Fasting to the death: Is it a religious rite or suicide?
By Julie McCarthy
On Friday nights in their Delhi sanctuary, Jains light candles to pay tribute to their 24 gods.
INDIA---A person who is very old or very ill decides to stop eating in order to die. To members of the ancient and tiny faith of Jainism in India, that's a tradition called santhara or sallekhana (literally thinning out). India's Supreme Court is considering whether to ban the practice as a form of suicide, which is punishable under law. Some form of fasting is deeply rooted in many religions: Christians practice Lent. Muslims have Ramadan. The Jewish tradition is to fast on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The Hindu calendar is rich with days of forsaking food. But right now the attention is on the custom of the Jains, whose faith is on display at their 450-year-old Temple in Delhi's Old City Friday nights. [link]