Jains in Nairobi
Digambar Jain Mumukshu Mandal : The Digamber Jain Mumukshu Mandal was established in Nairobi on 4 June 1950. The Mandal was set up to create awareness and promote Digamber Jain teachings within Nairobi. The intellectual backing was provided through the teachings of Pujya Kanji Swami who was based in Songadh, Gujarat.
Pujya Kanji Swami was a great Jain visionary of the 20th century. At a time when a lot of importance was being given to ritualistic Jainism he redeveloped the philosophic Jain angle - soul realisation being the primary goal and first step on the Jain ladder. His inspiration was primarily Kundkundacharya, one of the most reknown Jain acharyas after Tirthankar Mahavir.
In 1964 a Swadhyay Mandir was opened on Kolobot Road allowing daily darshan, poojan, lectures and bhakti. This became a focus for Digamber Jains and activities continued from strength to strength. To maintain this wave of Jain excitement a very important pillar of Jain community development - a shikharbandhi Jin Mandir - was planned.
In Jaunary 1980 the first Digamber Jin Mandir outside India was opened in the presence of Pujya Kanji Swami who travelled out of India for the first time at the age of 90. The Mandal hosted 400 guests from India for the 26 day function which included the pratishta, twice daily lectures of Pujya Kanji Swami and numerous cultural programmes. The grand Mandir houses the pratimajis of Shantinath, Neminath, Parasvanath, Mahavir swami, Simandhar swami, and a bhavi Tirthankar.
A Jin Mandir and Swadhyay hall mean that activities take place very regularly. There is daily abhishek and poojan in the mandir. Daily lectures based on recordings of Pujya Kanji Swami's discourses and from a resident vanchankar take place. Classes and a children's patshala have also been running for many years. Auspicious Jain days are celebrated with special poojas, aarti, bhakti. The Mandal invites Pandits from India twice a year with one regularly coming during the time of Paryushan. A very comprehensive Jain library is maintained holding vast literature including children's books.
The past year has been an important one with the Mandal celebrating 25 years of the Mahavir Swami Digamber Jin Mandir. The year long festivities culminated with the opening of a grand Jain rangoli. Thousands of people throughout Kenya have viewed the rangoli and a considerable amount of Jain awareness created.
The Digamber Jain Mumukshu Mandal also maintains a fund purely for localised needy charitable causes. Over the years a considerable amount of good work has been achieved to the benefit of Kenyans.
Jain Social Group : The Jain Social Group, Nairobi received its charter from its Parent Body i.e. Jain Social Groups' International Federation, (JSGIF) Mumbai, India on 21st July 1990. It got registered locally in 1994 with Shri Dhirendra P. Kothary as Founder Chairman.
The aim of the Group is to foster unity amongst all sects of Jains and our motto is 'Walk Together, Talk Together and Work with One Mind'. Today, Jain Social Groups' International Federation is the largest single group of all Jain sects, with membership of over 65,000 couples in over 250 Groups all over the world. This year, JSGIF is celebrating its Silver Jubilee.
The JSGIF comes out with monthly bulletin 'Mangal Yatra', which is mailed to members of all the affiliated groups. The bulletin contains useful information on the activities of the Federation its affiliates, articles on Jainism by renown Jains, matrimonial columns, etc. JSGIF has organised an International Trade Fair on 9th to 11th April, 2005 in Mumbai, India.
Our main activities include social gatherings, conducting cultural programmes like Sangeet Sandhya, medical talks & activities, religious activities like ayambils, jaaps, bhakti bhavnas, etc., charitable activities like food donations and supporting projects such as the Nairobi Hospice, Aberdare Forest Fence Project. Every year, we honour 2 - 3 Jains who have done commendable job in above the fields and the education sector or achieved excellence, etc. In the past nine years of our operation, we have honoured many local Jains and its impact has not only been memorable in their lives, but also inspires other Jains.
Oshwal Education & Relief Board : In 1936, a devastating famine struck Halar, our home district in India. Burdened with the famine, our Oshwal community members, in Halar, were under great strain and struggled for survival. Great sorrow and suffering were the order of the day. Individually through letters, they wrote to the Oshwal Community in East Africa for assistance and relief. At that time, we had our institutions in Nairobi & Mombasa, but lacked a common body that could adequately cater for the common social problems collectively. The leaders at that time were very sympathetic and very concerned about the situation in Halar. A generous sum of Kshs. 175,000.00 was raised to help the famine stricken Oshwals. Soon, the need to have a central body to co-ordinate activities of the Oshwal centers was felt.
