An eight-year-old girl in India who stood to inherit a multimillion-dollar diamond fortune has instead been inducted as a nun to a strict religious order after renouncing worldly pleasures.
Devanshi Sanghvi was, until this week, an heiress to the Sanghvi and Sons jewelery business in the western city of Surat, known locally as “Diamond City” for its prominence in the global gem trade.
Her family are also members of the Jain faith, a small but ancient Indian religion that preaches nonviolence, strict vegetarianism and love for all creatures great and small.
This week, she was feted in a four-day ceremony to herald her new vocation, which at one point saw her ride in a carriage pulled by an elephant, pictures shared on local media showed.
On Wednesday, she arrived at a temple to trade her elaborate garments for a simple white cotton outfit, after having all her hair removed.
Sanghvi was known among members of Surat’s Jain community for her piousness even as a young child, a witness to Wednesday’s ceremony said on condition of anonymity.
“Devanshi has never watched television, movies or gone to malls and restaurants,” they said, adding that the girl had been a regular presence at temple ceremonies.
The child is one of the youngest people to have taken the diksha ceremony to abandon their material possessions and enter the Jain monastic life.
Sanghvi had been eager to become a nun, local media cited her parents as saying.
Jain families are sometimes said to encourage their children to enter the monastic life to enhance their relatives’ social standing.
Her family’s business, founded in 1981, has a net worth of 5 billion rupees (US$61.5 million), Indian credit rating agency ICRA said.
Jainism has more than 4 million followers in India, many — such as Sanghvi’s family — from affluent trading communities.
Followers adhere to a strict vegetarian diet and some monks and nuns cover their mouths with fabric to prevent them from accidentally swallowing insects.
The religion has come under criticism for some of its ritual practices, particularly for a tradition of extreme fasts to the death.
A 13-year-old girl in Hyderabad fell into a coma and died in 2016 while undertaking a two-month fast as an act of penance, during which she was only allowed to drink warm water twice a day.
Her parents were charged with homicide and were subject to public outrage over claims the family had forced her into the fast.
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