Updated: September 6, 2015 12:36:33 am
It was a feeble gesture on a video, but it was enough to divide the Jain community of Rajkot. At the heart of the row was whether the ailing Girishchandra Maharaj, the gadipati (head) of Gondal Mota Paksha in the city, had opted for santhara, when his disciples said he had, in June this year.
He died on July 1, 11 days after the controversy first broke out, with the Paksha maintaining that it was santhara.
On June 17, the 87-year-old had been taken to a hospital in Rajkot for a routine check-up. He slipped into coma while at the hospital, and doctors declared his liver was beyond treatment. Administrators of the Paksha shifted Girishchandra Maharaj to a Jain place of shelter and, a couple of days later, his senior disciple, Manhar Muni, declared the beginning of santhara for his guru.
On June 20, Girischandra Maharaj regained consciousness. Soon after, he was shown shaking his head in a video when asked by a relative if he was aware his santhara had been declared. His family members alleged Girishchandra Maharaj, who had become a monk much earlier, had been put on a fast against his wish. Sections of the Jain community alleged that santhara had been declared for him for uchhamani (donations made by visitors during santhara).
On June 21, the senior-most monk at the Paksh ordered that Girishchandra Maharaj be allowed to break his fast. As the row persisted, on June 28, the Jain shelter issued a statement signed by Girishchandra Maharaj saying he had told the Paksh that he should be put on santhara if he became very ill.
Eventually, Girishchandra Maharaj’s condition became even more critical and he was shifted back to the the shelter on July 1. Hours later, the monk breathed his last.
Dr Nishith Vyas, the doctor who had been treating Girishchandra Maharaj, says his condition was critical when he slipped into coma the first time. “Later, when he again slipped into coma and his condition deteriorated, he was discharged. He never came out of coma.”
“No Jain monk likes to die in hospital. Therefore, we shifted him,” Chandrakant Sheth, part of the administrative committee of the Paksh, claims.
But Girishchandra Maharaj’s relatives remain unconvinced. “He was given a raw deal,” says Haresh Sheth, a nephew.
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