Malacca (Malaysia): For Gujarati Jains here, the Paryushan fast has coincided with that of holy Ramadan being observed by the majority Muslim population. Fasting is common among the two communities, and so is the goal of self-purification.
Gujaratis have a special link with Malaysia as it is believed that Gujarati missionaries introduced Islam to Malaysia prior to the establishment of the Malacca Sultanate in 1402, according to Joshua Project website that researches and compiles information about communities globally.
While everyone knows that Aug 22 was the first day of Ramadan, few in Malaysia know that the children of another community and faith have also been fasting, The Star newspaper said Wednesday.
Unlike Muslims, who go without food and water from dawn to dusk for a month, Gujarati children survive only on boiled water without any food for between three and eight days.
The newspaper correspondent visited the home of carpet dealer Nishrint Shangani, 44, on "a joyous occasion" Tuesday.
Shangani held a colourful traditional ceremony at his home in Bandar Hilir to mark the end of the fasting for his 11-year-old son Depak.
Gujaratis, who are strict vegetarians, observe the Paryushan fast as a purification rite and a period to seek forgiveness.
Websites about Gujaratis in Malaysia list the community by their religions, castes, sub-castes and their location back in Gujarat.
They also list Hindu and Jain temples, where priests are in charge and the activity is funded and overseen by the community.
A Jain temple was opened in Malacca in 2001 amid fanfare and community participation in the presence of Gurudev Jinchandraji Maharaj (Bandhu Triputi).
Attending it were the Gujarati communities not only from Kuala Lumpur and Selangor but also from Singapore and all over Malaysia including Penang, Ipoh, Malacca and Negeri Sembilan states.
"The Gujaratis of Malaysia are mainly adherents of Jainism and Hinduism with a small minority of Muslims," the Joshua Project website says of the 3,000-plus community of mostly traders.
"Gujarati traders from Cambay also frequently visited the port of Malacca but did not settle there. Only in the late 19th century did the Gujaratis, who are mostly businessmen in textile trade, travel to Malacca to settle. This new community grew as more Gujaratis came after World War II," the website records.
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