A woman of 24 opts for sannyas
- By Padmini Sivarajah, Asian Age
Madurai, May 29: More than 500 Jain men and women took out a rally in Madurai on Sunday morning to pay homage to Shilpa Kumari, 24, who had decided to become a sanyasin (woman ascetic) eight years ago when she was a girl of 16 and then spent the next eight years convincing her parents and relatives to allow her to do so. To start with, she will lose her beautiful long hair, which will be plucked one by one.
Shilpa Kumari is the daughter of one Hirachand Jain Salecha, who left his native village in Rajasthan to settle in Madurai with his father some 50 years ago.
Like many other girls of her age she had attended the Noyes Matriculation School in Madurai, where she studied upto Class 10. When she was 16 she attended a meeting of a Jain saint, Mukthi Sriji. It was after listening to the saintís discourses that she decided to give up worldly pleasures and become an ascetic. Her parents, other members of her family and friends tried to convince her that she had not made an easy decision as she would not be allowed to come back to the family after taking the vows of a sanyasini. But she remained determined. Even the tears of her parents could not dissuade her. Her mother Manju Devi still weeps at the thought of her daughter embracing an ascetic life.
For now Shilpa Kumari lives with her parents, two sisters and a brother. Her elder sister is married. Her brother Dilip Kumar says although his sisterís decision was difficult they had reconciled to it as she was doing something which girls of her age would never dare to. After Shilpa made up her mind to become a sanyasin, she has not had any food or liquid between sunset and sunrise.
Shilpa will leave for Maharashtra on June 3 where she will live in a mutt. This will be her last journey by a vehicle. After taking vows as a sanyasin, she will travel only by foot. Once she reaches the mutt on June 15 after making some stops en route, her long stresses will be removed, not by tonsuring but by the hairs being plucked one by one.
Jain families in Madurai paid their respects to the would-be sanyasin by taking out a procession around the major streets of the town, ending at the New Jain Temple, near the Jhansi Rani Park. Shilpa Kumari was dressed in all her finery and was wearing jewellery for the last time. She was garlanded and adorned with shawls. Many senior members of the community paid her glowing tributes saying that this was a commendable sacrifice for a girl of her age to make.