Inside the west's first Jain temple
by Tom Mack; pictures by Alex Hannah
Worshippers at the city's Jain temple are hoping to spread their message of peace and non-violence as they celebrate their silver jubilee.
The distinctive temple in Oxford Street, Leicester city centre, opened 25 years ago this July.
The celebrations began on Monday when two visiting nuns from India joined in with a special day to celebrate one of the temple's founders – Shantaben Babulal Shah – who died 15 years ago.
Her daughter, former temple president Smita Babulal Shah, said: "Our religion is about avoiding violence – not just violent actions, but also violence in our words and our thoughts.
"My mother would not even pour hot water down the drain because she was worried about the tiny creatures which lived in the drain.
"She always wanted to spread the message of non-violence to the wider world.
"Her work here has created a temple which caters for most of the sects of Jainism.
"We have five different areas for the five main sects and we are very keen for more people to come."
Jainism is a religion with similarities to Buddhism and Hinduism and started in the Gujarat area of India.
It became a formal religion in 527 BC before dividing into many different sects, but all followers share a commitment to the reverence of all living things.
Monday's special celebration included a conversation with the two nuns from India on the subject of peace.
Smita said: "The whole session is about peace – individual peace, family peace and universal peace and how we attain it."
Retired GP Dr Ramesh Mehta is the chairman for the temple.
He said worship at the temple, which is mostly in Gujarati, with some English, would appeal to many other people in the city.
He said: "We want more people to know they are welcome to come to the temple every day and not just people who are already familiar with Jainism."
Smita said: "We regularly have visitors from all over England and one man comes once a month from Dublin.
"Our temple here was the first Jain temple in the Western world and we have tried to make a contribution to the city and the county.
"As a small minority community, we have come a long way."