A day after a Jain woman in Jaipur died by abstaining from food and water as part of the ritual of 'santhara', the case of a nonegenarian woman who has embarked on a similar fast has come to light.
Kela Devi, a 93-year-old Shwetamber Jain, began her fast 24 days ago at her residence in Jhauri Bazar in Jaipur to achieve moksha or salvation, her family said.
Her son Shiv Chand said she had lived a full life and decided to observe the ritual of santhara to achieve salvation. The entire family supported her decision, he said.
"She has neither been instigated not initiated on this path by anyone. She gave up food of her own accord and though we tried to talk her out of it for six days at a stretch, she says she is near death and wants to attain salvation," said Lad Devi, Kela Devi's daughter-in-law.
Vimla Devi, a 60-year-old woman, died on Thursday after fasting for 13 days.
She was reportedly suffering from liver cancer and a brain tumour.
The Rajasthan High Court is hearing a petition that says santhara is akin to suicide or sati and should be stopped. The court has sought responses from the state government and Jain groups.
Shiv Chand said those who have gone to court against santhara had no knowledge of the Jain religion and scriptures. The ritual has nothing to do with the law and is based purely on religious beliefs, he said.
Officials said the police was unable to act against cases of santhara as there is no law to prevent it.
Professor Man Chand Khandela, an academician who is a Jain, said he did not subscribe to the observance of santhara by any person who has lived a full life. "If anyone observes it, it is just for glorification," he told.