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Thriving in Chennai, the Jain way

    Chennai (Tamil Nadu), May 20, 2013: G G Vandana Jain greets us with a Vanakkam, hands folded. Her flawless Tamil makes one doubt her Rajasthani roots. “I was born and brought up in Chennai and have been living here for the past 32 years. Hence I speak Marwari and Tamil with ease,” she says. Chennai has been home to her family for the last hundred years. “This is the third generation of our family living in Chennai so we don’t call it our second home, just home,” she says.

    Speaking of the pros and cons of following Jainism in Chennai, Vandana says, “Chennai is a very calm place. And peace and non-violence are exactly what our religion preaches. Despite being a metropolis, it is grounded in its culture and people here respect all traditions. Not many Jain monks and nuns live in Chennai due to the restriction on nudism. Their path and guidance is something that a few pious Jains miss here,” she says.

    There is a general perception that the life of Jains is guided by a number of restrictions. “Jainism is more about simplicity than restrictions, unlike what people think. There is no rule book that one must adhere to. It all depends on individuals,” explains Vandana, Professor of Jainism at Shankarlal Sundarbai Shasun Jain College, Chennai.

    “We have a restriction on consuming root vegetables like onion, potato, carrot or brinjal, but it is an individual’s choice whether to follow it or not. Many restaurants in Chennai are Jain friendly, serving food devoid of root vegetables. The only food I strictly avoid is the roadside pani-puri. But, thanks to my mother, I satisfy the urge by having onion free pani-puri at home,” says 19-year-old Akshita Rakecha, a student.

    Explaining the reason behind the restriction on root vegetables Rahul Jain, a professional, says, “The simple logic is that vegetables that grow underground could contain harmful germs due to a lack of sunlight. This is more science than a mere tradition.”

    The Jain thali is very simple, even for special occasions, as they do not like indulging in delicacies. “*Lapsi is a traditional Rajasthani dessert that is common on special occasions. Our typical full meal consists of rotis and non-green vegetable side dishes and a couple of sweets depending on the occasion,” explains Sneha Jain, an auditor and a resident of Chennai for the past 27 years. “We fast more than we eat,” she smiles.

    Jains are largely classified into two major categories, the Swetambars and Digambars.

    “While a sect of Swetambars, the Maurtipujak, believe in idols and pure white, or ‘sweta’, clothing the Digambars have a mix of idol worshippers and and non-idol worshippers among them and they believe in nudity.” explains Vandana. There are a few members belonging to the Stanakvasi and Terapanti sects of Swetambars who are non-idol believers.

    “During Paryushan/Das Lakshana, the Svetambara and Digambara Jains observe a fast known as Paryushan and Das Lakshana respectively. The final day, when we break the fast after offering prayers, is called Tamaspree,” explains Akshita.

    Jains believe the path to salvation is through becoming a monk. A year ago the decision of Deepa, a Commerce graduate, to become a saint stands proof of this sentiment. This ritual that marks an individual taking up the spiritual path is called Diksha. – News Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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