The teenager, Aradhana Samdariya fainted and fell into a coma after completing a 68-day fast during the Jain holy period known as Chaturmas before she died of cardiac arrest.
During those 68 days, Aradhana wasn’t allowed to eat food, including fruits and vegetables and was only allowed to drink water at 6pm. When the fast ended, a massive celebration known as “paarana” was held at the family’s house. However, shortly after Arandhana collapsed from dehydration, she slipped into coma after prolonged starvation and the doctors said that her intestines had dried up after the fasting and both her kidneys were also severely damaged. She passed away in the early hours of October 3.
Over 600 people attended Aradhana’s funeral as the teenager was hailed as “bal tapasvi,” or one who achieves spiritual purity through suffering. However, many others also expressed their disgust at how a teenage girl was allowed, or possibly even coerced, into starving herself to death.
“It has been a practice for people to undertake severe penance when they give up even food and water,” Lata Jain, a member of the local community said. “They are glorified, lauded and honored at community meetings by the religious elders. They are also showered with gifts. But in this case it was a minor and that is my objection. This is suicide, if not murder.”
A Child Rights Association in India has already lodged a police complaint against the girl’s parents, alleging that they forced Aradhana into taking the fast after being told by a religious guru that it would help bring prosperity to the family’s business as her father, Laxmichand Sansadiya, had recently suffered huge loss in his jewelry business. Aradhana’s family denies the charges, saying she chose to perform the rite on her own.