Members of the Jain community in India as well as abroad bid a collective Rs 7 crore to carry out the last rites of Shri Madvijay Ravindrasuri Maharajsahebji (62), a monk who passed away last week in Rajgarh, a small town in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. This is a unique community ritual where bids are called for the right to perform the last rites of Jain monks.
Bids were called for 25 rituals, including washing the monk's feet, wrapping the body in a shroud, performing the last aarti and applying saffron and chandan to the body . The bidding was spirited, and the amount rose steadily . Eventually, land developers and gold dealers won most of the bids.
Jayeshbhai from Dubai, for instance, won a bid of Rs 68 lakh to be the first pallbearer, while the second, third and fourth pallbearers paid Rs 42 lakh, Rs 27 lakh and Rs 20 lakh each. The bidder who got to wrap the body in a shroud had pledged Rs 52.52 lakh.
In the hierarchy of monks, Maharajsahebji was one of the senior-most in the Tristutik sect. Under Shri Madvijay Ravindrasuri Maha rajsahebji, 85 people -10 men and 75 women -had taken `diksha' (renunciation of family and worldly pleasures). "The money collected by the Mohankheda temple in Rajgarh, where he died, will be used by the temple trust for religious activities and to continue the work undertaken by the monk," said a source from the temple.
Babulal Vardhan from Rajasthan bathed the body of Shri Maharajsahebji, before he was placed on the pyre, for a sum of Rs 41.41lakh.
The practice of bidding, or 'ghee bolo', started 450 years ago to catalyse community charity. "Something had to be done to raise funds to build more Jain temples and spread the religion. So, the idea of ghee bolo emerged.Initially, the ritual was carried out only when resources were needed, but over the years it has become a regular practice," said Vimal Sagar Maharajsaheb, a Jain monk.
Bids are not invited at every monk's passing. Many funerals are performed by local Jain associations. Hirabhai Parekh, who heads the Kalapurna Suri Smarak Sangh, said "bigticket" bidding is associated with those who have a huge following. "There may be one or two cases a year where it could run into crores. For monks who are not senior or acharyas, smaller sums are asked. This is as frequent as twice a month," said Parekh.