Thousands of Jains are flocking to a Dadar housing complex to pay obeisance to the head of the Terapanthi Shwetamber Jain sect who has made the place his stop while making a journey by foot across three countries on a mission to promote peace, and to create awareness about substance abuse.
Acharya Shri Mahashramanji's 'Anuvrat Yatra'
His followers said that Acharya Shri Mahashramanji has already covered 18,000 kms in the last eight years on his 'Anuvrat Yatra' across Nepal, Bhutan, and 20 states in India. The Acharya had spent Chaturmas - a period of four months during the monsoon when Hindu and Jain holy men and women avoid travel - at Nandavan in Mira Road. He will be walking from one station to another in Mumbai, meeting his followers, till February 2024, before traveling to other parts of Maharashtra, and finally to Surat in Gujarat where he will spend his next Chaturmas.
He will resume his walking mission after a four-month break. He will be at Dadar for two days.The Acharya leads an order of around 750 monks and nuns and about a hundred of them are traveling with him. Muni Anushasan, a monk who is part of the Acharya's entourage, said that his leader is the 11th head of the Shwetamber Terapanth sect which was founded 250 years ago by Muni Bhikshu.
The word 'Terapanth' comes from the word for '13' which is the number of tenets that the sect follows, including Ahimsa or non-violence, and satya, or truth. Jains who had gathered at Dadar on Friday said that it was a rare opportunity to seek the Acharya's blessings. As his followers sought blessings he prayed for them and reminded them to stay away from tobacco and other intoxicants.
"Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet him"
"It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to meet him. He is always traveling and it's a blessing to meet him," said Kalpesh Jain, a businessman who was volunteering at the Dadar housing complex. "We go wherever he is to seek his guidance and blessings. The munis are like members of our family," said K L Jain, a businessman from Delhi who had traveled to Mumbai to meet his guru.
Acharya Shri Mahashramanji |
Muni Kumar Shraman, another monk who is traveling with the Acharya, said that their group walks between 10 and 40 kms every day, stopping at shrines and homes of followers for rest. "Acharyaji meets everyone- villagers, businessmen, and students during his stops," said Kumar Shraman.Dhanpal Solanki Jain, a member of another Jain sect, said, "The Acharya's journey is called 'Anuvrat' movement and 'Ahimsa Yatra'.
Aims to restore communal harmony
The aim is to restore communal harmony, create awareness about moral values in life, and to help the youth resist substance addiction. The Jain leader is also a supporter of campaigns to educate and empower women." The Jains are also asking the state and national governments to make it easier for Jains to access educational and business incentives that are being made available for minority groups. He added that another concern that Jains have is about the encroachment of their religious properties by criminals. "Many of our shrines in Girnar, Palitana, and Shikharji have been encroached," said Jain.