Eight-year-old renounces her family fortune for a life of austerity as a nun

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Devanshi Sanghvi at the Hindu ceremony to renounce her wealth and become a nun. (PHOTO: Instagram @devanshi_diksha_danam)
Devanshi Sanghvi at the Hindu ceremony to renounce her wealth and become a nun. (PHOTO: Instagram @devanshi_diksha_danam)

The barefoot young girl, dressed in a coarse white sari, goes door-to-door, asking strangers for alms.

Yet only a week before, Devanshi Sanghvi (8) was the heir to her parents' multimillion-dollar diamond empire. 

Devanshi is the eldest of Dhanesh and Ami Sanghvi's two daughters. The couple are the owners of Sanghvi and Sons, a lucrative diamond manufacturer and merchant in India.

Devanshi gave up her inheritance to become a Jain nun. 

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Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that emphasises non-violence, vegetarianism, and a love of all living things.

Her parents attended her renunciation ceremony in which she gives up all worldly goods.  She wore a gold crown and made her vows before senior Jain monks and tens of thousands of people who came to watch.

After the ceremony she joined the other nuns, wearing a white sari over her freshly shaved head.

"She can no longer stay at home, her parents are no longer her parents, she's a Sadhvi [nun] now," says Kirti Shah, a Surat-based diamond merchant and a friend of the family.

"A Jain nun's life is really austere. She'll now have to walk everywhere, she can never take any kind of transport, she'll sleep on a white sheet on the floor and cannot eat after sundown," he adds.

“Devanshi has shown religious inclinations since she was a toddler,” says Nirav Shah, another family friend.

The day before the renunciation ceremony, her family held a grand procession in Surat to see her off. Thousands of people came out to see the procession of drummers, dancers and stilt performers.

Devanshi and her family rode in an elephant-drawn chariot while onlookers showered them with rose petals.

But not everyone thinks it's a good idea, with some questioning if a child Devashin's age is able to make an informed decision on the rest of her life.

"She's a child, what does she understand about all this?" asked a man only identified as Mr Shah in the Indian Times.

"Children can't even decide what stream to study in college until they're 16. How can they make a decision about something that will impact their entire life?"

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Dr Bipin Doshi, who teaches Jain philosophy at Mumbai University, disagrees. "You cannot apply legal principles in the spiritual world," he says.

"She may be deprived of the traditional entertainment, but is that really necessary for everyone? And I don't agree that she'll be deprived of love or education. She'll receive love from her guru and she'll learn honesty and non-attachment. Is that not better?"

Dr Doshi adds that Devanshi can always stop being a nun if she changes her mind or believes that "she made the wrong decision under the mesmerising effects of her guru".

Sources: bbc.com, timesnownews.com, Indianexpress.com, sanghvisions.com

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