Mahavir Jayanti Festival in India

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Mahavir Jayanti Festival in India

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Mahavir Jayanti Festival

Mahavir Jayanti is regarded as the main Jain festival of the year. The festival is celebrated in India to commemorate the birth anniversary of Lord Mahavira. According to the Digambar school of Jainism, Lord Mahavira was born in the year 615 BC, but the Swetambaras believe that He was born in 599 BC. But both the sects believed that Mahavira was the son of Siddhartha and Trisala.

According to the legend, Devananda, wife of a Brahmin named Rishabhdeva, conceived him. The gods, ingeniously, transferred the embryo to the womb of Trisala. According to Swetambara sect the expectant mother was believed to have seen 14 auspicious dreams. And according to Digambara sect it was 16 dreams. The Astrologers interpreted these dreams, stated that the child would be either an emperor or a Teerthankar.

The entire Jain community through out the country celebrates Mahavir Jayanti. On this auspicious day, grand chariot processions with the images of Mahavira are taken out, rich ceremonies are held in the temples, fasts and charities are observed, The Jains observes religious events on this day. They visit the sacred sites and worship the Teerthankars on this day.

The event hold special significance in Gujarat and Rajasthan due to the ancient shrines at Girnar and Palitana In Kolkata, too this festival is celebrated with great fervor at the Parasnath temple. Even at Pawapuri in Bihar Mahavir Jayanti holds a special significance.

Lord mahavir was a great teacher, his philosophies and teachings taught mankind the true path of happiness. His teachings on complete non – violence and importance of austerity showed us the path to achieve salvation and spirituality.

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Indian Jainism

Jainism is regarded as one of the oldest religion in the world. It believes in the cyclical nature of the universe. Jains are the followers of ‘Jinas’, which means conqueror. To conquer love and pleasure, hatred and pain, and thereby freeing his / her vices from the karmas obscuring love, knowledge, perception, truth and ability is called a Jina. Jainism is also a syncretistic religion, which contains many elements similar to both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Regarding the origin of Jainism it dates back before the Pre – historic culture. Since its existence more than 5000 years ago, Jainism has never compromised its core principle of non – violence. Rather it upholds non – violence as its supreme religion in the following words of Ahimsa paramo Dharmah and has strictly emphasized its practice at all levels.

Jainism presents a truly enlightened perspective of equality of souls, irrespective of differing physical forms, ranging from human beings to animals and microscopic living organisms. Humans, alone among living beings, are endowed with all the six senses of seeing, hearing, tasting smelling, touching, and thinking; thus humans are expected to act responsibly towards all life by being compassionate, honest, fearless, forgiving, and rational.

Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated with great fervor and devotion across the country. The festival is celebrated on a large scale in Gujarat and Rajasthan where many people practice Jainism. Celebration can be witnessed at Jain Shrines in Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat, at Pawanpuri in Bihar and at Parasnath temple in Calcutta.

These are some of the places where Mahavir Jayanti is followed with great enthusiasm and joy. Some of the famous Jain Pilgrim centers in India are Parsvanath hill in Bihar, which is the cradle of Jainism.

Named after the 23rd Tirthankar, the Jains believe that most of their 24 Tirthankars attained enlightenment or liberation on this hill. More pilgrims visit the hill during the Mahavir Jayanti festival than at any other time. Another attraction for Jain pilgrims is Mount Girnar near Junagadh in Gujarat.

According to Hindu scriptures, the mountain was the venue of festivals and fairs of the Yadavas. The 22nd Tirthankar, Neminatha, is said to have attained nirvana here. The only important Jain shrine in the South is at Shravana Belgola near Mysore.

There are two hills at the place i.e. Indrabetta and Chandragiri. On the former is the famous huge statue of the Digambara Saint Gomatesvara, which is 17 metres high, in the Dude, in keeping with Digambara traditions.

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Significance of Mahavir Jayanti

Among all the Jain festivals Mahavir Jayanti is regarded as the most important festival of the Jains. It celebrates the birth anniversary of Mahavir. According to the Digambar school of Jainism, Lord Mahavira was born in the year 615 BC, but the Swetambaras believe that He was born in 599 BC. Both sects however agree that he was the son of Siddhartha and Trisala. Legend has it, that He was conceived by Devananda, wife of a Brahmin named Rishabhdeva.

