Historical celebration marks 25th anniversary of Jain Temple in Chicago

Chicago IL: The Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago (JSMC), Bartlett Illinois, celebrated a milestone – the 25th Anniversary of its temple, with great enthusiasm, color and pride, from June 22 to July 1, 2018 at Bartlett, IL. About 4000 people from US and outside witnessed this historical celebration over the 10 days. This is the first Jain temple in North America with “Shikhar” or dome to complete 25 years. A number of dignitaries, speakers, and faith leaders from US and India graced the occasion.

The event was graced by political dignitaries including Illinois State Governor Bruce Rauner, Consul General of India Ms. Neeta Bhusan, US Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Peter Roskam, State representatives Christine Winger and Laura Murphy, State senator Tom Cullerton and Bartlett Village trustees.

Over the 10 days of celebration, numerous scholars and dignitaries from India, including Muni Shri Jinchandraji, Acharya Dr. Lokesh Muniji, Swami Shrutpragyaji, Charukeerti Bhattarakji, Gurudev Shri Rakesh Bhai Zaveri, Shri Dipakbhai Bardoliwala, Shri Sanjeevji Godha, Smt. Pramodaji Chitrabhanu, Smt. Tarlaben Doshi and Samanijis delivered thought provoking spiritual discourses to an eager audience. Keynote speeches on important topics were delivered by Padmashri Kumarpal Desai, Dr. Dipak Jain, Rahul Kapoor and Sajan Shah. Vidhikar Shri Hiteshbhai, Shri Narendra Nandu, Shri Lalitbhai Dhami, Megh Nandu and Veer Sainik Jinaybhai performed unique poojans and rituals for the first time in the US. Singers Ashish Mehta and Vicky Parekh enthralled the audiences with beautiful musical scores. JSMC’s home musical production Nem Rajul and Karmic Forces received an overwhelming response as much as the professional productions Sheth Motisha and Veer na Varasdaar played by Rangat Productions of Mumbai.

Many activities for the youth including sports day, field day as well as youth-focused seminars and shibirs kept the youth engaged. Amazing work was done in creating replicas of sacred places of worship Ashtapad and Giriraj Shatrunjay.

One of the highlights of the celebration was a 1.5-mile parade & procession starting at Bartlett’s Eastview Middle School and ending at the Jain temple. The Sanghpati’s of the 25th Anniversary Celebrations (Jayendra and Leena Shah, Kishor and Rashmi Shah, Prabodh and Lata Vaidya, Sanjay and Hemali Shah and Dr. Shailesh and Mayuri Zaveri) and other sponsor families walked with 12 superbly decorated floats, Bhaghwan Palkhi and Rath, live religious music and dance, motorcycles and horse carriage. Despite nearly 100 degree temperature, the parade had participation from more than 1000  members. The parade ended with a ceremonial flower shower from a helicopter. JSMC also created history by inaugurating the first memorial (Jeevant Smarak) of Gurudev Chitrabhanuji who is credited to have strengthened Jainism and united Jains in the US in the last 40 years. Gurudev’s bust was sponsored by Ravindra & Pallavi Kobawala and Satish & Kinna Shah.

Since 1970s, Jain population in Chicago has exploded from less than thirty families to over 1900 families. With the mission of preserving and sharing the Jain way of life, the community built a beautiful Temple & Community Center in 1993 in Bartlett, IL on a 14 acre lot. Today this monumental temple and center standing on a 17.5 acre land with expanded facilities of 84,000 sq. ft.

President of JSMC executive committee Mr. Vipul Shah was ecstatic and mentioned that, “In this milestone year for all Jains around Chicago and indeed all of US, we have delivered a great experience to all our dignitaries, guests and members blending religion, education, culture and entertainment. All our programs have been received with tremendous enthusiasm”. Chairman and Board of Trustees of JSMC, Mr. Atul Shah added, “Our unity, dedicated volunteers, generous donors and all other supporters have helped us to set a very high bar”. Every day during the celebration, JSMC provided 3 sumptuous meals to all attendees and visitors. Many guests from Chicago and outside were thrilled with the overall execution and planning by the dedicated team of volunteers, Executive Committee members and Board of Trustees.

PR & Media co-leads Mr. Hemant Shah (past Chairman) and Dr. Mukesh Doshi (past Chairman) also explained, “We are building on a very successful legacy of 48 years of JSMC.” Chicago is very fortunate to have remarkable history of the first Jain who landed 125 years ago – when Shri Virchand Raghavji Gandhi pioneered Jainism in western world and represented Jains in first parliament of World religious conference held in Chicago in 1893. Since 1970, this society is standing on contributions of generous donors, dedicated volunteers and passionate leadership of visionaries. We are humbled to be part of this society that is regarded as symbol of unity and harmony among all Jains.

Founded in 1970, JSMC caters to the religious, educational, cultural and community needs of Jains in and around Chicago. After building North America’s first Jain temple with Shikhar in 1993, the organization undertook a major expansion in 2008-09. With more than 1900 families as life members, JSMC has maintained its unity of Shwetamber, Digambar, Sthanakvasi and Shrimad sects over the years and has continued to inspire the Jain values of non-violence, multi-pluralism and non-possessiveness.

These members engage in various religious, cultural, educational, and social and community activities on close to 160+ days in a typical year. Over 500 students register in the Pathshaala that meets every 1st and 3rd Sunday. The Center has also become a preferred location to host other events – given its state of the art community hall and dining facility. A 7-person elected Board and a 13-person elected Executive Committee manage JSMC with support from many /committees.

Jainism is a religion and a way of life for Jains around the world. The primary purpose of JSMC is to increase the awareness of the principles of Jainism, achieve the unity of all Jains, provide a platform wherefrom to project the voice of Jain religion, promote the feeling of amity and unity among Jains and to promote inter-faith understanding. Jainism, which originated in India, at least five thousand years ago, has largest number of followers (about 4 million) in India. It has nonetheless, influenced the world peace through its message of non-violence and forgiveness. Jainism, indirectly influenced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, as he followed the example and non-violent methods of Mahatma Gandhi in his struggle for equality and civil rights for all minorities in USA.

Jains have been on a path of Non-Violence, Non-Absolutism (Anekantvad), and Non-possesion (Aparigrah) for thousands of years. For thousands of years, Jains have believed in meditation, yoga, animal compassion, vegetarianism, environmentalism, equal rights for women, respect for other cultures and forgiveness. Jains believe that universe is eternal and that Jain religion, which explains the rules of the universe, is therefore eternal, with no beginning and no end. Last perfected soul known (Tirthankar) to us is Lord Mahavir, who was born in 599BC, near Patna in Bihar, India.

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