Imagine being just eight years old and inheriting a fortune worth an estimated $61 million. And now imagine, instead of deciding to buy dozens of ponies and backstage passes to every single Taylor Swift concert stop, you decide to give the entire fortune away. That's exactly what an 8-year-old Indian girl named Devanshi Sanghvi just did. Why? So she could be initiated as a nun within the controversial Jain faith, which among other things requires adherents to forego all earthly pleasures – including money.
According to local reports, Sanghvi was set to eventually inherit the family fortune behind the Sangvhi and Sons diamond company, but that she waived her inheritance by taking the vow of renunciation known as "diksha" before thousands of in-person witnesses. The ceremony involves giving away all material possessions and even having her head shaved bare in order to accept the Jain life of impoverished servitude.
Kirti Shah, another person in the diamond business and a Sangvhi family friend said this to the BBC about the situation:
"She can no longer stay at home, her parents are no longer her parents, she's a Sadhvi [a nun] now…A Jain nun's life is really austere. She will 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."
It's not known whether adult Devanshi Sanghvi might have any legal recourse to contest the decision she made while just 8 years old, but it's possible that there could be some legal challenge down the road should that be the case.
Jain is reportedly one of the oldest religions in the world, and most of its estimated 4 million adherents live in western India. They believe in an absolute form of nonviolence in which even taking the lives of plants is forbidden.
The practice of initiating nuns as young as 8 is rare but not unheard of in the country, and several attempts to have it abolished have failed going back to at least the 1950s.