Tablets left in honor of family members who practiced Sallekhana

Ancient tablets reveal whole family underwent Sallekhana, ritual fasting unto death

(Read the article on one page)

Archaeologists in the state of Karnataka, in South West India, have discovered a set of ancient tablets with inscriptions that reveal a family of six people underwent the sacrificial rite of Sallekhana, the Jain religious ritual involving voluntary death by fasting.

Sallekhana is a practice that is believed to lead one to spiritual liberation. Its purpose is to purge old karmas and prevent the creation of new ones. It resembles the Hindu practice of Prayopavesa (suicide by fasting), and the Buddhist practice of Sokushinbutsu (self-mummification). The vow of Sallekhana (or Santhara) is taken when a person has no responsibilities remaining in life and when they feel their life has served its purpose and they wish to go on to another existence.  The basic idea is to purify oneself with the process of fasting during the last few days of remaining life.


The body of Shinnyokai Shonin, found in Oaminaka, Japan. He had practiced Sokushinbutsu (self-mummification).

The body of Shinnyokai Shonin, found in Oaminaka, Japan. He had practiced Sokushinbutsu (self-mummification). ( self-mummified monks )

In the Jain tradition, it is rare for more than one person of the same family to undergo the ritual of Sallekhana. However, the Bangalore Mirror reports that researches have found evidence of six people of the same family, who lived in the 12 th-13th century AD, that underwent the sacrificial rite.

The ancient tablets erected in memory of those who performed Sallekhana were found in two different sets of three. The first set was found a few decades ago in Henuru village, and the second set was found just two months ago in Haveri, both in the state of Karnataka. The relationship between the family members was established through the decipherment of the inscriptions.

The Doddahundi memorial stone was raised in honor of Western Ganga Dynasty King Nitimarga I in 869 C.E. The king was a devout Jain who committed Sallekhana (ritual death).

The Doddahundi memorial stone was raised in honor of Western Ganga Dynasty King Nitimarga I in 869 C.E. The king was a devout Jain who committed Sallekhana (ritual death). These memorial stones were raised in medieval India to honor noted Jains who committed Sallekhana. ( Wikimedia Commons )

“What is exciting is the fact that it is very rare to find more than one person of the same family performing the Sallekhana ritual,” reports the Bangalor Mirro, “whereas here they are armed with proof of six persons of the same family who performed the ritual at different times all those centuries ago.”

Another rare feature of the discovery is that the family members who undertook the ritual appear to have been regular citizens. Generally, if more than one family member has undertaken Sallekhana they have been members of the royal lineage.

Jains claim that Sallekhana is the most ideal, peaceful, and satisfying form of death. It is done in full consciousness, not suddenly, sadly or ignorantly, and is governed by a strict set of regulations. In order to be allowed to undertake the vow of Sallekhana, the following conditions must be met:

  • Old age or terminal disease must be present such that death appears imminent.
  • There is an inability to perform normal bodily function.
  • The condition is so bad that life's pleasures are nil.
  • There are no remaining responsibilities towards family/relatives.
  • The person must be fully conscious and in good mental and emotional health.
  • There is a strong desire to remove karmas by fasting.
  • There is a strong belief in god, a spiritual teacher & religion.
  • Permission has been granted from family members and relatives.
  • There is a strong desire for Moksha/Nirvana.

According to the Press Trust of India , on average 240 Jains practice Sallekhana each year in India. In recent years, it has become a subject of controversy with many claiming there is no difference between Sallekhana and committing suicide. However, Jainists say that suicide involves an intentional act of harm against oneself which negatively affects those left behind, while Sallekhana is a tranquil process committed with the blessing of one’s family.

Featured image: Tablets left in honor of family members who practiced Sallekhana. Credit: Bangalore Mirror

By April Holloway

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Open Book Photo
A legend is a tale regarded as historical even though it has not been proven, and the term “myth” can refer to common yet false ideas. Many myths and legends describe our history, but they are often treated skeptically. This is because many of them, while explaining a phenomenon, involve divine or supernatural beings.

Human Origins

Noah's Sacrifice - watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot
The imperfect state of archaeological researches in the Near East impedes any definite identification of the original race or races that created the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. According to Gordon Childe, however, the predominant racial element in the earliest graves in the region from Elam to the Danube is the ‘Mediterranean’.

Ancient Technology

Invention of Wheel - Sumer
In today’s world, technology is developing at an unprecedented rate. The latest gadget today is tomorrow’s antique. As a result of this rapid development of technology, we often take things for...

Ancient Places

Google Earth image of manmade stone structures in Saudi Arabia
Deep in the heart of Saudi Arabia, 400 peculiar stone structures have been found, dating back thousands of years ago. These stone features were discovered by archaeologists with the use of satellite imagery, identifying what they call stone "gates" in an extremely unwelcome and harsh area of the Arabian Peninsula.


The ancient and mysterious Sphinx, Giza, Egypt.
In 1995, NBC televised a prime-time documentary hosted by actor Charlton Heston and directed by Bill Cote, called Mystery of the Sphinx. The program centered on the research and writings of John Anthony West, a (non-academic) Egyptologist, who, along with Dr. Robert Schoch, a professor of Geology at Boston University, made an astounding discovery on the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article