On Valentine’s Day, Meet The Women Who’ve Renounced The World

Eight women have renounced all their attachments to the world and will undertake diksha on 14 February.

Updated
India
4 min read
The women and girls have chosen diksha, which is a Jain vow of renunciation, where they leave all their attachments to the world behind, and strive for a life of monastic simplicity.
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Eight girls and women from Gujarat’s Surat will renounce their worldly attachments and possessions on 14 February. The women and girls have chosen diksha, which is a Jain vow of renunciation, where they leave all their attachments to the world behind, and strive for a life of monastic simplicity.

They are only allowed two white garments, a bowl, and a rajoharan, which is a broom that Jain monks use to brush insects away before they sit – a sign of the path of non-violence they’ve sworn to follow.

The Quint spoke to the women who will take up this vow to renounce the world.

The first is Mahek, who’s just 14 years old.

Mahek, 14

Why are you doing this?

We’re doing this because… why are we all running around so much? Why are we working so hard and running around? For happiness. We’re all running behind things, and working hard for money. We’re doing diksha because we believe happiness is in Moksh. Moksh… like you work hard for money, we work hard to attain moksh.

What about your family? Was it your own decision to do this at such a young age?

Yes. It was my own decision. No one else told me to do it. There’s no compulsion.

We asked Mahek how old she was.

“I’m 14,” She says.

You’re very young. You haven’t even seen the world, why do you want to renounce it?

You hear about the world. Even hearing about it is tough, so why would we stay with this world? We won’t get anything. We only came with our atma (spirit).

That’s true, but at just 14 you’ve decided that you’ve seen enough of the world?

I feel like whatever I have to see, I’ve seen. I don’t want to see anymore. What’s the point? If someone places poison in front of you, even if you haven’t drank it, you know it’ll kill you. So would you still drink it? No, because you know it’ll kill you. The world is the same way.

Next, we spoke to the father of one of the girls, 22-year-old Pooja. Pooja is a gymnast from Surat. She was pursuing an MCom, which she dropped for her pursuit of diksha.

Pooja, 22

How did she decide to undertake diksha?

When she was young, when she was 7, she started doing gymnastics. She learned it till she was 13. I think that gave her a lot of willpower. She does only what she wants once she sets her mind to it.

So when she was 13, she’d sometimes have to travel long distances. She also slowly started eating less and less. She wanted to study more also at that time. She started practicing spirituality, to attain siddhi, by fasting.

She would fast for a day, then wouldn’t fast. She would fast for two days, then stop her fast. She’d fast for three-four days, then eat again. She started fasting longer and longer. With sadhus, the longer they can fast, the better it’s supposed to be. On 14 February, the world is celebrating Valentine’s Day. But these eight girls are going to renounce the world.

In many parts of India, Bombay, Ahmedabad, Odisha, or even Dubai, there are many Jains who are strongly spiritual. They revere Pooja and treat her with respect.

What makes someone want to give up the world?

She realised it at a very young age. We’re old. She’s mature at a very young age. At just 21, she realised that there are many people who have so much, but aren’t comfortable, and where people have nothing, there’s no sadness at all. They don’t lie, they don’t cheat or steal.

Once she undertakes diksha she won’t be allowed to bathe. She won’t eat much. But she’s happy with just one roti a day.

What if she gets hungry? Also if she doesn’t bathe, isn’t she worried about hygiene?

Even with food, she only eats once a day. If she’s sick, she’ll eat twice a day. No. From the 14 Feb, when she undertakes diksha, she won’t bathe ever again in her life.

Won’t she fall sick or anything?

Nothing will happen. All the bacteria or germs will stay in her system and live happily. They run freely through the body, so that there’s no disease at all. The more we respect our body, the more these organisms are happy. But those people who sit and eat all day, they don’t respect their bodies. They don’t stop using electricity, they don’t stop using soap. They’re so wasteful.

So leaving behind all material things… have you considered undertaking diksha yourself?

That’s the right way. The path that god has prescribed for people. That’s the best way. To walk barefoot in the cold, to not hurt anyone, that’s the right way. Sadhus don’t hurt anyone or trouble anyone. Not even the tiniest beings. What is comforting is with everyone already. It’s in their spirit.

“We search everywhere outside, we eat everything, we see everything, but what makes us comfortable is what’s inside us. So she understood that and took her decision to renounce the world.”

Snehi, 18

The last person we spoke to was Snehi, an 18-year-old whose family works in the diamond business in Surat. Her family was not in favour of her decision to undertake diksha. She says her mother wanted her to continue pursuing her academics, but she felt otherwise.

“This is the life I like. Because everything is temporary. Everything feels good to me now. But once I went to Maharaj and understood all the knowledge I realised that there is no such thing as my original life. So as I learned that I decided that this is the right choice for me. This is why I want to give up my worldly attachments.”
Snehi, 18

Was it your own decision to become a Sadhvi?

My mom didn’t even want me to do diksha. She wanted me to study a lot. No one even expected me to undertake diksha. My parents really wanted me study. But this is better than that, so they didn’t stop me.

So you’re completely ready for this life now?

Haan. Ek dum.

Three women. Three different lives. But all tied together by the choice to renounce the world and all their attachments to it.

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