The gods, ingeniously, transferred the embryo to the womb of Trisala. It is said that the expectant mother had sixteen auspicious dreams before the child was born ( only 14 according to the Swetambaras ). Astrologers intepreting these dreams, stated that the child would be either an emperor or a Teerthankar.

This religious event is largely observed by the Jains, by visiting sacred sites and worshipping the Teerthankars. The event holds special significance in Gujarat and Rajasthan, due to the ancient shrines at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat. Mahavira Jayanti is also celebrated at Parasnath temple in Calcutta and at Pawapuri in Bihar.

Mahavir Jayanti, is celebrated during the Hindu lunar month of Chaitra, festivities last for one day. Mahavir Jayanti occurs on the thirteenth day of Chaitra, right around the time of the full moon. Chaitra is equivalent to the months of March and April.

The religion of Jainism does not believe in God as a creator, survivor, and destroyer of the universe. Jainism explains that eight types of vargana and five bodies exist in the universe.

The eight Vargnas ( matters ) are :

  • Audaric vargana – creates the physical body of the living being
  • Tejas vargana – creates the Tejas body to the living being which provides heat and digestion power to the audaric body.
  • Karman vargana – creates Karmic or Causal body.
  • Aharac vargana – creates Aharac body, which is very small in size and is possessed by some unique soul.
  • Vaikriya vargana – creates Vaikriya body, which can be converted into very small or large in size.
  • Breathing vargana – provides breathing.
  • Mind vargana – provides mind for thinking.
  • Speech vargana – provides speech.

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Lord Mahaviras Teachings

If we talk about the teachings and philosophy of Mahavir’s we will see that it is the spiritual power and moral grandeur of his teachings, which impressed the masses. He made religion simple and natural, free from elaborate ritual complexities. His teachings reflected the popular impulse towards internal beauty and harmony of the soul. He did not believed in grandeur and elaborate rituals.

According to Mahavir, attachment to material objects is the primary cause of bondage and is also the cause for greed and jealousy. Jainism denies the existence of God as the creator, sustainer, and the moral governor of the world. According to the Jain dharma, the goal of life is to attain liberation.

The Jain scripture, Jain Agamas Siddhantas, preaches the doctrine of Ahimsa or non-violence. According to this doctrine, all objects have a soul, and should not be hurt or killed. His main teachings involves that it was the greatest sin to cause injury to creatures, and that it was the greatest virtue to renounce worldly possessions and practice strict asceticism. Orthodox Jains could not even take to farming, because it involved tilling which killed earthworms. His message of nonviolence ( Ahimsa ), truth ( Satya ), non – stealing ( Achaurya ), celibacy ( Brahma – charya ), and non – possession ( Aparigraha ) is full of universal compassion.

Mahavir was quite successful in eradicating from human intellect the conception of God as creator, protector, and destroyer. He also denounced the worship of gods and goddesses as a means of salvation. He taught the idea of supremacy of human life and stressed the importance of the positive attitude of life.

Lord Mahavir also preached the gospel of universal love, emphasizing that all living beings, irrespective of their size, shape, and form how spiritually developed or under-developed, are equal and we should love and respect them.

The prayer of Jain Religion is as follows :

Every day Jains bow their heads and say their universal prayer, the Navkar – mantra. All good work and events start with this prayer of salutation and worship.

  • Namo Arihantanam : – I bow to the enlightened souls
  • Namo Siddhanam : – I bow to the liberated souls
  • Namo Ayariyanam : – I bow to religious leaders
  • Namo Uvajjayanam : – I bow to religious teachers
  • Namo Loe Savva Sahunam : – I bow to all monks of the world
  • Eso Panch Namukkaro : – These five salutations are capable of
  • Savva Pava Panasano : destroying all the sins and this is Mangalancha Savvesin the first happiness among all forms
  • Padhamam Havai Mangalam : of happiness.

In the above prayer, Jains do not ask for any favors or material benefits from their Gods, the Tirthankaras or from monks and nuns. They do not pray to a specific Tirthankara or monk by name. By saluting them, Jains receive the inspiration from the five benevolent for the right path of true happiness and total freedom from the misery of life.

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