Hyderabad: Every year on the day of Eid-Ul-Adha, popularly known as “Bakrid”, millions of animals, mainly goats, cows, sheep, buffaloes and camels are slaughtered across the world as part of the Islamic holiday. However, followers of Jainism have a unique approach to marking the festival which involves unfortunate killings of crores of animals.
To compensate for the killing and to express their solidarity with the slaughtered animals, Jains around the world go on an absolute fast or observe ‘Ayambil’, a fast in which they eat ungerminated grains and legumes only once a day.
A Jain sadhu said that Jains usually make these sacrifices of their own volition and there is no tradition or ritual that commands them to observe the fast on this day. The idea behind this voluntary penance is to inflict suffering on oneself and share the pain of the animals that are slaughtered on the day of Eid-Al-Adha.
“We understand that this is an important occasion for the Muslim community and that sacrifice is part of it. As Jains cannot prevent Muslims from following their religious practices, we compensate for the killing of animals slaughtered in observing the fast on that day,” said a sadhu.
However, those who find it difficult to observe the fast usually refrain from consuming white foods including milk, ghee and rice as a sign of disapproval of the indiscriminate killing of animals in Bakrid. Although abstinence from only white foods is not compulsory, Jains can give up any food they want as a symbolic gesture to oppose the killing of animals. However, white foodstuffs are of importance because most dairy products are white in color and in Bakrid most of the sacrificed animals are dairy animals.
Many who do not follow any of the above practices, i.e. fasting or abstaining from consuming white foods, donate to the cause of Jivdaya (benevolent living), one of the important principles of Jainism. Donations made are used to prevent cruelty to animals, reduce their suffering by providing them with shelter, nutrition water and health care. It also includes rescuing animals from slaughterhouses and abattoirs where they are condemned to live in misery and filth before they are inevitably killed. As part of Jivdaya, Jains also donate to gaushalas, the protective shelters for the welfare of cows.
Jainism professes equal rights for all living beings regardless of their size, shape or different spiritual developments.