India - Mahavir Jayanti

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Mahavir Jayanti

India has produced many great saints and spiritual leaders. The days commemorating the birthdays or the incidents connected with the lives of these great and holy sons of the soil are considered holy. Both the sects of Jain, Digambar (sky-clad) and the Shvetambar (white-clad) celebrate the thirteenth day of the bright half of the Chaitra month (March-April) as the birthday of their God, Lord Mahavira.

Lord Mahavir gave away all his wealth and possessions and owned nothing. He underlined the importance of austerity and complete non-violence as the essential means of spiritual advancement and salvation.

The entire Jain community, throughout the country, observes the birth anniversary of Lord Mahavira. They celebrate it by visiting sacred sites and worshipping the Teerthankars. Those who follow Jainism travel to renowned Jain shrines to celebrate Mahavir Jayanti. The event holds special significance in Gujarat and Rajasthan, due to the ancient shrines situated there and also because here the Jains are relatively in greater number than in other states. In Gujarat, the shrines are located at Girnar and Palitana. Mahavirji in Rajasthan and Parasnath in Calcutta are renowned shrines.

Vaishali, where Lord Mahavira was born hosts a majestic celebration in his honor.
Temples are decorated with colorful flags to mark the birthday of Lord Mahavira. Each locality holds a traditional bath (abhishek) for a deity of Lord Mahavira. After the bath the deity is carried in an elaborate procession throughout the region. There are drummers, horses, elephants, singers and lamps in the procession. The atmosphere is of joyousness and celebrations. Well dressed women and children sing in the praise of the Lord to the continuous cheering of the people. The atmosphere is pure and holy yet electrifying. Depending on the region, the parade ends at a temple, shrine or large communal area where people pray and meditate.

Donations made during Mahavir Jayanti are in the form of food, medicines or knowledge. Fasts and charities are observed, Jain scriptures are read, and at some places grand fairs are set up.

Jains all over the world celebrate the birth of their Lord by fasting on this day. In most homes, delicious dishes, especially sweets are prepared as a means of expressing joy. In this way another unique festival of India is celebrated in its own special and distinct way.


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