On 11th April, 1941, Oshwal Education & Relief Board was set up in East Africa. The Primary aims and objectives of the Board were to:
To use the income of the Board solely for the purpose of the relief of the poor & distressed - primarily of the members of the community and secondarily of the general public. Similarly for the advancement of religion & education.
Eradicate illiteracy from the community and propagate widely for education.
Render necessary assistance in unforeseen & unexpected events.
Provide relief in times of need.
To conduct other activities for the benefit of the community.
Our mission is 'To Provide A World Class Cost Effective, Friendly And Enabling Education Environment In All Our Institutions'. In order to achieve this goal the Board provides a seamless education system starting from nursery school right up to advance level and also a business college.
Initially, the Board established a boys' boarding and a girls' hostel with a view of assisting up-country parents for their children who were studying in Nairobi. As the population of the community grew, its needs for higher education also increased. Oshwal Boys Secondary School and Oshwal Secondary were built in Nairobi & Mombasa in 1963 & 1968 respectively. Since then, there has been a continuous upgrading of these institutions and new institutions were also set up - Oshwal Jain Primary School in 1978 and Oshwal College in 1991. Oshwal Boys Secondary School was converted to a High School and Oshwal Secondary School to Oshwal Academy, Mombasa.
At Oshwal Jain Primary School, a Special Education Department was set up to cater for children between the ages of 6 to 18 years. The school provides individual education programme to children with Downs' syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and mild retardation. A holistic approach is provided to these children with ample opportunities to integrate with children from the main school. In addition to regular music, art, physical education & swimming lessons, a very practical approach to the vocation training to suit the individual ability of a child is also in place.
At our schools, students are instilled with our religion and also encouraged to participate at various religious functions held by the community.
The Board also provides relief to various individuals & institutions. Some of these are:
Construction of the Visa Oshwal Primary School at Kabarnet in 1985 and upon completion the entire school was donated to the Government.
Apart from significant monetary donations to the Nairobi Bomb Blast Disaster Fund in 1998, the community members provided selfless service at the site.
Since 1999, 101 indigenous, needy & deserving, students have been sponsored to pursue higher education for a period of 4 years at any of our local universities or polytechnics.
As part of the Oshwal Centenary Celebrations, foodstuffs and other items were donated to 13 different homes & institutions.
Desks, chairs & textbooks were donated to St. John High School in Machakos and a donation was also made to Mukuru Promotion Centre comprising of 60 beds, 25 study tables & 60 metal cupboards.
More recently, following the devastating drought in the country, OERB collected donations from Visa Oshwal Community members in East Africa and used these funds to purchase & distribute food items in several areas of Kenya. To date, the Board has conducted 5 food distributions at various destinations, amounting to about 200 tons of foodstuff. All these trips were carried out by a strong force of Oshwal volunteers, who distributed the food to the needy wananchi. Most of our volunteers were youngsters of the community trying to make a difference as taught in our religion.
Oshwal Mahila Mandal : About 60 years ago, women of the Oshwal community realized that to preserve the ancient arts & culture, it was necessary to start a ladies' organization. With the wisdom of the elders and the enthusiasm of the young, Oshwal Mahila Mandal came into being.
Over the 6 decades many cultural, religious, educational & social events have been carried out and a myriad of functions organized. Some of these are rangoli competitions, flower arrangements, health, beauty, home deacutecor & cookery demonstrations. English and Gujarati classes have been conducted on a voluntary basis for ladies of the community and children were also taught Gujarati & religion. We have held countless exhibitions, run first aid classes and had great philosophers, thinkers & religious personalities from India give discourses.
Now, activities are organized in keeping with the modern times. Medical camps have been held at Machakos & Muranga. Donations for worthy causes have been raised by members of the Mandal. To keep abreast of the happenings of the world, overseas tours are organized to places women would never visit otherwise.
A gradual, but firm march has begun towards the spreading & understanding of religion. There in a class every Friday morning where study of the Bhaktamar Stotra is done. Mothers with ethics & morals can produce an ethical & moral society. Thus, women are now bringing about a revolution by changing bad social customs & narrow vision. They are getting an education at all levels and the society has a progressive view on promoting education, religion and good morals. We must preserve our rich culture and glorious religious heritage.
Our main objective is to make women independent and this has certainly been achieved in the past and we aim to march on through the present into the future to achieve these noble aims.
