The 8-year-old girl, heiress to a diamond emporium, who decided to become a nun – More Regions – International

Eight-year-old Devanshi Sanghvi is a girl who could have grown up knowing she was the heiress to a multi-million dollar diamond business.

But the daughter of a wealthy Indian merchant lives a very different present: dressed in coarse white saris, barefoot and going door to door in search of alms.

All because a few days ago, Devanshi, the eldest of the two daughters of Dhanesh and Ami Sanghvi, renounced the world she lived in and became a nun.

The Sanghvi family is part of the 4.5 million faithful who follow Jainism, one of the oldest religions in the worldwhich originated in India more than 2,500 years ago.

Scholars of this doctrine claim that the number of Jains who renounce the material world has increased rapidly in recent years, although cases of children as young as Devanshi’s are rare.

His initiation ceremony – which took place last Wednesday in the city of Surat, in the western state of Gujarat – was attended by tens of thousands of people.

Devanshi arrived accompanied by her parents, dressed in a fine silk gown and jewels to take her resignation vows, the diksha, in the presence of high-ranking Jain monks. A diamond crown rested on her head.

After the ceremony, she remained with other nuns, dressed in a white sari that also covered her shaved head. In photographs of her she is seen holding a broom which she now uses to brush insects out of her way and avoid accidentally stepping on them.

Since then, Devanshi has resided in an Upashraya, a monastery where Jain monks and nuns live.

“You can’t stay at home anymore. her parents are no longer her parentsshe is now a sadhvi (nun),” says Kirti Shah, a diamond dealer who is a friend of the family.

“The life of a Jain nun is very austere. Now she will have to walk everywhere, she will not be able to take any kind of transport, she will sleep on a white sheet on the ground and she will not be able to eat after sunset,” he added.

The celebration

Devanshi’s family belongs to the only Jain sect that accepts child monks; the other three only admit adults.

His parents were always known to be “extremely religious” and media in India have quoted family friends as saying that the girl was always guided towards a “spiritual life from a very early age.”

“Devanshi has never watched TV, never seen movies, never been to shopping malls or restaurants,” the Times of India reported.

“From a very young age, Devanshi prayed three times a day and even fasted at the age of two,” the newspaper added.

One day before the resignation ceremony, the family organized a huge celebratory procession in Surat.

Thousands of people watched the spectacle as camels, horses, bullock carts, drummers and turbaned men carrying awnings rode through the streets. There were also dancers and artists on stilts for entertainment.

Devanshi and her family sat in an elephant-drawn float as the crowd showered them with rose petals.

Processions were also organized in Mumbai and in the Belgian city of Antwerp, where the Sanghvi family has business.

“It will affect your whole life”

Although the Jain community supports the practice, resigning as a young girl has sparked intense debate, with many wondering why the family did not wait until she was of legal age to make such important decisions on her behalf.

One of them was Mr. Shah, who was invited to the diksha ceremony but decided not to attend.

He is uncomfortable with the idea of ​​a girl giving up the world and insisted that “no religion should allow children to become monks.”

“She’s a girl, what does she understand about all this?” she wondered.

“Kids can’t even decide what course to study in college until they’re 16. How can they make a decision about something that will affect their entire lives?”

When a girl who renounces the world is deified and the community celebrates, it may all seem like one big party to her, but Professor Nilima Mehta, a consultant to a child protection organization in Mumbai, says that “the hardships and hardships the girl will go through will girl are huge.”

The life of a Jain nun is very, very hard.“, it states.

Other members of the community have also expressed their unease about a girl being separated from her family at such a young age.

“Delicate matter”

Since the news broke, many have criticized the family on social media, accusing them of violating the girl’s rights.

For Mr. Shah, the government must get involved and put an end to this practice of children giving up the world.

But that is highly unlikely.

As an example, I contacted the office of Priyank Kanungo, head of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), to ask if the government was going to do anything about Devanshi’s case.

His office said it did not want to comment on the matter because it was a “sensitive matter.”

For the activists who have come to his defense, the situation is very clear and they affirm that Devanshi’s rights have been violated.

And against those who say that the girl converted “of her own free will”, Professor Mehta points out that “consent of a child is not consent under the law“.

“Legally, 18 is the age at which someone makes an independent decision. Until then, the decision on her behalf is made by an adult – like her parents – who has to consider if it is the best for her,” he explained.

“And if that decision deprives the girl of education and leisure, then it is a violation of her rights.”

spiritual inclinations

But Dr. Bipin Doshi, professor of Jain philosophy at Bombay University, believes that “legal principles cannot be applied in the spiritual world.”

“Some say that a child is not mature enough to make those decisions, but there are children with better intellectual abilities who can achieve much more than adults at a young age,” he said.

“Similarly, there are children with spiritual inclinations, so what’s wrong with them becoming monks?Dr. Doshi wondered.

From his point of view, Devanshi is not being done any harm.

“It may be deprived of traditional entertainment, but is that really necessary for everyone?” he insisted.

“And I do not agree that she is deprived of love or education: he will receive love from his guru and learn honesty and detachment. Isn’t that better?”

Doctor Doshi also says that in case Devanshi changes his mind later and thinks he “made a wrong decision under his guru’s mesmerizing effects”, he can always return to the world he left.

“A child is not your possession”

But that is the point that Professor Mehta questions, why not let her decide when she is an adult.

“Young minds are impressionable and years from now you may think that this is not the life you want,” she says, adding that there have been cases of women changing their minds once they are older.

As he recalls, a few years ago he dealt with the case of a young Jain nun who had fled from her center because I was very traumatized.

Another girl who had become an ascetic at the age of nine caused something of a scandal in 2009, after she turned 21 and eloped to marry her boyfriend.

In the past, petitions have even been filed in court to avoid such situations, but Professor Mehta believes that any social reform is challenging due to the sensitivities of the people involved.

“It is something that does not happen only among Jains. Hindu girls marry divine beings and become a devadasi {practice that was prohibited in 1947}, and there are small children who enter religious centers,” he stressed.

“Whereas Buddhism sends children to live in monasteries as monks.”

“Children suffer in all religions, but to question it is blasphemy,” he lamented, adding that families and societies must be educated that “a child is not your possession.”

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BBC-NEWS-SRC:, IMPORTING DATE: 2023-01-27 11:40:06

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