Monday, June 23, 2008

Varshidan Varghado – The Event of Diksha in Swetambar Jainism in the Walled City of Ahmedabad




The walled city of Ahmedabad, a place known for its curious mixture of religious faiths and history has preserved many remarkable practices showing the continuity of India’s thousands of year’s historical tradition. One such is the occasion of diksha (leaving worldly life and entering into the spiritual life for the devotion of the almighty). The walled city is a home to a large number of families belonging to the swetambar sect of Jainism, for whom the event of diksha is considered more pious than even marriage.

Diksha is a mohotshav (a memorable event) open to all believing Jain principles and austerity. However the devotees seeking becoming monks/nuns have to go through rigorous test by the Guru Maharaj. Upon qualifying the test a date is fixed for the diksha mohotshav. The day before the event the devotee gives up all the worldly things such as money, cloths, food items that are part of his/her belongings and throws away in four directions while moving in a chariot. During the procession he/she makes announcement of her leaving worldly things and entering into acetic life. After the announcement the devotee comes back to the house and attains different kind of rituals. It is surprising that the devotee’s family has no grief and they treat it as an occasion of pious celebration. The procession is called varshidan varghado.
Murals are sometimes drawn by the family members of the devotee and the well-wishers to mark the occasion. The murals depict the life of a Jain monk or nun in simple forms and colours. Sometimes also poems are written in the praise of the devotee.

Following is an example of diksha from Dhal ni pol.
Guruni seva karshe kon
Khushaliben
Sayam panthe chalia kon
Khushaliben
Amne chodi chalia kon
Khushaliben
Gochari vahorva jashe kon
Khushaliben
Dharma labh apashe kon
Khushaliben
Ogho laine nachshe kon
Khushaliben

English Translation

Who will serve the Master?
Khushaliben
Who will walk on the path of asceticism?
Khushaliben
Who has left us?
Khushaliben
Who will go for religious begging?
Khushaliben