Medieval ritual claims minor girl's life

Published by Metro India News on October 09, 2016 00:16:04 AM


A religious practice of a community on Saturday comes in for sharp criticism as its medieval ritual observance for 68 days has snuffed out the life of a tender teenager, in what could be said, as a macabre dance of death. Said to have observed Sallekhana Vrata, teenager Aradhana, a resident of Pot Bazar in Secunderabad who was a class VIII student, had successfully completed the Vrata for 68 days on October 2. A Shoba Yatra was also taken out to celebrate the successful completion of Vrata, which was attended by hundreds.

Quite mysteriously, the teenager developed complications of body rejuvenation and was admitted in Mona Market Hospital where she was pronounced dead on October 4. This raises several questions over using children as ‘props’ for deadly rituals. Child Rights Activist Prof Shanta Sinha demanded a probe into the incident and called out police to register a case. She also demanded Child Rights Commission take up this as a ‘suo moto’ case and initiate proceedings into the incident.

The motive behind the Vrata seems to be to bring prosperity to the family who are engaged in the business of Gold and Jewellery. The family of Aradhana was under severe financial stress following mounting losses in the recent past. According to Jain religious leaders, Sallekhana is a voluntaryvrata, usually observed by very pious Shravaks when the death is imminent. This is the process in which, one can abandon the body peacefully.

The Vrata Involves 2 elements- External or sharirikemaciation of the body through external austerity like fasting. Internal or kashya Sanlekhra accomplished by internal austerities give up all passion, enmity, love etc and then concentrate in Navkarmantra. This is and irreversible process. They further said that Sallekhanā (also Santhara, Samadhi-marana, Sanyasana-marana) is the last vow prescribed by the Jain ethical code of conduct The vow of sallekhanā is observed by the Jain ascetics and lay votaries at the end of their life by gradually reducing the intake of food and liquids.

Sallekhanā is allowed when normal life according to religion is not possible due to old age, incurable disease or when a person is nearing his end.It is a highly respected practice among the members of the Jain community. According to Jain texts, sallekhanā leads to ahimsā (non-violence or non-injury), as a person observing sallekhanā subjugates the passions, which are the root cause of hiṃsā (injury or violence. In 2015, Rajasthan High Court banned the practice, calling it suicide.

On 31 August 2015, Supreme Court of India stayed the decision of Rajasthan High Court and lifted the ban on sallekhana. Proponents of Sallekhna argue that it is absolutely misconstrued as a step to end life or fast unto death. It is a Code of Right Conduct and self discipline practiced with a healthy desire for elevation of life and self realization akin to shifting to one's own house from a rental house (the body). It leads to the inward path of Nirvriti from Pravritiofcomplete detachment form the sensory system.

Santhara is an exercise of self-purification. This religious act known as Sallekhna-Santhara has remained very popular throughout the history of Jainism. It is mostly known for a voluntary vow meditation till the person lives: Santhara by abstaining from food, water and every kind of nourishment to the body when one is approaching the end of life. Sallekhana is not giving up life, but it is very much taking the death in its own stride.