A Short History of How We Came To Be
Jains have settled in Singapore since the beginning of this century just before or after the first world war (1910 – 1914).
There is no historical date available on the exact date, or if there was any settlement here during the last century. Much of their trade and religious activities are not recorded but during the initial period, they used to conduct their religious functions on an individual basis.
After World War II, the activities became organized and most Jain activities were carried out at 79, Waterloo Street. Till 1953, there were many immigrants from India who came here and joined their families, as there were no immigration restrictions from India. Influenced by democratic ideas from India, Jains felt the need to re-organize themselves further and the first committee of five, called Panch was elected in 1957. Subsequently, a new committee was elected every year to conduct Jain festivities and other religious functions at 79 Waterloo Street, a building with which Jains were associated with historically.
After the government’s acquisition in 1965 of the Waterloo Street premises, the committee carried out these functions in various rented premises. Soon, they felt the urgent need to have their own premises and for this purpose, they needed to organize themselves and register a society according to the local law. In the year 1971/1972 the then five member committee took a bold step and raised S$58,000 with the help of their 600 strong members. In 1972, the Singapore Jain Religious Society was thus formed and registered as a religious society. In 1978, within 24 hours, they collected S$96,000 which enabled them to purchase the land at 18 Jalan Yasin, measuring about 1000 sq. meters and build a two storey building. The hall on the second floor was used for religious functions and had an office and library. The ground floor consisted of an open hall, built up kitchen, store, parking lots and open spaces.
In 1978, a trainee monk, Smitaben was invited here. Her arrival and daily discourses increased the religious fervor and encouraged more religious activities. This is still continuing at present and Tapasyas of two, three, six, eight days to a month long have become common every year. Even Varsitaps are performed here. Similarly, monetary donations to charities in India have increased year after year. Smitaben helped the community to understand the principles guiding real Jainism. Under her august presence, the building was officially opened and named Jain Sthanak.
According to the societies constitution, any Jain whether Sthanakvasi, Deravasi, Terapanthi, Digambar, Oswal or Porwad speaking any language, regardless of creed could become a member and carry out Jain religious activities, keeping to fundamental principles of Jainism. The society maintains its objective of Jain unity in Singapore. Even the Agams say that religious activities could be changed according to time, place or sentiments and the society keeps this progressive attitude in fulfilling the need but maintains fundamental Jain principles.
In later years, other Jain saints like Pujya Chitrabhanu, Pujya Sushil Muniji, and other Mahasatijis graced Singapore and gave religious discourses. Jainism is part and parcel of great Indian tradition and culture and as such, other dignitaries like Pujya Murari Bapu, Mahamandeshwarji, Shree Ramesh Oza, Dr. Soneji (now Pujya Athmanandji), Dr. Goenkaji also graced our Sthanak and gave religious discourses. Jains as well as other Gujaratis took part in all these discourses.
In 1995, with a population of 700, it was felt that a new modern Sthanak was needed. With a worthy donation of S$500,000 by Smt. Nirmalaben Doshi in loving memory of her late husband, Sri Chandulal Doshi (our societies founder trustee and former president) and additional donations amounting to S$500,000 by our local Jain population and overseas well wishers, a new modern building was constructed. It had a fully air-conditioned prayer hall on the second floor with all amenities for cooking facility of up to 1000 people. Our modern building named as Smt. Nirmalaben Chandulal Doshi Jain Sthanak is a testimony of Jain spirit and devotion.
With a present population of 700 Jains, about 95% are from Gujarat with the balance coming from Marwad and Punjab. The society is running Jain Shala every Sunday morning. Many of our children have the knowledge of Samayak and Pratikraman. Our library has religious and cultural books in Gujarati, Hindi and English. During Ayambil Oli, our kitchen caters for the Ayambil lunch. During Paryushan, daily Pratikraman and other religious activities are carried out. Ladies have their Satsang every week. Bhaktamar sessions are held every Sunday morning. The members also use the Sthanak premises for marriages and other social activities.