Mahavir Jayanti Festival
¤ The Birthday of Lord
a religion, Jainism originated around 5th-6th
century b.c. Its founder Mahavira was born in 540 b.c., in a suburb of
Vaishali called Kundagrama. Vardhamana, popularly known as Mahavira or
the Great Hero, preached his religious doctrine around the same time
as Buddha (founder of Buddhism).
Though both rejected the Hindu caste hierarchies and challenged the
sanctity of the Vedas, their paths veered in different directions.
Buddha chose the Middle Path, a balance between luxury and asceticism
whereas Mahavira was a staunch believer of an extreme form of
asceticism. This might be cited as one of the reasons why Buddhism has
a far greater number of adherents than Jainism did in India. In a
country with a population of over a billion, about 3 million people
¤ Mahavir Jayanti
The birthday of Mahavira, the founder of the Jain sect.is largely
spent in prayer rather than in any ostentatious display of jubilation.
In places with a sizeable Jain population, like Old Delhi and Gujarat,
peaceful processions are organised where children put up skits
depicting different phases of Mahaviras life. This day is
considered to be auspicious enough to undertake new ventures or
organise other social activities.
Central to the Jain philosophy is the doctrine of an extreme form of
self-conquest by virtue of which Jainism is regarded as the most
rigorous ascetic faith in the world. The term Jaina is derived from
jina, which means conqueror. Though accepted as the founder of this
religion, Mahavira is regarded as the 24th and the last
According to the belief of the Jains, all the 24 fordmakers were
successful in acquiring perfect wisdom (kaivalya) by conquering their
desires, thus enabling themselves to sever their bonds with the
material world. The bottom line in the Jain philosophy is that there
is no personal god or even a single impersonal Absolute. The stress is
on the quest of the individual who is regarded as an independent jiva
(soul) towards attainment of self-perfection through the tri-ratna
(three jewels) of Jainism right faith, right knowledge and
¤ Jainism Follows The Path Ahimsa- Non Violence
Jainism caught the popular fancy after Mahatma Gandhi adopted the
all-important credo of ahimsa, or non-violence, a notion central to
the doctrine of the Jains, as the best weapon to combat British
domination. Adhering to its philosophy of extreme asceticism, Jains
take the motto of Ahimsa paramo dharmah (non-violence is the supreme
religion) very seriously. In India there is always a chance that you
might spot a Jain monk with a fine cloth covering his mouth and nose
in order to avoid any involuntary killing of germs. Sometimes he might
carry a small broom in his hand in order to remove any small creature
out of his way because he fears he might unknowingly tread on it. All
devout Jains follow a strictly vegetarian diet.
The Jains have constructed many magnificent and ornate temples in
The two principle sects of Jainism are the Shwetambara (white clad)
and the Digambara (sky clad). Though their ultimate goal remains the
same, a hairs breadth of difference divides the two sects. The
Digambaras believe in emulating the life of Mahavira to the last
detail, going to the extent of shedding their clothes in order to
follow the doctrine of non-violence completely. On the other hand, the
Shvetambaras are moderates and are generally clad in white clothes.
Deliverance for women could be a possibility in this religious order.
As the emphasis is on renunciation the ultimate liberation of
man from the material world, Jain festivals are marked not by pomp and
gaiety but by time spent in quite introspection.
The festival of Deep Diwali is celebrated 10 days after Diwali, the
Hindu festival of lights. Great significance is attached to this
occasion because it commemorates the liberation of Mahavira from the
never-ending cycle of birth and rebirth. An array of lamps is lit in
all the Jain religious shrines to compensate for the darkness caused
by the passing away of the light of the world. Mount
Girnar at Junagadh is worth a visit at this time for a glimpse of the
spectacular display of lamps.