Kolkata: Ready to court death, a terminally ill elderly cancer patient here has undertaken the controversial Jain ritual of voluntary fast-unto-death, say her family members, describing the act as a “courageous” one.
Kolkata resident Sohini Devi Duggar’s condition started deteriorating last year and following a tracheostomy she lost her ability to talk, said her daughter-in-law.
“It was her wish to undergo ‘santhara’. When doctors can’t do anything after a certain point, the soul takes over. The soul becomes strong. She said she was ready to invite death and wanted to leave her body at her own will. It was a very courageous decision,” her daughter-in-law told a local television channel here.
On August 10 last year, the Rajasthan High Court had banned Santhara or Sallekhana, comparing it to an act of suicide. However, the Supreme Court subsequently restored the Jain practice of the ritualistic fast unto death by staying the order.
One of the grounds was that Santhara was “simply a Jain way of mastering the art of dying as much as the act of living” and was not an illegal or criminal act.
Sohini Devi Duggar has been on a fast sans water (called ‘nirjala’) since September 20.
“You can’t take it at any stage of life. She chose to challenge death because for her it was the right moment. It begins by renouncing food, material possessions and finally giving up family associations. The philosophy dictates that you came alone in this world and you will leave the same way. Science and religion are complicated,” a family member replied when asked about the ritual.