Express News Service
Mangal Chand Pandya believes that a family that travels together stays together. In 1993, this devout Jain from Hyderabad announced his desire to sponsor a pilgrimage to Shri Sammed Shikar Ji in Jharkhand for 51 couples. But he died the same year. Twenty-nine years later, his sons fulfilled his father’s dream by taking 450 Jains to the holy site.
It is customary for Jain patriarchs to mobilise extended family for such trips since they believe it promotes togetherness and harmony. Located on Parasnath Hill, the highest mountain in the state, it is here that 20 of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras attained moksha.
The late Pandya’s six sons—Narender, Mahender, Rajender, Pawan, Padam and Dilip—were ecstatic about mobilising 450 of their family to take the mega pilgrimage. Lokender Jain, a food and travel blogger from Hyderabad, who was a part of the trip, also its spokesperson, shares, “Planning began a year ago. Pilgrimage passports were handed to the guests a day before we set out. There were 21 event managers taking care of everything.” The pilgrimage costs about `1 crore and the age group was from six months to 82 years old. “Almost 80 percent of the 450 pilgrims were related by blood,” say Jain.
Every couple in the tour was allotted a unique identification number. The train journey from Secunderabad to Dhanbad, the nearest railhead, took around 30 hours. It was a spectacular trip—the onward journey to the temple was in a convoy of 50 SUVs. Upon arrival, the couples were allotted separate rooms in the Dharamshala. “We gave out two sets of traditional Jain pooja attires—a one-piece white dhoti and dupatta for the men, and an ochre-coloured saree for the women,” says Padam Pandya, one of the siblings who organised the trip.
For five days, the pilgrims participated in poojas, bhajans, community meals and more. The food was traditional Jaini food without onions and garlic. The most memorable moment of the trip? “A comedy of errors due to same first names and second names,” shares Pandya. “When everyone ‘Jains’ in, there is bound to be confusion,” he laughs. Will they conduct more such trips? “We want to make it an annual ritual and hope that God gives us the wherewithal to make it bigger and better,” the siblings say in unison.