Jain Festivals

Jain FestivalsParyusana or Daslasksana Parva

This festival is celebrated by both Svetambara as well as Digambara Jainas for eight to ten days during the monsoon season. This is a festival of self-discipline through fasting and other ascetic practices. Men, women and children as well as monks and nuns undertake fasts with varying strictness. During Paryusana, there are regular sermons and ceremonies in the temples. In Digambara temples, chapters from Tattvartha Sulfa, the Bible of the Jainas, and in Svetambara temple those from Kalpasutra are read out to the audience. On the last day, members of the community greet each other and ask forgiveness for any pain that might have been caused knowingly or unknowingly by any of their actions during the past year.
During the festival days, the Svetambara Jainas drink boiled water at home and abstain from eating or drinking in a restaurant or in the houses of non-Jainas. After a bath and change of clothes people go to the temple. During Paryusana, the Svetambaras also take out a copy of Kalpasutra in procession. A young girl after worship in the temple carries the Kalpasutra in a large metal plate over her head in a procession. A man walks in front of the girl, sprinkling water from a pot on the street, symbolically cleaning the city. The scripture is brought to the house of a wealthy Jaina who makes a donation to a temple. There the holy book is installed on a high pedestal and worshipped the whole night to the accompaniment of devotional songs. The next day it is brought back to the temple in a procession. On the fifth day of the festival, a skylight is opened in the ceiling and silver replicas of the dream images seen by the mother of Mahavira are lowered on a string to the crowd gathered below. On the eighth day a copy of Barsasutra is presented to a monk or a nun who reads it out to the people with such rapidity that the whole text is finished in half an hour. The worshippers hold a page of the Surra in their hands for a few seconds and place it back, symbolizing the reading of the text themselves.

Akshyatritiya
This festival is observed in April. On this day sugarcane juice is ritually offered to those who have observed various types of fasts through out the year. According to jaina literature, on this day Rsabhanatha, the first tirthankara, received in accordance with the religious ritual in the form of sugar-cane juice for the first time after his continuous fast of six months from the hands of the mythical Prince Sreyamskumar. The ladies who participate in the ritual are given garlands and are brought to the temple in a small hell procession. The relatives of the participants go to a nearby shop of sugarcane crusher, wash the press with boiled water and collect the juice in earthen pots. They bring the juice to the temple and offer to the participants 108 small cups full of juice. After observing this ritual the participants normally take a vow that for the rest of their lives they will not drink unboiled water.

Kartik Purnima
By the full moon day of Kartik (around November), Karyik Purnima, the monks and nuns start to wander further after having stayed at one place for the rainy period. On this day the monks are taken out of the town in a procession and a few people even accompany the monks to the next town or village. The community starts eating green vegetables which is not done during the rainy season. On this day many people start on a pilgrimage to Palitana. In many temples a stone panel or cloth painting of Palitana is displayed and those who cannot undertake the pilgrimage to Palitana go and worship the panel in a temple.

Diwali
For the Jainas, Divali is an important festival, because on this day Mahavira is supposed to have attained nirvana. In many temples of Digambara sect sweet balls are offered. Divali is also important for Jainas as it marks le beginning of their new year. All business accounts of the previous year are settled and new accounts books are started. On this day businessmen go to shops and buy new account books and worships them along with the image of Lakshmi as well as currency notes, jewellery, etc. at a special ceremony.

Mahavira Jayanti
This festival, connected with the great auspicious event of the birth of Lord Mahavira is celebrated with great pomp and enthusiasm by all Jainas. Processions are taken out, meetings are held and the message of Mahavira is explained to all.

Siddhachakra or Navadevata Puja
Siddhacakra or Navadevata diagram consists of a stylised lotus with eight petals. In the centre of the lotus are depictions of the five highest Beings of the Jainas, namely Arhat, the enlightened one, Siddha, the liberated one, Acharya, the head monk, Upadhyaya, the teacher monk, and Sadhu, the monk. In the four petals the Svetambaras inscribe the principles: right knowledge. right faith, right conduct and right penance; whereas Digambaras depict dharchakra, jina image, jina temple and scriptures. Apart from worshipping this diagram in the temple or in a smaller way in the house, there is elaborate worship of the same in which many people take part and the ritual lasts for nine days. Such a puja is generally announced by the family after the events of birth, marriage, death etc.

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