13-year-old girl dies after fasting for more than two months for Jain ritual

Srinivasa Rao Apparasu, Hyderabad: A 13-year-old girl died in Hyderabad after fasting for 68 days straight as

a part of a Jain ritual. The incident, which happened on October 3, came to light on Friday when the Andhra Pradesh Child Rights Association lodged a complaint with the Hyderabad police seeking action against the parents for allegedly forcing her into performing the ‘tapasya’ (penance).
Aradhana, an eighth standard student, collapsed on the evening of October 2 — the last day of her 68-day fast, and was taken to Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences in Secunderabad. She died in the early hours of October 3. Aradhana was an only child and her parents own a popular jewellery store at Pot Bazar area in Secunderabad.
According to the complaint by the child rights’ association, Aradhana was forced into the tapasya by her parents; the family’s guru had advised them of the ritual to help the family business.
“As per the ritual, she was provided only with water, that too, only till 6 pm. At the end of 68th day, a pooja was held. While performing the pooja at Secunderabad Jain Mandir, the girl fainted and she was taken to the hospital, where she died in the early hours of October 3,” association president P Achyuta Rao told Hindustan Times.
While the girls’ parents were not available for comment, a close family acquaintance, Piyush, said there was no truth in the complaint.
“Theirs is a well-off family with no financial problems. In fact, both the parents and the girl were very religious and were planning to become monks. The girl offered to take up tapasya on her own,” he said.
He said the number 68 has a significance in Jain religion and one could attain self-purity by chanting a specific mantra 68 times. “Last year, Aradhana had observed fast for 34 days and this time, she wanted to fast for 68 days during the Chaturmas period. It was purely her personal decision, which was respected by her parents,” Piyush said.
Even if it was the girl’s decision, Rao countered, the parents should not have allowed Aradhana to fast under such stringent conditions.