A Jain couple from Madhya Pradesh has decided to leave behind their three-year-old daughter and property worth around Rs 100 crore to become munis (monks), stunning the community that is no stranger to acts of renunciation.
Sumit Rathore, 35, and his wife Anamika, 34, are scheduled to take Deeksha (the first step of their initiation into monkhood) under Sudhamargi Jain Acharya Ramlal Maharaj at Surat in Gujarat on September 23.
Their decision has sent shockwaves across hometown Neemuch, about 400km northwest of state capital Bhopal, where their families are established in politics and business.
The first question on the lips of incredulous Neemuch residents is: what about their daughter, Ibhya?
“I will take care of my granddaughter,” said Anamika’s father, Ashok Chandaliya, a former Neemuch district president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
He said no one could convince the couple not to renounce the world. “We had no counter to their religious arguments and relented. One cannot stop anyone when religion calls,” Chandaliya added.
Sumit’s father, Rajendra Singh Rathore, who owns a factory that makes sacks for cement companies, too accepted the decision. “We were expecting this, but not so soon,” he said.
Sumit and Anamika’s decision was not exactly a surprise for their loved ones because they had declared their intent to become munis when Ibhya was only eight months old and, as preparation, started living separately.
Sumit announced his final decision to take Deeksha during a gathering of Acharya Ramlal’s at Surat on August 22. The Acharya told him to seek Anamika’s permission. She gave consent and expressed her desire to take Deeksha too. Their families rushed to Surat to dissuade them but failed.
Sumit and Anamika, who married four years ago, have taken a vow of silence till the Deeksha.
Anamika was Neemuch’s first gold medallist in Class 8 board examinations. She did her BE from Modi Engineering College, Laxmangarh (Sikar) in Rajasthan and worked with Hindustan Zinc before marriage.
Sumit holds a diploma in import-export management from a college in London, where he stayed and worked for two years before returning to Neemuch to manage the family business.
Sumit’s cousin, Sandeep, who is close to him, said, “He had everything that a man wanted. Property worth around Rs 100 crore, a loving wife, and a daughter. But he chose to renounce everything. We are stunned.”
Prakash Bhandari, a leading Jain community member in Neemuch, said as far as he knew, this decision was unprecedented. “This is the first time that such a young couple is taking Deeksha and that too by leaving behind a daughter,” added Bhandari, secretary of Sadhumargi Jain Shravak Sangh.
Earlier this year, a stunning renunciation by a Jain teen from Gujarat made waves across the country.
Varshil Shah, 17, renounced the world and became a monk in June, barely weeks after scoring a stupendous 99.9 percentile in Class 12 Commerce examinations. After initiation for his spiritual quest, the teen’s name changed to Suvirya Ratna Vijayji Maharaj.
The Jain community, with an estimated population of less than 50 lakh in India, follows an austere lifestyle including vegetarianism and a large section is known to observe customs laid down thousands of years ago. Digambara Jain monks – who consider the sky their clothing – still go naked.
The death of a 13-year-old Jain girl, Aradhana Samdariya, in October 2016, less than three days after she ended a 68-day fast under the Tapasya ritual practiced by her community triggered debates across the country.
Aradhana’s death put the spotlight on the community’s Tapasya ritual. Amid debates, many Jain leaders came out in support of her parents, saying they were being hounded and the community was being maligned.
According to Jain elders, the ‘tapasya’ that Aradhana undertook was voluntary and the first of nine steps (nav-pad) aimed at attaining salvation, and it was not the same as the ritual of ‘santhara’ under which the elderly or the sick abstain from food until they die.