Oshwal Youth League Nairobi : What is Oshwal Youth League (OYL)?
The Oshwal Youth League was established in 1928 and is a registered society under the Societies Act of Kenya and today boasts a membership of over 1200 members.
The aims of the league are to promote and encourage the youth of the community to discover and exploit their talents, both sporting and otherwise which are targeted through numerous sporting and other activities crowned off by the annual Oshwal Games which attract participants from all over East Africa and more recently from the UK, USA and other nations. In addition the league organises numerous other projects aimed at boosting community awareness, promoting independence and self confidence and generating team building and leadership skills amongst the youth, characteristics which are all so important in today's world.
What activities do you organise?
We focus on various projects that involve different skill sets. The aim of the projects organised are to develop the youth's team building, communication and leadership skills. We have in the past organised activities like white water rafting. rock climbing, mini golf, football competitions, quizzes, debates, essay and art competitions etc.
Shree Raj Saubhag Satsang Mandal (RSSM) : The Raj Saubhag Ashram was established in Sayla, 125 km from Ahmedabad, primarily & most importantly because it was the hometown of Shri Saubhagbhai Lallubhai, one of the most senior disciples of Param Krupaludev - Shrimad Rajchandra - and also his soul mate.
In Sayla, locally known as the 'Town of Saints, the tradition of a guru disciple relationship, that can be traced to Shrimad, still thrives. Shri L. M. Vora, fondly known as Param Pujya Bapuji was the sixth disciple in line from Shri Saubhagbhai.
RSSM came into being on 31st December 1976. The name honours & expresses the gratitude owed to both Shrimad Rajchandra and Saubhagbhai. The ashram has a swadhyay and a meditation hall, a Jinalay with Jineshwar Vasupujya as the mul nayak. It has a membership base of over 1400 mumukshus, both in India and abroad.
Bapuji handed over the reigns of the ashram into the han ds of Shri Nalinbhai Kothari (P. Bhaishree) and Smt. Sadgunaben C.U. Shah (P. Guruma), the gems he had sculpted in his own image.
After the ashram was established, Param Pujya Bapuji initiated & implemented various social service activities in the field of healthcare, education, employment and vocational training. This work is carried on, with much vigour & zeal, by Pujya Bhaishree and Pujya Guruma. Today RSSM is actively involved in overcoming many of the hardships of the people, not only in Sayla, but in the entire district.
Some of these projects include eye camps, a dispensary, food grain distribution, buttermilk distribution, rehabilitation of the disabled, vocational training, building educational institutions and emergency operations such as re-building a village, which was destroyed in the Bhuj earthquake.
RSSM Nairobi, under guidance & blessings of RSSM India, started informally and in a small way in the 1970s where by satsangs used to be held at people's houses. In the years to come, the number of mumukshus has increased to about 250. Satsangs take place 5 days in a week at various venues. It also supports the seva activities that are undertaken in India by the parent mandal. Apart from satsangs, all Jain festivals are celebrated in addition to Guru Poornima and birthdays of Shrimad Rajchandra & Pujya Bapuji.
Shree Sthanakvasi Jain Sangh : Shree Sthanakvasi Jain Sangh, Nairobi, as an institution was established on 9th January 1927 with a membership of 34 families and was the first one of its kind to foster and sustain Jain religion in Kenya.
The prayer hall and other facilities were constructed at the beginning of 1930.
The next 30 years saw a growth in membership and the need for better facilities. A new building was put up to replace the existing one, with larger prayer hall and other amenities. Jain classes were started around this time and were attended regularly by our children.
These facilities were in what is now the old part of Nairobi and became less accessible due to its location. The need to move to a new location as also to provide better facilitates, the idea of putting up what is known as "Jain Bhavan" was conceived and became a reality in 1995. It boasts of a large prayer hall, library, sports facilities, and a banquet hall to accommodate nearly 1000 people, which doubles up as an auditorium with excellent acoustics as well as a stage. It became a forerunner of similar facilities being put up by other institutions in Nairobi.
The Sangh to day consists of over 150 families (both Shree Sthanakvasi and Shree Dasa & Visa Shrimali Deravasi Jains) who observe the Jain religious calendar of Paryushan Maha Parva, Aayambils, Diwali and New Year.
We are proud to be able to offer the facilities for Children's and Teachers' Training Classes on Jainism conducted by Shree Chandana Vidyapeeth, which has been instrumental in creating awareness of our religious values in the young generation.
