhirajan said. While this figure of a deer is about 3 feet by 3 feet in size, there are tiny drawings of deer and lizard (udu mbu in Tamil) on the adjacent rock surface, as if to contra-distinguish their size. He estimated that the paintings might belong to circa 1000 B.C.

“These paintings were done by pre-historic men — by hunter-gatherers who used to live in this cavern. Much later, the Jain monks occupied them,” Mr. Gandhirajan said.Earlier finds
Three months earlier, the team found about a dozen port-holed dolmens on a hill near Devadanampettai, on the way to Tirukovilur, about 15 km from the Gingee fort. While most of the dolmens were found disturbed, a few were intact.

About 2 km away, the team discovered a small rock art site, with drawings in white kaolin of marching men or men with raised hands.

About 25 days ago, Mr. Ramesh and Mr. Gandhirajan found 11 Jaina beds on a hill near Kanchiyur village, 28 km from Gingee.

According to T. Arun Raj, Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India, Chennai Circle, Jaina beds had been discovered recently at Thirunarungkondai near Ulundurpet, Paraiyanpattu and Melkudalur. There are remains of the structural Jaina temples at Tirunarungkondai, Melsithamur and Thondur near Tindivanam and Melmalayanur near Tiruvannamalai. All these places are in Villupuram district.

On the hill at Sirukadambur, there is a bas-relief of 24 Jaina tirthankaras. “Adjacent to this, we have an inscription about a Jaina monk who went on a fast-unto-death. This inscription belongs to the transitional period from Tamil-Brahmi to Vattezuthu,” he said.

There are rock art sites in the district at Sethavarai and Kizhvalavu.

“In addition to these relics of Jainism, we have now discovered these Jaina beds in two places. All this show that the present-day Villupuram district was a prominent centre of Jainism,” Mr. Arun Raj said.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Delhi government grants minority status to Jains

New Delhi (PTI): With the assembly elections just a couple of months away, the Congress government in Delhi has approved the long-standing demand of the Jain community for minority status.

"The Jain community in Delhi has been accorded minority status. It has already been granted minority status in several other states," Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit announced to the media on Tuesday after a Cabinet meeting which approved the decision.

She said after getting minority status, the Jains would be able to effectively manage their educational institutions as per the parameters specified for such institutions.

Jain constitute around 2 per cent of the population of the national capital, but the affluent community has considerably more influence despite lower numbers.

Christians, Muslims and Punjabis are already enjoying minority status in the city.

Jain Society of Greater Atlanta’s Temple Project


Atlanta’s Jain Community, which practices Jainism, is a very close knit, progressive, vibrant and well-respected community, whose members have excelled in many fields and have contributed significantly to Georgia’s economy as well as to its cultural diversity. The subcontinent of India, a cradle of civilization is also the birthplace of Jainism. The Jain religion and its philosophy being one of the oldest, predating recorded histories has become one of the essential spiritual traditions of the South Asian religious fabric. Jain Temples have been built in many parts of the world, including the US.

The Jain community in the South East USA too decided to have their own temple.

Jain Society of Greater Atlanta’s (JSGA) dream to build a Spectacular Marble Derasar (Temple) with intricate designs hand carved by some of the greatest craftsmen in Jaipur, India is about to be realized. The project began way back in 1996, with a ritual-studded ground breaking ceremony for the Jain Center / Derasar, with shikhar (dome), pratimajis, auditorium, kitchen, dining hall, library, and accommodation for visiting guests. The ceremony was performed on a 3.75 acre site at 669 South Peachtree St., Norcross, Georgia on Sunday April 5 1996.

In the year 2000, the first phase (main floor) of the Center was built, and in 2001 the second phase (basement) was completed resulting in a two story building of 14,000 plus square feet where the Society’s 400 plus Jain families could meet for regular poojas, bhavanas, pathsala classes, lectures and celebrations of festivals.

The Society is now ready for the third phase; the building of the Temple. Following joint consultations between Sompura in Ahmedabad and local architects, a beautiful design was made and approved by the County in 2006. On auspicious Vijaya-Dashami, the Khat-Mahurat ceremony was performed at the Temple site in October, 2006.

The construction of the Temple began in 2007 and is progressing very well. Sompura is working on the Shikhar, arches, pillars and other delicate marble carvings.

Members of the 2008 Executive Committee; President Deepak Shah, Vice-President Anil Shah, General Secretary Paresh Shah; Treasurer Rajan Doshi,Youth-coordinator Meeta Parikh, and committee members Kiran Shah and Madhuben Sheth briefed the media representatives Mustafa Ajmeri,Ravi Ponangi, Ved Bhatia, Kailash Khandelwal and Mahadev Desai,on the final phase of construction. After a brief tour of the temple site, Deepak Shah and Paresh Shah made a PowerPoint presentation of the proposed construction, and estimated expenditure of the project.

