“I really enjoy being a monk,” prattled eight-year-old Prasam Bhoshan.
Dressed in a white robe, the child monk went on to add that he spent his time doing religious work.
Prasam was among the thousands of Jains gathered at the Motishah Jain Temple in Bhuleshwar on Sunday morning.
The community’s leaders held a meeting to announce that the ritual of Bal Diskha (children renouncing the material world) was no longer under threat.
The community was celebrating getting the nod from the Centre that their trusts could continue the practice of initiating children into their religion.
Jain Shasanam, a Mumbai-based Jain trust, had written to the Ministry of Law & Justice and the Ministry of Women & Child Development, seeking clarification whether Bal Diksha was allowed in India.
This followed agitations by non-governmental organisations working for child rights.
A fortnight ago, the trust received responses from the two ministries, confirming Bal Diksha was protected under the Constitution of India.
Jain leaders intend to use these letters in their ongoing case in the Bombay High Court fighting a non-profit organisation.
The next hearing is on Tuesday.
“Our trust wrote to the Centre seeking confirmation that NGOs should not interfere in our religion and now we have the response,” said Achraya Shree Vijaya Kirtiyashsurishwarji (57) of the Jain religion’s Swetambar sect.
Kirtiyashsurishwarji, who became a monk at the age 14, led the meeting.
“These NGOs could be working with poor street children instead of interfering in our religion,” said Kirtiyashsurishwarji. “We were worried our religious freedom was being hindered but now that we have these letters, we can celebrate.”
Muni Sannvageyash (42), his pupil, who became a monk at 24, said Jains had in the past been accused of abuse or malpractice.
“But these children are not in need of care and protection as the whole Jain community is their family,” said Sannvageyash.
Vijay Satbir Singh, state Women & Child secretary, said: “We have received no communication from the Government of India on this yet. We will implement whatever they say.”