Pious Jain observes fast for 241 days 

THE ASIAN AGE : 04/09/2000

Accountant loses 30kg in 8 months, attends office daily

An accountant Prafull Varjivandas Bakhai, who is a Jain, has managed to go without food for more than 200 days.  Mr. Bakhai holds the record for fasting for 211 days last year.  He has now broken his own record by fasting for a complete 241 days till Sunday.  Although it may sound unbelievable, Mr. Bakhai, who began his fast on January 6, has been living on practically nothing but boiled water twice a day for eight months.

When this correspondent visited him, his fellow Jain disciple of Shree Kot Vardhaman Sthanakwasi Jain Shravak Sangh confirmed that Mr. Bakhai was fasting under their observation.

“In these eight months, not once did Mr. Bakhai have to see a doctor, though he suffered a drastic weight loss.  He has gone from 59kg to 29kg,” said Kiran Shah, a fellow disciple.  Mr. Bakhai, who works as an accountant in a private firm in South Mumbai, attended office daily.  “He has been coming to the office right from the first day of his fast,” said the firm’s owner, Mr. Girish Shah adding, “I often wondered how he could have managed to board the crowded local trains.”

“I have an immense amount of faith and love for Bhagwan Mahaveer Swami (Jain saint),” said Mr. Bakhai.  “It is the faith that gives every disciple an edge over the common human being, enables you to overpower your physical instincts and makes you realise the immortality of your soul.  A fast is a form of apology to God for one’s sins.”

When asked what drove him to follow such a difficult and trying method of worship, he said, “ When I was about six years old, my uncle took me to visit a Jain Acharya (saint) who, while giving me his blessings claimed that I would never face problems during fasts.”

The prophecy came true in later years, as over the next couple of decades he increased his period of fasting, from 36 days at the initial stage to 241 days at present.

As to whether such a long period of fasting is detrimental to one’s health, Dr. Varsha Vadera, a keen observer of Jain disciples during their fast, said, “The body goes through several changes like loss of weight and muscle mass, constipation, starvation, diarrhoea, intolerance to cold and hypothermia.  There is a general decrease in the Basal Metabolic Rate and pulse.  The skin becomes dry, scaly and loses elasticity.  There is also a tendency for the body to retain water leading to swelling of legs.”  Besides Mr.Bakhai, Sahaj Muni, a Jain monk had successfully completed 365 days of absolute abstinence from food from 1996-97, in Bangalore.  Following this a Jain muni, Sadhvi Mohan Malaji completed 311 days of fast in November 1998, at New Delhi.  Currently another Jain monk, Hirachand Ratanshi Manek, who is in his 60s, has the record of a 210 days fast.  He aspires to touch the spiritual heights by fasting for 411 days.