Melbourne will soon have a Jain Temple in the southern suburbs. The foundation stone was laid on Wednesday, 4 August, in Moorabbin, where the Melbourne Shwetambar Jain Community has been in temporary premises for many years.
Melbourne’s Shwetambar Jain Temple- first stone laying ceremony
The foundation stone laying ceremony or ‘Shilanyas’ for the first Jain Derasar (temple) in Melbourne was performed in the early hours of Wednesday 4 August in Moorabbin, Victoria under the spiritual guidance of Pujya Acharya Bhagwant Jagvallabh Suri Maharaja.
Scenes of jubilation broke out as the 21 beautifully carved marble Shilas (stone slabs) were laid into the ground amidst chanting of prayers, in the presence of many dignitaries and prominent members of the community, including leaders of various religious organisations.
Jain temples in India are incredible architectural marvels, and the Melbourne Jain temple will be no different – a must-see for all. It will be made of white Makrana marble from India, very similar to the kind used to build many iconic monuments in India, including the Taj Mahal.
More than 5,000 pieces of beautifully carved marble, weighing about 1500 tonnes, will be imported from India to build the temple. Currently, more than 300 artisans are undertaking the carving work, which is expected to take around 30 months to complete.
The temple, including the community hall, is set to cost millions of dollars, mostly to be funded by the members of the community.
“It is a remarkable feat for a such a small community of about five hundred families to embark on such an ambitious project,” said Mr Jason Wood, Federal Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs. Attending the event, he pledged his support towards the completion of the project.
The temple is expected to welcome devotees by 2023. The Consul General of India, Mr Raj Kumar, described this historic event as “another feather in the cap of the Indian diaspora.” Mayor of Kingston City Mr Steve Staikos congratulated the Jain community while observing that the construction of a temple of such magnitude and beauty will help in forging ahead Melbourne’s multiculturalism.
Mr Nitin Doshi, the President of Melbourne Shwetambar Jain Sangh (MSJS) told Indian Link, “A beautifully carved white marble temple of Shri Sumatinath Bhagwan will be an iconic development in Melbourne. One of its kind, it will become a go-to place for all Jains in Melbourne for religious rituals and will provide a spiritual sanctuary for generations to come. We hope it will continue to show the path of liberation through Jainism values and enhance positivity for the surrounding community.”
The property was acquired in 2017 and since then a temporary facility in the site has been functioning as a community centre. This was upgraded in the recent past, thanks to the Victorian Government’s Multicultural Community Infrastructure Fund (MCIF) of $230,000 dollars.
The temple project was envisaged in 2015, and since then the community has dedicated itself physically, emotionally and financially towards this goal. For devout members like Ekta Shah, it is a dream come true. “We are so excited that the Shilanyas is finally taking place,” she remarked. “There have been delays due to lockdowns and other obstacles along the way – these have made our resolve only stronger.”
Jignesh Shah, summed up the mood of the Jain community succinctly. “This is a historic moment, one for which we have waited for years. As we launch the construction of our temple, we hope it will be a stepping stone for our future generations to connect with our faith.”
Jasma Sutaria added, “Living away from India, we are extremely fortunate that we get to participate in a ceremony such as this one. It is a key step in the building of a monument that will mean so much to so many people. Many people even in India do not get to participate in this – as temples are mainly renovated, so foundation stones do not need to be laid again. So to be able to build such an edifice from scratch, is a matter of great pride and spiritual satisfaction.”
Another congregation member Nimita Bagadia told Indian Link, “Imagine the number of prayers that will be chanted here, and the concerns that will be calmed across generations of devotees that will enter this temple. This historical Shilanyas event fills me with joy, happiness, and so much gratitude.”
It is quite clear that for this 4000-strong Australia-wide community, faith is a strong guiding light, especially at a time when our worlds have been turned upside down in the current pandemic.