Exploring The Inner World Of Jain Monks And Locals In Rajasthan

At 18, i ended my relationship with my routine life. i had a good college and felt blessed and yet, something was amiss. i was yearning to deconstruct my routine so that i could connect more intimately with my life. i wanted space and time to identify with myself. in april 2014, i had gone to my native village (sanchore, rajasthan) to attend a holy ceremony of diksha (renunciation of all the materialistic things to realise the virtues of one's inner soul) of my 23 year old cousin sister. After the ceremony was done i questioned myself that why such a young lady in her twenty's is renouncing all the money her father has earned for her, all the comforts her mother has always given her, and all the materialistic things (phones, computer, TV, internet) to which we are glued to 24*7 doesnt interest her , what is she really looking for? what does she really want to accomplish and is it the path really worth treading? I wanted the answers. I have witnessed the holy ceremony of diskha many times in my life, I have seen rich and wealthy businessman renouncing their wealthy empire, I have seen a 9 year old renouncing the world to become a monk, I have also seen a family 4 renouncing their life’s of comfort and power to love a life of a monk.

So, this time I made a decision to myself that I wont go home until I get my questions answered.

I went to the upashray (a place where jain monks stay) met the guru of all monks, let him know my desire to stay with them to explore the inner world of jain monks and know them better. He put forward his few conditions to which I must agree if I want to stay with them.


No cell phones during my stay, no footwear, no bed, no fan.

I have to wear traditional indian clothes – kurta payjama.

Initially I thought that’s too much to ask from an 18 year old but then everything has a price as it is said ‘nothing comes easy in life’, even santa comes with a clause. Eventually I accepted them all because my desire to get my questions answered outnumbered the thought of living without cell phones, footwear, camera, electricity etc.

I bought new clothes from my village, sent back all my belongings to my family who were leaving for Mumbai.

So there I was standing by the window of the upshray in the hot summer of may in a tiny village of rajasthan, bored and listless, wondering wether to stay here or go home. I decided to stay here and explore the world of locals of rajasthan and jain monks. It wasn’t an easy decision but I knew it was time.

I visited 7 villages during the 25 days stay, assisting and understanding the daily chores of the jain monks and locals, from waking up at 4:30 in the morning to perform a daily ritual of jain monks called pratikraman in which we seek for forgivness for the sins we committed during the night through thoughts, actions or words to carrying water pots for my bath from the nearby well, to observing women cook and take care of children. I was humbled by their spirit.

My days in rajasthan began at 4:30 am and ended by 7pm. The limited electricity and lack of mobile network opened me up to so much more – I spent time writing, reading Sanskrit shlokas, memorizing them at sunrise for 1 hr, walking barefoot (jain monks never travel on vehicles they walk their way throughout the country so during my stay we covered seven villages in 25 days walking almost 12-15kms a day), stargazing, having plenty of conversations to understand their life and finding my answers about what made me happy. The raw beauty and calm of the local villages of rajasthan sharpened my senses and my ability to be patient and tolerant. I made peace with myself and appreciated solitude and the beauty of the villages untouched by modernization. Eventually I grew fond of reading since it was the only source of entertainment over there, at times I used to yearn for a full moon day so that I could complete my book under the moonlight. From the onset, I found myself drawing comparisons and judging their lives but as the day progressed, a lot of my preconceptions dissolved they showed me simplicity and faith is enough to be happy, the the choice of how to lead our lives is purely ours and how we deal with the consequences is also our decision.

There were hard days when I would question myself for having taken up this trip – miles away from all luxuries, walking barefoot under the hot sun to carry pots for a bath in the may of 2014 where temperatures would go up to 48 centigrade, staying at local schools with no proper toilets. But the feeling that it was all a mistake would pass away with the warmth and love I received from the locals, with the gratification from assisting monks and nuns.

All the Sanskrit shlokas I studied made so much sense and had so much deeper meaning to it. I grew fond of this language and also I made a decision to myself that I will take up with language when I return back from this trip.

I returned from my trip alive, but also calmer, with a clearer mind and an inspiration to achieve more. The trip redefined what I had perceived were the bare necessities of life. Over one year since that first journey, I have been able to maintain a flow of trips within india and abroad.

I try and volunteer during my travels so that I can learn and contribute at the same time. Travel is no longer just an experience but a way of life.

Merry Christmas. Love. Cheers.
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