Diwali From The Jaina Point Of View

Posted: 24.10.2011
Updated on: 30.07.2015

JVB London

Diwali has a very special significance in Jainism, just like Buddha Purnima, the date of Buddha's Nirvana, is for Buddhists as Christmas is for Christians. Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankaras, attained Nirvana or Moksha on this day at Pavapuri on Oct. 15, 527 BC, on Chaturdashi of Kartika, as Tilyapannatti of Yativrashaba from the sixth century states:

Mahavira is responsible for establishing the Dharma followed by Jains even today. According to tradition, the chief disciple of Mahavira, Ganadhara Gautam Swami also attained complete knowledge (Kevalgyana) on this day, thus making Diwali one of the most important Jain festivals.

Mahavira attained his nirvana at the dawn of the amavasya (new moon). According to the Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BC, many gods were present there, illuminating the darkness. The following night was pitch black without the light of the gods or the moon. Included were 16 Gana-kings, 9 Malla and 9 Lichchhavi, of Kasi and Kosal.

Dipavali was first mentioned in Jain books as the date of the nirvana of Mahavira. In fact, the oldest reference to Diwali is a related word, dipalikaya, which occurs in Harivamsha-Purana, written by Acharya Jinasena and composed in the Shaka Samvat era in the year 705.

The way Jains celebrate Diwali is different in many respects. There is a note of asceticism in whatever the Jains do, and the celebration of Diwali is not an exception. The Jains celebrate Diwali during the month of Kartik for three days. During this period, among the Shvetambaras, devoted Jains observe fasting and chant the Uttaradhyayan Sutra, which contain the final pravachans of Lord Mahavira, and meditate upon him. They do not indulge in celebration and spending in material goods. They observe fast for two days (often including Paushadh - living life of monks) during kali chaudas and Diwali remembering Mahavirswamis last Desna/preaching which was for 16 por/ 2 days which included Uttaradhyan and Vipak Sutra. This desna was attended by the Kings of 18 countries (Rajyas). Jains say Mangal Varshabhinandan instead of Sal Mubarak or Happy New Year or Happy Diwali because Jaina Philosophy firmly believes in Karvu, Karavu, Anumodvu. He believes in not indulging himself, not assisting others in indulging and not encouraging others in indulging in worldly pleasures.

Vira Nirvana Samvat:

The Jain year starts with Pratipada following Diwali. Vira Nirvana Samvat 2534 starts with Diwali 2007. The Jain businesspeople traditionally started their accounting year from Diwali. The relationship between the Vir and Shaka era is given in Titthogali Painnaya and Dhavalaa by Acharya


Thus the Nirvana occurred 605 years and 5 months before the Saka era.
On 21 October 1974 the 2500th Nirvana Mahotsava was celebrated by all the Jain throughout India.

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