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Building e-bridges for Jainism

    Ahmedabad (Gujarat), February 2, 2014: It was the beginning of a new life for Harshad Sanghrajka, then based in UK as part of an IBM team, when in 1994 he opted for voluntary retirement. He was then just 53. “Till then, I had worked only for my family and travelled across the world in connection with my work. But by 1994, my children had grown up, taken jobs and become financially stable. I was determined to resume my studies but I didn’t know my interests would become a mission for me,” he said.

    Sanghrajka, now 73, is undoubtedly a man on a mission. As deputy chairman of UK-based Institute of Jainology, he has taken up the task of preparing comprehensive catalogues of Jain manuscripts that could be used by scholars engaged in religious studies and research.

    “My father migrated to Kenya from Amreli in 1923 but World War II forced him to send women members of the family back home in Gujarat. That is how I was born in Gujarat. When I was five, the war was over and we again went back to Africa. I completed my education in Nairobi and started a career with Shell Kenya. For 25 years, I worked for IBM in different capacities in Kenya, England, the US and Germany,” he said.

    Sanghrajka resumed his studies and earned a Masters degree in religious studies from a British university and also got PhD from a university in the Netherlands for his study of various meditation techniques of India. It was during this period that he decided to join a group of scholars promoting Jainism as a subject of study abroad.

    “How to teach the basic principles of Jainism to their children was always a dilemma for second and third generation Jain migrants. The children would question everything the religion taught – why one should not eat after sunset, why observe chaturmaas and so on. We then devised a syllabus that would answer these questions giving scientific reasons but saying we don’t know why when we don’t. Later we built upon the resources to establish courses by the institute,” he said.

    The most seminal work of the institute is the Jainpedia, an online resource where Mehool Sanghrajka, his son, has been project director. As part of the overall cause, the institute also catalogued and in some cases digitized hundreds of manuscripts and artefacts from the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Bodleian Library, and the Wellcome Trust Collection. From last year, the institute also started offering a course in Ahmedabad, said Sanghrajka. – News Courtesy: Times of India

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