In brief, the Temple will have traditional design including Ghabhara for pratimajis (3 Mul Nayak’s Shwetambar Pratimajis on upper floor) and (3 Mul Nayak’s Digambar Pratimajis on the floor below), Shikhar, Rang mandap, and Bhomati with Murti’s of the 24 Tirthankar. The three main pratimas will be surrounded by 24 tirthankars in a rectangular /stepped semi circle. The marble floor will have a seating capacity of more than 250 devotees. The project is expected to cost ₤ 2.7 million. JSGA seeks to raise this amount through generous individual and corporate sponsors, donations and interest-free loans.

JSGA is extremely grateful to the main sponsors Quantum National Bank. In fact, Quantum National Bank’s Chairman, Dr.Neel Neelagaru, attended the Pooja and Media briefing ceremony accompanied with Ms Deepa Kumari and Vinay Bose and also made a donation. Other major sponsors so far are Patel Brothers; MGR Palace, Nobel Investments, Raj Bhog ; Dosa Houze, & Bhindi Jewelers’.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Priyanka Jain Topped in HSC Results

Priya Ramakrishnan,, DNA

‘Tuitions weren’t necessary’The Mumbai division topper, Priyanka Jain, 17, proved that coaching classes are not necessary to bag the top slot. Securing 95.6 per cent in Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exams, Priyanka credits her college for her success.

“I got a call from a friend saying that I had topped the Mumbai division. I didn’t believe them. I thought someone was playing a prank on me,” said this Atomic Energy Junior College, Tarapur student, “My brother too topped Thane district in class XII exams in 2004. I am just taking the family tradition forward.”

A music buff, she continued watching TV even during her exams. “I studied for four hours and spent the rest of my time at college.” Besides topping the state, Priyanka is also the topper in the girl’s category. Priyanka plans to pursue a career in Electronics and is awaiting her Common Entrance Test (CET) results this month.

Her college principal Rajshekar Rao, said this was the first time in 20 years that a girl from our college topped.

11th century Jain statue found

Kshitiz Gaur,TNN

AJMER: A medium-sized black stone statue of 17th Jain Tirth-ankar Kuntunath, dating back to 11th century, has emerged during excavations in holy town of Pushkar, about 15 kms from here.

The statue is one of the more than 36 statues found in last one year at old Pushkar and Ghat areas of the region. The discoveries con-firms of a religious congregation being held at the place some time in the medieval period.

Eighteen more such statues have been discovered in old Pushkar alone, including a Shivling of nearly one thousand year old, rare statue of god Kartikeya, statue of Vishnu and more Jain Tirthankar statues.

The statue of Jain Tirthankar Kuntunath in a meditating posture appeared when renovation work was going on at the famous Varaha temple in Pushkar. It bears characteristics of Jain architecture - curly hair, sharp features on face, etc. The style of meditation is also peculiar of Jain philosophy.

The statues have been kept in the government museum at Akbar Fort in Ajmer. Archaeologists and historians are studying different perspectives of new scripts of Chouhan dynasty of 11th century.

Two months ago, more than 20 statues were found during construction work on a personal land near Jat Vishramsthali behind the famous Bramha temple. The work containing scriptures in Ingal and Pingal, local dialects spoken during 10th century, and representing the meditation postures, dates between 6th and 11th centuries.

"These new discovery shows that Jainism flourished well at the time of Hindu ruler Prithvi Raj Chouhan,"said Akbar Fort museum superintendent Syeed Ajam Hussein. "Pushkar has the importance of multi-religious studies. The statues are in very good condition,"he said, adding that the statues bear pure art of Jain sculptures and therefore have significance for the scholars and archaeologists.

About 8 years ago, a metallic statue pertaining to Jain religion was also found in the area which dated back to more than two thousand years. "The period is important because that was the time when the region was ruled by Hindu kings, and Ghajnis invaded the land,"added Ajam.

"Pushkar is an ancient city and clues are there that Vikramaditya of 6th century had studied in Pushkar. The land has more treasure dug under it,"said a Pushkar-based archaeologist Rajendra Yagnik. "More than 4 times, the university at Pushkar was ruined by the invaders. This university was unique with Samkhya, Yoga and Jain philosophies being taught there,"he said, adding, "A group of Italian archaeologists also visited the place and gathered information of scriptures found here."

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