India is a home of numerous complex rituals and Kesh Lochan is one of such intricate rituals in Jainism. The Jain saints (both male and female) after initiation or getting the Diksha, do not shave or cut their hairs; nor do they go to the barber to get their hairs done. Instead, during the period of Paryushan (i.e. coming together) they pluck their hairs off their head.
Kesh Lochan – The Plucking Of Hairs
Yes, these saints pluck off their hairs directly from the scalp, this plucking act is either performed by themselves or by others. This custom is known as Loch or Kesh Lochan. In this way, they aren’t dependent on others to fulfill their basic needs. The saints face terrible pain when each hair is being plucked from the scalp and face. However, it is considered as one kind of severity where one peacefully bears the severe pain.
Kesh Lochan is performed in front of the community, where the munis first rub their heads with ashes and then begin the plucking process. These saints self-pluck off hairs in bunches. For those weak hearted ones, this process is carried out by somebody else. These days, the temple administration celebrate this custom with great pomp and show.
Though the plucked hairs are mostly offered to God; sometimes the hair is collected and is auctioned to the followers for high amounts.
Now You May Ask Why Do The Saints Perform Such A Painful Act?
Well, it is believed the saints who perform this ritual will further motivate people to relinquish worldly things. There is no restriction on performing this ritual in a private room, but it is mostly carried out in public with an objective to motivate people to walk on the path of renunciation.
A Jaini munis entire life is dedicated towards the wellbeing of their souls. Hence all the activities they perform have one single aim, self-realization and self-purification. To attain this objective, apart from following the prescribed guidelines, they also perform day-to-day Pratikraman and also do other austerities.
Self-Purification Or Violence?
Renouncing the world essentially means relinquishing the comforts of life and voluntarily adopting the practice of performing austerities. And it’s a fact that in this regard these saints can go to extreme levels. Few might think its illogical and even confer it to violence, but violence fundamentally mentions to imposing pain to other human beings, and not to oneself. Hence, walking barefoot in extreme weather conditions, following strict diets, observing fasts, voluntarily performing other austerities cannot be denoted as an act of violence. These practices are a choice made by Jain saint with a prime motive to attain self-purification. Furthermore, it is believed that these saints do not have any attachment with their own bodies, hence they do not really feel this extreme pain.
Coming to hurting oneself, fundamentally hurting either happens by self, accidentally,or by some other person trying to express anger. But again, Lochan doesn’t fall into this category too, as it is willingly done by a person when he/she renounces the significance of physical beauty and focus on enhancing the beauty of his/her soul. A saint strongly believes nothing in his/her life is more important than the soul. The soul doesn’t feel any pain, it is the body that does, and body and soul for them are diverse.
A balloon when tied up with some heavy stone would sink in a river, but the moment it is freed from the weight it flies up. A Soul is exactly the same, just when it is freed from the bond of all Karmas, in its natural form it would move upward and reach the abode of all the liberated souls or Shiddha‑shila. Extinguishing all the karmas attached to one’s soul is the only way achieve Moksh or salvation. Once we destroy all the karmas linked to our souls, we do become capable of achieving Moksh or at least become eligible for Moksh.
Interesting indeed! Well India with so many diverse stories does gives me goosebumps. But again, some of these stories do inspire. What do you think of this interesting custom? Painful is one word I instantly get…. Moksh is what they think…. What’s your opinion? Write it down in the comment section below!
Featured Photo by San Sharma