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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 58  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 471-474

Jainism-Its relevance to psychiatric practice; with special reference to the practice of Sallekhana

1 Former Superintendent and Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Mental Health, Madras Medical College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Puducherry, India
3 Research Assistant, Schizophrenia Research Foundation, R/7A, North Main Road, Anna Nagar West Extension, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Ottilingam Somasundaram
Thanigai Illam, No. 30, 23rd Cross Street, Besant Nagar, Chennai - 600 090, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.196702

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Jainism is one of the oldest religions of India. Since the founding of the religion, Jainism has given prominence to Sallekhana, death by ritual fasting facing north, as exemplified in the deaths of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya. The controversy whether this religious form of starvation is related to suicide is debated since the time of the early Jain teachers. History is replete with instances where kings and warriors who have failed in their duty punish themselves for their sin and welcome death as expiation. Such starvation deaths are referred to as vadakirutthal (literally, facing north) and become quite prevalent during the Sangam age, probably copied from the Jain culture. The present-day thinking on Sallekhana needs to be considered here in more detail which should be brought to the knowledge of current-day psychiatrists. These ideas are relevant to psychiatric counseling of the ordinary people and would be very useful if included in the armamentarium of the mental health professionals.



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