Ancient religion has a temple in Hertfordshire

Dr Atul Shah Dr Atul Shah: "The architecture is authentic to the Indian tradition."

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The first Shikharbandhi Temple to be built in Europe can be found in Hertfordshire.

Situated on the B156 between Northaw and Potters Bar, it was built by the Jains, one of the oldest living religions in the world, and consecrated in August 2005.

The temple complex is contructed in the shape of the Jain symbol and forms part of the Oshwal Centre, a focal point for Jains all over the country.

Made of sandstone and marble, hand carved in India by over 200 masons, it is surrounded by formal gardens and 80 acres of parkland.

Dr Atul Shah, a volunteer at the temple who regularly leads tours around the site said: "The architecture of the temple is authentic to the Indian tradition. To have a temple of such beauty, built with marble, and have five acres of sculptured gardens and landscape around it, is a fascinating addition to the architectural and faith landscape of Britain."

Ancient religion

Jainism is an ancient religion from India that teaches that the way to Nirvana (liberation) is to live lives of peace and harmlessness.

The essence of the religion is concern for the welfare of every being in the universe and for the health of the universe itself.

Jains value and respect all life equally and believe that animals and plants, as well as human beings, contain living souls. Each of these souls is considered of equal value and should be treated with compassion.

Most Jains live in India, and according to the 2001 Census of India there are around 4.2 million there although the Oxford Handbook of Global Religions, published in 2006, suggests that census figures may be lower than the true number of followers as many Jains identify themselves as Hindu. The book also states that there are around 25,000 Jains in Britain.

One of the most important symbols of the faith is the Saathio [swastika] which reminds Jains that people undergo a continuous cycle from birth to death in four forms: angels, human, animal and plant and hellish beings.

"The Saathio is a very ancient Indian symbol," explained Dr Shah.

"Hitler actually abused the symbol .... here it represents where we are today - the different life forms on the planet today."

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