The death of a 13-year-old Indian girl, who had observed a fast for more than two months as part of a religious ritual, has sparked a heated debate in the country.
Aradhana Samdariya died on Oct. 3, a few days after a large feast was organized by her family to commemorate the end of her 68-day fast.
Police said she had complained of breathing problems and discomfort a day after breaking her fast, Telegraph India reported. Aradhana was rushed to the hospital after she collapsed, where she was pronounced dead. Doctors, who ruled that she died from cardiac arrest, noted that her liver and kidney were not in good condition.
Aradhana’s father and grandfather are said to be well-known jewelers in Hyderabad. Her family was allegedly convinced by a priest to push her to fast for a prolonged period to improve the dwindling fortunes of their jewelry business, the Times of India reported.
However, her father Lakshmichand Samdariya and her grandfather Menekchand Samdariya have both denied this.
Aradhana’s father, who claims that she wanted to be a nun, said she had asked permission to fast for 51 days and voluntarily decided to continue with the fast for over two weeks more. During the strict form of fasting known as upvaas, Aradhana reportedly only drank boiled water. It is common for Jain worshippers to fast during Chaturmas (a period of four months usually between July-October, which is considered holy).
“She asked me for permission to do upvaas. We never expected this to happen,” her grandfather Samdariya said.
Meanwhile, Indian children rights organization, Balala Hakkula Sangham, who accused Aradhana’s family of forcing her to fast to bring good luck to their jewelry business, has described her death as “child sacrifice.”
Aradhana’s parents have reportedly been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The police are currently investigating whether she was forced to fast by her family, according to DW. If they are found guilty, her parents could be sentenced to several years in jail.
After Aradhana had completed her 68-day fasting, her family reportedly put adverts in local newspapers to announce a grand ceremony to mark her feat. According to First Post, local politicians were among the guests invited to the event, where she was paraded around dressed as a goddess.
While Aradhana’s parents have been widely condemned for forcing her into an extreme form of fasting, some Jain leaders have noted that her death is to be celebrated as she has attained moksha, according to her family. In Jainism, moksha refers to a state where one is free from karmic burden and the cycle of death and rebirth. Up to 600 people reportedly attended Aradhana’s funeral.
The death of Aradhana Samdariya has sparked a lively debate among Indian people. While some are calling for the authorities to step in and prevent a similar incident from occurring, others are convinced that Aradhana has transcended to a higher state and find nothing wrong in the case.
Fasting is commonly practiced in India by religious people for many reasons including to seek divine favor. Last month, police in Dholpur district intervened to stop children between the ages of 10 to 12 from fasting and praying on fields under the scorching sun for rain, India Today reported. The officers were reportedly forced to step in after a 12-year-old girl was rushed to the hospital for medical attention after fasting and praying under the sun for a long time.
Experts say that it is not advisable to make children under 12 years old to fast for a long period as it could lead to health problems including stunted mental and physical growth, The News reported. In tropical areas, children who are fasting also run the risk of becoming dehydrated.
It is unclear what caused Aradhana Samdariya’s health to fail suddenly leading to her death. There are speculations that she may have broken her fast improperly by eating a lot and tasking her body even more.
[Featured Image by AP Photo]