In the third such death in Rajasthan in less than 10 days, a 94-year-old woman has passed away in Hanumangarh district after giving up food and water in the Jain ritual tradition of 'santhara', her family said today.
Sardari Devi Lunia of Nohar village in the district died yesterday after completing 40 days of 'santhara' and was cremated today with hundreds of people of the Jain community accompanying the funeral procession, her elder son Vijay Singh said over the phone.
He said his mother wanted to take up 'santhara' 20 years ago but the family did not allow her.
Sardari Devi is the third person in the state to succumb to the ritual fast in the past two weeks after Vimla Devi (60) of Jaipur died on September 29 and Amarchand Kaswan (77) of Ajmer on September 30.
Two more women, Keila Devi (93) of Jaipur and Dhanni Devi (85) of Bikaner are still observing 'santhara'.
The Rajasthan High Court, which was expected to give a ruling on a public interest petition likening 'santhara' to suicide or 'sati', has deferred its decision.
Some Jain leaders and scholars, however, say 'santhara' is not the same as 'sati' or suicide as it is a means to achieve salvation and the decision to embrace it taken with a calm mind.