Jain Festival: Paryushana Parvarambha

MahaviraParyushana is the most important annual holy event for Jains and is usually celebrated in August or September in the Indian calendar Month of Bhadrapada. At this time (an 8 or 10 day observance) Jains increase their level of spiritual intensity using fasting and prayer/meditation as aids. It is also a time of reading of scriptures, and seeking forgiveness for sins committed in the past year.


Paryushana is the most important annual holy events for Jains and is usually celebrated in August or September in Hindi calender Bhadrapad Month’s Shukla Paksha. It lasts 8 Days for swetambara and 10 days for digambara sect of Jains. Jains increase their level of spiritual intensity often using fasting and prayer/meditation to help. The five main vows are emphasized during this time. There are no set rules, and followers are encouraged to practice according to their ability and desires.

Explainer:

  • Jains emphasise non-violence in every part of their lives
  • Jains create purity in their environment, in their minds, in their interactions with all forms of life
  • Digambar Jains are ‘sky clad’, that is, they are clad with the sky and not with clothes.
  • Swetambar Jains are clad in white to show they are living with purity

Normally, Digambaras refer it as Das Lakshana Dharma while Śvētāmbaras refer to it as Paryushana (“abiding” or “coming together”). The duration of Paryushana is for eight days for Śvētāmbara Jains and ten days for Jains belonging to the Digambara sect. The festival ends with the celebration of Kshamavani (forgiveness day).

Paryusana means “abiding and coming together”. It is a time when the Jains take on vows of study and fasting.

The Digambara Jains recite the ten chapters of the sacred Jain text, Tattvartha Sutra on ten days of fasting. Digambaras celebrate Ananta Chaturdashi on which a special worship is done. Many towns have a procession leading to the main Jain temple. Ananta Chaturdashi marks the day when Lord Vasupujya attained Moksha (nirvana).

At the conclusion of the festival, followers request forgiveness from others for any offenses committed during the last year. Forgiveness is asked by saying Micchami Dukkadam to others, which means, “If I have offended you in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or action, then I seek your forgiveness.”

During the eight-day festival, the Śvētāmbara Murtipujakas recite the Kalpa Sūtra, which includes a recitation of the section on birth of Mahavira on the fifth day. Some Śvētāmbara Sthānakavāsīs recite the Antagada Sutra, which details the life of great men and women who attained moksha during the eras of Neminatha and Mahavira.

Jains – who are lay persons – often take time off from work during this period and eat a much simpler diet in addition to their normal vegetarian diet. They avoid potatoes, onions and garlic – the eating of which entails killing the entire plant.

During Paryushana, Jains observe a fast. The span of the fast can last from a day to 30 days or even more. In Digambara Jainism, some lay persons do not take food and/or water (boiled) more than once in a day when observing fasts, while Śvētāmbaras observing a fast survive on boiled water which is consumed only between sunrise and sunset.

At the conclusion of the festival, lay Jains request each other for forgiveness for all offenses committed during the last year. This occurs on the Paryusha day for Śvētāmbaras and on the Prathama (first day) of the month of Ashvin for Digambaras. Forgiveness is asked by saying Micchami Dukkadam or Uttam Kshama to each other. It means “If I have caused you offence in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought word or deed, then I seek your forgiveness”.

 

Mahavira
Lord Mahavir, Tirkanth (great teacher) of the Jains

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