Visa Oshwal Community Nairobi : The Oshwal community is now scattered all over the world. However, we all have common roots in India. At the turn of the 20th century, many of us emigrated to East Africa from India, in search of a better life. They traveled by dhows across the Indian Ocean, facing the hardships of such a sea voyage, to find themselves in an alien country not speaking the language. Although there was some initial nervousness, East Africa was viewed as a potentially prosperous new opportunity. And now we are proud to be Oshwals in Kenya under the banner of Visa Oshwal Community, Nairobi.
The VOC has a Mahajanwadi and an Oshwal Cultural & Religious Centre under its belt. It is actively involved in the running of several educational institutions. The Visa Oshwal Community Library is located on the same grounds as the Visa Oshwal Mahajanwadi, where a vast collection of reading material is available.
Health and fitness have become the most important part of our well being and our own Oshwal Sports Complex ensures this. Facilities range from a swimming pool to squash courts, flood lit tennis & volleyball courts and many other sports related areas.
The Oshwal Medical Scheme covers our community members regardless of age and of any pre-existing medical condition. At a low cost, health insurance is provided to the members of this scheme.
For more information please go to www.oshwalnairobi.org
Young Jains Nairobi : We live in a time when we are being pulled in all different directions, ending up confused and disoriented. We lack an awareness of who we are and what we believe. This search for self-identity inspired the inception of Young Jains Nairobi in 1996 - a self-identity that would not be easily eroded or threatened - with a strong foundation of positive objectives of seva, siksha & sadhna.
Where there is no vision, there can be no growth. Our first and foremost vision is to promote an understanding of Jain values. The Jain philosophy is a very ancient tradition and yet, its timeless values are totally in keeping with today, i.e., modern! These values that lie at the very core of Jainism are being forgotten. Non-violence, tolerance, forgiveness, selfless service, charity and vegetarianism are, in today's rapidly changing world, being replaced with tremendous speed. Man is under the powerful grip of greed & modernization and out with the old & in with the new (in every sense) is the motto! This is where Young Jains comes in. It is trying to create an awareness that this is actually making us poorer instead of richer. It has taken up the challenge of informing & educating and its non-sectarian approach is playing a huge role in raising awareness of this beautiful religion.
Run by young adults and supported by a very loyal membership base, this organisation has clocked in many high profile projects.
Charity : The heart of the matter lies in responding to the needs of the community at large. The list is endless, but some of its most memorable projects are:
*Clothe-a-Family : A huge task force of Young Jains members worked selflessly & tirelessly to collect clothes that benefited about 15000 under-privileged people. One of the most remarkable things about this project was that it came just in time to help victims of the Soweto slum fire, who lost all their possessions and helped fellow humans in their time of need!
*YJ's Water projects : A shortage of fresh water is probably one of the top agendas affecting the world today. Water is an intrinsic part of our life and this dire situation in many parts of Kenya was tugging our heartstrings. 1999 marked the beginning of our dreams turning into reality....and since then, we have successfully carried out water projects in many arid and drought affected areas such as Kajiado & Kitui.
*Education......My Dream : YJ has supported local government schools by providing basic infrastructure, funds, teaching & learning materials and also scholarships to its students. Education......my dream is a project that has helped many li'l ones realise their dreams! Our children have painted schools physically and worked dedicatedly to give a little back to the not-so-privileged as themselves.
*Change for Children : Various projects to help children in little ways has always been one of our priorities. We have had feeding programs, taken them out on adventures & excursions that would not ordinarily have been possible and tried to make a difference wherever possible.
Environment : One of our objectives is to address environmental issues. Various tree-planting projects have been undertaken and one of the most hands-on project, literally, was to clean up the Nairobi National Park. A regular exercise of collecting waste paper for recycling is done and the proceeds form this will go towards the Aberdare Forest Fund.
Social : Young Jains Nairobi also hosts various fellowship events that aim to strengthen ties between its members and also reinforce personal development skills. These range from team building challenges to treasure hunts to fun-filled raas garba and dinner & dance nights.
Shree Chandana Vidya Peeth - SCVP : 'Instilling pride with knowledge in being a Jain' - this is the motto of SCVP. Now into its 8th successful year, we can boast attendance of almost 300 children and 250 adults. We believe that learning about Jainism is not a chore, but the greatest privilege and so do our hard working teachers and the dedicated students.
For any further information view : www.youngjainsnairobi.com