Jain Vidya (2) ► Jain Festivals

Posted: 13.01.2018

Festivals are the symbols of the past. Considering a particular date historical and organizing a celebration on that date is called a festival. The Jains have mainly four festivals-Akshaya tritiya, Paryushana, Mahavira Jayanti and Deepavali.

1. Akshaya Tritiya (Aakha Teej):

It is a historical festival of the Jain community. On this day Lord Rishabhdeva, the first Tirthankar of the Jains, completed his one year and forty days' fast by accepting alms from one of his disciples. The lord abandoned the Karma Yuga i.e. the age of action and turned towards the Dharma Yuga i.e. age of dharma. He got intiated into monkhood accepted ascetic vows. The people of the age were not familiar with the ascetic rules of conduct. The lord visited many households for alms but he couldn't get it as per the norms of an ascetic's resolve because the people were ignorant about the system of giving food to a monk.

A year passed in wandering thus. Till then he neither got a piece of bread to eat nor water to drink. The lord continued to walk and in the end reached Hastinapur (the modern Delhi) which was ruled by his grandson Somaprabha. As usual on that day he went from one household to another for alms.The people were oveijoyed with his coming. Some brought elephants and the others brought horses and ornaments to offer to the lord but the lord declined to accept any of them remaining reactionless, he moved forward. How could anyone think of offering an unimportant thing like a piece of bread to a universal father?

Shreyans kumar-the grandson of the emperor bahubali- was sitting in the balcony of his magnificient palace. He had dreamt the night before that he consecrated the mount meru with nectar. He was pondering over his unique dream. Suddenly he caught sight of the Lord Rishabh, who was passing by the palace at the time. The Lord Rishabha was his grandfather in worldly relationship but he couldn't recognize him. Even in his previous life, he was intimately connected with the lord. The impressionistic vibrations of his previous life awakened in him natural affection. He reflected deeply and attained Jatismriti jnana (a form of knowledge that makes a person remember his past life). As soon as he realized the real situation, he ran barefoot towards the direction of the lord. He fell prostrate at his feet and began to urge him for the acceptance of alms. When Shrenyas kumar came to know that the lord couldn't get the food after he had accepted ascetic life, his heart was filled with sorrow.

The lord accepted to his persuasion and prayer and visited his palace. The people were getting anxious to know what would happen next. That day was Vaisakh Sukla Tritiya-a day of the Hindi calendar. In those days, the day of Tritiya was considered auspicious for launching the next phase of cultivation. The king used to receive many agricultural products as gifts. That day pitchers of juice were received in the palace. The prince looked around but couldn't find any object worthy of alms. He saw the pitchers of sugarcane juice lying in a corner. He found that the only object available at present that an ascetic can accept as alms was sugarcane juice. Kumar became anxious to offer alms in the form of the juice of the sugarcane but the lord had no bowl so he joined his two palms together clubbing finger together without letting any holes remain in it and placed the cup-shaped hollow of his palms near his lips. Shreyans kumar's dream came true. In a state of exhilaration, he offered the juice of sugarcane in the alms to the lord. The lord consumed as much juice as was necessary. It was now that the people realized the secret of the lord's going from one household to the other. From that day, the significance of Tritiya increased manifold and it came to be known as akshaya tritiya. Lord Rishabha was the founder of both karma yuga (the age of action) and dharma yuga (the age of dharma). People have deep faith in his practice of austerities. His followers-shravaks and shravikas-observe Varshitapa (alternate day fasting for one year) in a large number. Lord Rishabha observed continuous fast for more than a year and in the present age, the people observe fast on alternate days for one year. The completion of this fasting is celebrated in an environment of great celebration. Some people complete their fasting at shatrunjaya or other jain shrines, while others do in the presence of their spiritual masters.

2. Paryushan - Paryushan parva is the greatest festival of religious worship in the Jaina tradition. This festival is observed for eight contionuous days. Hence it is also called Astha-anhika parva. This festival begins on Bhadrava Krishna Trayodashi and comes to an end on Bhadrava shukla panchmi. In this festival, the endeavours like tapasya (penance), study of scriptures, meditation etc. self purifying activities are undertaken. The last day of this festival is called Samvatsari- the great yearly festival. To ask for forgiveness of one's mistakes that may have been committed during the preceding year and forgive others- is its self-extent distinguished characteristic. This festival is a messenger of friendship and purity. In the Digambar tradition, this very festival is celebrated for ten days from Bhadrava shukla panchami to chaturdashi. In each day, one special spiritual practice symbolizing one characteristic out of the ten characteristics of dharma is observed. Hence this festival is also called dasalakshana parva.

3. Mahavira Jayanti (Birth day of Lord Mahavira): Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of the Jain tradition- was born on Chaitra Shukla Triyodasi.The jains observe this day as the Mahavira's birth day with great enthusiasm. The central governments as well as the state goverments have declared Mahavira jayanti as a public holiday.

4. Deepawali

This festival related to lord Mahavira's nirvana. Nirvana meant liberation from the bondings of wordly existence and attaining the pure state of the self through self realization Lord Mahavira attained nirvana on Kartika Krishna Amavasya. Many kings came to Pava to celebrate lord's charamotsava-the festival of emancipation. They lit lamps in houses and thus observed the lord's departure from this world. Today, the same tradition is followed and Deepamalika is celebrated by lighting lamps in houses.

Questions:-

  1. From whom did the Lord Rishabhadeva receive alms to end his fasting?
  2. In which month does Akshaya Tritiya fall?
  3. Why is it called Akshaya Tritiya?
  4. In which tithi and which month does Mahavira jayanti celebrated?
  5. Why is Deepmalika celebrated?
  6. For how many days Paryushan parva is observed?
  7. What is called the last day of Paryushan parva?
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Source/Info

Title: Jain Vidya (2)
Editor: Muni Sumermal (Sudarshan)
Translation: Dr. Samani Shashi Pragya
Publisher: Samana Sanskriti Sankaya, Jain Vishwa Bharati, Ladnun
20th Edition: 2013