Hundreds enjoy faith event
By Gemma Peplow
Hundreds of worshippers took to the streets for a holy celebration yesterday.
Members of the Jain Centre, in the city centre, were joined by other followers from all over the country for a procession.
With many worshippers banging drums and others sprinkling holy water, they paraded outside the centre, in Oxford Street, and around part of the nearby De Montfort University campus.
Organisers said up to 700 people took part in the day's celebrations, which included prayers and a meal inside the centre after the procession in honour of Mantuga-Suri, a monk who wrote the religion's most famous prayer.
Neeta Kothari, 47, and her sister-in-law Smita, 45, were among the centre members taking part.
Neeta, who lives in the Abbey Lane area of the city, said: "This is a holy ceremony and it is very special for us. People have come from all over the country to take part.
"This is a day when you are not thinking about anyone else apart from God."
Smita, who lives in Hamilton, Leicester, said: "We're proud to be taking part. We're volunteering as well so we are helping out."
Rajesh Mehta, 57, travelled from Birmingham to join the celebrations.
He said: "I think this is a very good way of celebrating. It's a very proud day."
Mitesh Shah, 35, travelled from Solihull and was taking part in the procession with several family members, including his two daughters Tvara, nine, and Kavya, four.
"It's an important day where you meet people and worship God," he said.
Divyesh and Rina Shah, of Stoneygate, Leicester, also took part.
Rina, 45, said: "It's a very religious and spiritual event."
Jainism is an Indian religion which promotes pacifism.
Yesterday's event was being held in Leicester for the first time.
According to legend, Mantuga-Suri was chained and imprisoned by a king.
He composed the prayer, the Bhaktamara Stotra, in prison. With the completion of each verse, a chain broke, and he was free when all the verses were finished.
Jain Centre president Smita Shah said: "We have had hundreds of people here.
"It's been a wonderful day. It's very important to have people coming together, with everybody taking part, from elderly people to children.
"I would like to thank everyone who has been involved to make the day a huge success."
She said the event was expected to raise about £10,000 in donations, with some of the proceeds being given to a charity for disabled people.