Eight-year-old Indian diamond heiress who became a nun

Eight-year-old Devanshi Sanghvi could have grown up to run a multi-million dollar diamond business.

But the daughter of a wealthy Indian diamond merchant is now living a spartan life – dressed in coarse white saris, barefoot and going door-to-door to seek alms.

Because last week, Devanshi, the elder of the two daughters of Dhanesh and Ami Sanghvi, renounced the world and became a nun.

The Sanghvis are among 4.5 million Jains who follow Jainism – one of the world’s oldest religions, which originated in India more than 2,500 years ago.

Religious scholars say the number of Jains renouncing the material world has been rising rapidly over the years, although cases involving children as young as Devanshi are uncommon.

Last Wednesday’s ceremony in Surat city in the western state of Gujarat, where Devanshi took “diksha” – vows of renunciation – in the presence of senior Jain monks, was attended by tens of thousands.

Accompanied by her parents, she arrived at the venue in the city’s Vesu area, bejewelled and dressed in fine silks. A diamond-studded crown rested on her head.

After the ceremony, she stood with other nuns, dressed in a white sari which also covered her shaved head. In photographs, she is seen holding a broom that she would now use to brush away insects from her path to avoid accidentally stepping on them.

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