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Embracing Solitude: Young Indian Jains Transition from Wealth to Alms-seeking

Next Monday, Bhavesh Bhandari and his wife Jinal, aged 46, are set to relinquish their residence, construction enterprise, and collection of high-end vehicles, bidding farewell to everyone they have ever known. Their forthcoming journey involves embracing a new existence wandering barefoot on the streets, dependent on alms.

Their only assets will be two white garments and a white broom, essential for sweeping insects away from their path.

The couple is preparing to part ways with their possessions to partake in deeksha, a Jain renunciation ritual, committing to a life of asceticism indefinitely. Jainism, a religious minority, boasts approximately 4.5 million followers in India, as per 2011 government statistics.


The Bhandari family engaged in a pre-Deeksha ceremony, during which their children addressed the Jain community to elucidate the rationale behind their vow. (Refer to Image)

This decision follows in the footsteps of their children, Bhavya and Vishwa, who at the ages of 16 and 19 in 2021, respectively, embraced deeksha and embarked on austere lifestyles.

The Bhandaris, along with their offspring, are part of a burgeoning trend within the Jain community where individuals opt for the renunciation ceremony at a young age.

In a similar vein, in 2017, Sumit Rathore and his spouse Anamika, both in their thirties, relinquished their worldly possessions in Madhya Pradesh, entrusting their five-year-old daughter to her grandmother.


Recently, multiple generations of a family from Gujarat underwent the deeksha ritual simultaneously. (Refer to Image)


Vishwa Bhandari, the daughter, undergoing the deeksha ceremony. Typically, priests advocate for a one-year “trial period” for young enthusiasts. (Refer to Image)

Furthermore, in 2019, eight young women from affluent families residing across Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra, aged between 14 and 27, collectively undertook deeksha.

According to Satish Mehta, the head of the Palanpuri Jain Association in Mumbai, renunciation holds significant esteem within the Jain community, revered by those who opt for this path.

While the act of renunciation is not a new phenomenon, Mehta notes that the recent media coverage has brought it to the forefront. He emphasizes that relinquishing material possessions resonates with young Jains burdened by worldly affairs. It is common for priests to suggest a probationary period for interested youth.

Despite many Jains enjoying opulent lifestyles, owning lavish properties, luxury vehicles, and engaging in global diamond trade, some choose to forsake it all in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. Ahmedabad-based Jain priest Acharya Rashmi Ratna Surji explains that individuals often turn to deeksha upon realizing their inability to lead a life free from transgressions and harm to others.

Jainism, originating in India around 2,500 years ago, advocates for a non-violent existence, minimizing harm to all living beings. The devout adhere to strict practices, with the orthodox followers donning face masks to prevent inadvertently swallowing insects. Additionally, some abstain from consuming root vegetables like onions and garlic, refrain from alcohol, and maintain modest eating habits.

During the deeksha ceremony, priests recite prayers, and the initiates have their heads shaved. They bid a final adieu to their loved ones, cognizant that this farewell is permanent. Subsequently, they adopt a lifestyle of sleeping on floors, walking barefoot, relinquishing phones, and relying on alms as cooking is prohibited. Any new hair growth must be removed.

On the eventful day, the Bhandaris, adorned in elaborate attire, paraded through the streets of Himmatnagar on a chariot-like vehicle. They symbolically discarded their meager possessions – jewelry, phones, designer apparel, and handbags – into the crowd.

Expressing their sentiments, Bhavesh articulated, “We are both feeling light and full of joy. We are moving to a higher plane, free from desires.”