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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : BUENA PARK

Ornate New Jain Center in the Works

March 31, 2000|ANA CHOLO-TIPTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The elaborate and exotic building will undoubtedly stand out--especially among the architecturally lackluster buildings on that particular section of Commonwealth Avenue in Buena Park.

With beautiful marble domes imported from India and intricate designs, the Jain Center of Southern California--whose renovation plans were approved this week by the Buena Park City Council--will be able to accommodate the growing group of faithful dedicated to nonviolence, vegetarianism and community service.

In a small, yet significant way, the cultural, religious and educational center will alter the city's landscape.

The center now has about 900 families who worship, study and congregate there, and many live within an approximate seven-mile radius. Jainism, with links to Hinduism, is concentrated in India and is the seventh-largest religion in the world. The United States and Canada have small but active populations that make their presence known by doing community service.

Jains are generally well-educated and include doctors, engineers and businesspeople. Charity is a major part of their faith and they often gather clothing for the poor and make annual medical-aid trips to India to assist those who cannot afford medical care.

They are taught to not kill and for some doctors, this can present an unusual ethical dilemma when dealing with bacteria and viruses which they consider living.

Temple members say construction on the Jain Center, whose design plans were in the works for years, may begin in June.

The center will feature a library containing about 8,000 religious books and some manuscripts dating back 800 years, a temple, a children's room and activity and study rooms. The former post office next door will be renovated and used for office space. A lot across the street was also purchased to supplement the underground parking.

When the $5-million structure is completed, in about 12 to 18 months, visitors and tourists alike will be able to enjoy a part of Jainism history.

At the center of the main entrance and surrounded by two curved staircases, a large replica of the pure white marble Palitana Temple in India will be prominently displayed. The temple is revered by Jains throughout the world.

The replica, made of teakwood and hand-carved in India, was once on display at the 1904-05 World's Fair in St. Louis, Mo., but more recently was owned by Howard Hughes and valued at about $500,000. For a number of years, the 35-foot-high, 14-ton replica with 12 carved pillars was on display at the former Castaways Casino, now the site of the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas. It was donated to the center after Hughes died and is currently in storage.

Ana Cholo-Tipton can be reached at (714) 966-5890.

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