Jainism in the United States

American Jains
Total population
American English
Indian Languages

Adherents of Jainism first arrived in the United States in the 20th century. The most significant time of Jain immigration was in the early 1970s.

Florida International University (Miami, Florida) hosts the Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship in Jain Studies, the first Jain Studies chair at a North American university. The Jain Society and Rice University signed a memorandum of understanding in January 2016 to establish a post-doctoral fellowship in Jain studies.[3]


Poster announcing lecture by Virchand Gandhi

In 1893, Virachand Gandhi was officially the first Jain delegate to visit the United States, and represented Jainism in the first ever Parliament of World Religions.[4] Virchand Gandhi is considered a key figure in the history of American Jainism as the first practicing Jain to speak publicly in the United States about Jainism.[1] The first St. Louis Jain temple in the United States was built for the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. After the fair, the temple was moved to Las Vegas and later to Los Angeles. It is now owned by the Jain Society of Los Angeles. Adherents of Jainism first arrived in the United States in 1944.[5] The most significant time of Jain immigration was in the early 1970s. The United States has since become a center of the Jain diaspora .

From left to right: Virchand Gandhi, Hewivitarne Dharmapala, Swami Vivekananda, and (possibly) G. Bonet Maury

The first former Jain monastic to travel to the United States, Chitrabhanu, arrived in 1971. He gave several lectures about Jainism at Harvard University and established a Jain center in New York City. A second former monk, Acharya Sushil Kumarji, arrived in the United States in 1975. He established multiple Jain centers.[6] In the 1980s the Federation of Jain Associations in North America was founded to support the Jain community in the United States and Canada.[6]

As of 2010 the United States contained the most Jain temples of any country in the Jain diaspora.[1] At least one third of the Jains living outside of India live in the United States, numbering close to 100,000.[1][2] Jain temples in the United States, which numbered 26 as of 2006, frequently incorporate marble and arches in a style reminiscent of Rajasthan architecture.[1] There are almost 100 distinct Jain congregations in the United States.[6]

Many Jains in the United States are often employed in white-collar occupations. They also frequently volunteer at animal welfare organizations.[1]

Jain unity

Vinod Kapasi has argued that the differences between the Śvētāmbara and Digambara communities are not seen as significant to most Jains in the United States and Canada. He also notes that Jain temples in North America are rarely associated with a specific sect, as they often are in India or the United Kingdom.[7]

Federation of Jain Associations in North America

Main article: JAINA
Main temple at Siddhachalam Jain center at New Jersey. Images of the tirthankaras Mahavira, Chandraprabha, Rishabha, Shantinatha and Parshvanatha.

The Federation of Jain Associations in North America is an umbrella organization of local American and Canadian Jain congregations to preserve, practice, and promote Jainism and the Jain Way of Life.[8]

Jain symbols

See also: Jain symbols

The Federation of Jain Associations in North America uses a modified version of the standard Jain symbol, the Jain Emblem. It replaces the swastika with an om because the former is not considered a pious symbol in the western world.[9]

American Jain Centers

Most of the Jain centers are complexes that include a main temple that houses both Shvetambara and Digambara images, libraries, meeting rooms, room for visiting monks/nuns etc.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Lee, Jonathan H. X. (21 December 2010), Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife, ABC-CLIO, pp. 487–488, ISBN 978-0-313-35066-5
  2. 1 2 Wiley, Kristi L. (2004), Historical dictionary of Jainism, Scarecrow Press, p. 19, ISBN 978-0-8108-5051-4
  3. "US' Rice University to offer post-doctoral fellowship in Jain studies", The Economic Times, 25 January 2016
  4. Jain, Pankaz; Pankaz Hingarh; Dr. Bipin Doshi, Priti Shah. "Virchand Gandhi, A Gandhi Before Gandhi". A german e-magazine. herenow4u.
  5. Watts, Tim J. "Religion, Indian American". In Huping Ling; Allan W. Austin (17 March 2015). Asian American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 353. ISBN 978-1-317-47645-0.
  6. 1 2 3 Queen, Edward L.; Prothero, Stephen R.; Shattuck, Gardiner H. (2009), Encyclopedia of American religious history, Infobase Publishing, p. 531, ISBN 978-0-8160-6660-5
  7. Kapasi, Vinod (1988), Pardesma Jain-Dharma
  8. "About JAINA". Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  9. "Jain Symbols". p. 29. Retrieved 2012-03-16.

Further reading

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