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MAHAVIR JAYANTI: REFLECTING ON MAHAVIR'S THOUGHTS

Date of Mahavir Jayanthi celebration: April 11, 2007

Places of Merriment: Gujarat and Rajasthan

Mahavira Jayanti Festival Information

For the Jains community, Mahavir Jayanti is the most significant and important festival. It is the birthday anniversary of Jain prophetóLord Mahavira. It usually falls on the thirteenth day of the bright half of the Chaitra month. According to the Georgian calendar, it falls anytime between March and April.

Who and Where is Mahavira Jayanthi Commemorated?

Considered as one of the biggest Jain festivals, traditionally, it is Digambar (sky-clad) and Shvetambar (white clad) Jains that observe this festival. The majority of the Jain population is found in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Mahavir Jayanti is widely celebrated in ancient shrines at Girnar and Palitana (Gujarat), Parasnath temple (Calcutta), and Pawapuri and Vaishali (Bihar) and Mahavirji (Rajasthan).

Who is Lord Mahavira?

Mahavira, son of King Siddhartha and Priyakarani, is the last one in the galaxy of Twenty-four Teerthankaras (Jain Prophets). Born in 599 BC, he is acclaimed as India's renowned prophet of peace and social transformation.

Mahavir was not the founder of Jainism. He reformed the Jain doctrines so he was more of a reformer than a founder. During his growing up days as a prince, he renounced the pleasures and luxuries of the palace. He undertook a life of intense penance for more than twelve years. Mahavira introduced the true concept of Dharma. He looked around and found the society corrupted by the distortions. Mahavira, with his penetrating insight born out of self-realization, struck mercilessly at these perversions. He simplified the religious procedures and concentrated on righteous conduct.

Mahavira initiated a simple five-fold path for the householders:

How is Mahavir Jayanti Commemorated?

The major emphasis of Mahavir Jayanti is renunciation. On this day, there are religious prayers, where Jains reflect on the teachings of Mahavira. Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated on a grand scale with processions, fast, charities, fairs and religious ceremonies at the Jain shrines. On this day, grand processions are carried out with life size bust of Lord Mahavira all across India. The Jain shrines are decorated with flags. Early in the morning, the idol of Mahavira is given a ceremonial bath called 'abhishek'. He is then placed in a cradle for a grand procession around the neighborhood. During this procession, devotees offer milk, rice, fruit, incense, lamps and water to the tirthankar. Special skits are performed enacting important incidents from the life of Lord Mahavira.

Enlightening lectures on the life of Lord Mahavira and its teachings by well-known Jain scholars. On this day, people seek salvation by way of meditation and prayers. A donation drive is organized to save slaughter of cows. Special social service programmes are organized at various charitable organizations. The popular Mahavir Jayanti fair is organized at 'Mahavir Temple' in an enclosure known as Katala. The temple of Mahavirji also has images of other Jain tirthankaras. It has an idol of Bhairon, which is installed as the guardian of the shrine at the door. There is a main attraction is stambha (tower of glory) made of marble in front of the temple.