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Fasting Jains to aid of jawans

Radha Sharma

AHMEDABAD: They survive without food for over two weeks, living only on boiled water. And, they may hold answers to quests other than spiritual. So thinks the Indian Army, which has made the rigorous fasting by Jains during the holy period of Paryushan a subject of focused study to find solution for the Indian soldier who has to face harsh situations in adverse climes.

With Paryushan on right now, a team of 18 scientists from the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS) are camping in the city to seek answers: How does the body and mind of the fasting Jain react to such nutritional deprivation for days? Can fasting be consciously imbibed by people, especially soldiers and astronauts, for survival in challenging situations? Scientists are studying about 45 Jains in Ahmedabad who have undertaken fasting ranging from three to eight days. Some are also fasting for 16 days. Children, youth in their 20s who have never fasted and religious Jains used to fasting annually are part of this voluntary study project being undertaken at Ramnagar Mota Derasar in Sabarmati area. “The project began on August 8 and the last batch would complete their fasting on Sunday.

The test reports of chemical, physiological and the psychological testing of the volunteers before, during and after the fast period would be documented and analysed,” said neuro-physician Dr Sudhir Shah, whose team had pioneered medical documentation of long-term fasting by medically profiling Prahlad Jani, an octogenarian sadhu, who claims to live without drinking and eating and thus not pass urine or stool as well. “We documented him for 10 days under CCTV cameras. His case features in the book titled ‘Mysteries of the World’,” said Dr Shah.

The project will study parameters, including brain blood flow, sensory activity, oxygen consumption, blood pressure, ECG monitoring and cholesterol and lipid profiles. “The results of this study may help the Indian soldier who go through great adversities, having to stay in areas where food is not available. It can also be applied in prevention and treatment of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart diseases,” Dr Shah said.

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