St. Louis Jain temple
|1904 St. Louis Jain Temple|
Teak Jain temple in the India pavilion at the1904 World's Fair
|Architecture and culture|
|Number of temples:||1|
|Governing body:||Jain Center Of Southern California|
The 1904 St. Louis Jain temple is a historic structure that was constructed for the 1904 St. Louis World’s fairs, termed "Louisiana Purchase Exposition". It was the first building in USA designated as a Jain Temple, since it was a replica of a Jain temple in India, although it was not initially used as a place of worship. It later stood in Las Vegas where some members of the Los Angeles Jain community discovered it in 1980. It now stands within the Jain Center of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Louisiana Purchase Exposition
At the Louisiana Purchase Exposition it stood within the India pavilion. It was described thus:
"The pavilion, a reproduction of the famous mosque of Itmad-ul-Dowlah at Agra, India, was much admired, as were the interior decorations and exhibits. Rising from the center of the court was a Jain temple of teakwood .., being a copy of a white marble temple eight times as large at Palitana, Central India. The reproduction represented two years' work of sixty-five artists and was made expressly for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.”
After the exposition, the temple was dismantled, but was not shipped back to India as originally planned.
In 1957, San Souci Hotel was built in Las Vegas. It was bought and refurbished in 1963 and given the name Castaways which used Polynesian Islands in the Pacific Ocean as a theme. Instead of constructing a Polynesian temple, the St. Louis Jain temple structure was acquired, and reconstructed beside the pool. It was given the name Gateway to Luck . We don’t know when the temple arrived there. It could be seen from across the blue waters of the pool. Then image of the temple was widely used in the hotels postcards. The site is now occupied by The Mirage.
In Los Angeles
The Jain Center of Southern California was established in 1979, with Mahendra Khandar as the President. In 1980, Lalit Shah and Shirish Seth visited Las Vegas and discovered the temple. In 1981, some of the Jains accompanied by Acharya Sushil Kumar and Chitrabhanu saw the temple, and agreed that the temple should belong to a Jain organization. Lalit Shah, then vice-president of the Jain Center of Southern California approached the Castaways manager Bill Friedman. He offered to have the value of the Temple appraised and sell it to them. The Jains instead requested the estate of Howard Hughes to donate it to them. In 1987, Castaways was bought by Steve Wynn. Castaways was demolished to make place for the new 3,044-room megaresort Mirage. The Temple was boxed up again and was acquired by the Jain Center of Southern California through the efforts of Dr. Manibhai Mehta, a former president. In 1995, the 1600 parts were transported to Los Angeles.
In 2004, the Southern California Jain Center initiated reconstruction of the 42,000 square feet center. The wood temple has been carefully restored with the assistance of Manubhai Shah and MS International who carefully studied who the temple would be put together again. The coating put on it at Las Vegas was removed to restore the original teak look. The structure is 15 ft x 20 ft x 35 ft high and weighs nearly 10,000 lbs. It now forms the centerpiece of the Center. In 2008 the new building was inaugurated.
The 1904 St. Louis temple is not only one of a kind in USA, but is a rare surviving example of Indian tradition of wooden architecture. It has been suggested that it was originally carved at the Ahmedabad Woodcarving Company jointly run by Muggenbhai Hutheesing of Ahmedabad and Lockwood de Forest, a painter, orientalist and interior architect of New York City.
The temple is located within the Jain Center at Buena Park, California.
- Jains Want Their Shrine Miami News, May 22, 1981
- The universal exposition of 1904, Volume 1 By David Rowland Francis, Louisiana Purchase Exposition Co. (Saint Louis, Mo.), 1913.
- Y.K. Malaiya, ‘‘The incredible journey of the 1904 St.Louis Jain temple”, Jain Center of Central Ohio Pratishtha Sovenier, July 2012, pp. 81-84.
- The Palitana Temple of Southern California, Chandrakant Parekh, Jan 3, 2013
- Prominence of Jains in U.S. rises with temple, Ann Pepper, The Orange County Register, October 7, 2004.
- An Eastern Fantasia, Asleep for a Century, Mitchell Owens, New York Times, August 24, 2000.