Millionaire Indian family give up their fortune to become Jain monks

About five million people in India follow community's austere beliefs

Novice Jain monks gather for the blessings of gurus at a ceremony in Ahmedabad, Gujarat state. AFP
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An Indian family with assets worth about $4 million have renounced worldly goods to become Jain monks, pledging to spend their lives without basics such as footwear or soap.

Turning their backs on their fortune, they expect to survive on alms, or religious donations.

Pharmaceutical magnate Bhupendra Daklia, his wife Sapna, sons Devendra and Harshit and daughters Mahima and Mukta have shunned material possessions in the pursuit of salvation.

The family from Rajnandgaon in central Chhattisgarh state have swapped their bungalow, cars and business worth 300 million rupees ($4m) for the ascetic lives of monks.

Their strict Jain faith requires them to walk barefoot, visit temples and monasteries, wear white robes and carry handmade wooden bowls to eat food.

They must not bathe, make no permanent home, and never use modern technology such as the internet or mobile phone in accordance with the tenets of Jainism.

Jainism is one of the world's oldest religions and followers keep to five principles that include non-violence and non-possession.

Followers observe a strict vegetarian diet, do not eat root vegetables and particular fruits and abstain from eating greens in certain months.

Those who choose to follow the faith to monkhood are expected to accept austerity in all aspects of their lives.

The Daklias are in their 40s, and their children are aged between 16 and 22. They had a thriving business but led a simple life even before renouncing their wealth, Naresh Daklia, an uncle, said.

The family took the life-changing decision in November and were initiated on January 27. A family video showed the Daklias dancing in colourful outfits before their initiation.

The family had their last meal together before the five-day-long ceremony where they vowed to live an austere life. The members also pulled out their hair as part of the rituals.

“They did have a big house but his wife was always religious and believed in simple living. The family had no ceiling fan or air conditioners or even a refrigerator at home,” Naresh Daklia told The National.

“Their youngest son had first shown interest in becoming a monk. They had all the resources. It is a big decision, and one needs a big heart to embrace monkhood. They will never touch money and will walk barefoot,” Mr Daklia said.

Jains are a religious minority but a largely affluent community. There are fewer than five million followers in India.

In recent years, the faith was criticised for practices such as Santhara, an act of penance in which a person fasts to death.

In 2016, a 13-year-old Jain girl died after fasting for 68 days as part of the ritual.

Updated: January 30, 2022, 3:12 PM