Jain festivals

Jain festivals
   True to their more austere nature and image, the festivals of the Jains (see JAINISM) are much less exuberant celebrations than those of the Hindus. Jains in fact distance themselves from the more raucous festivals of Hinduism such as HOLI. One of their religious days is devoted entirely to silence—Maun Ekadashi, or the eleventh of the month. This observance is celebrated in the bright part of the lunar month Margashirsha (Novem-ber–December). It should be noted that there are also Hindu festivals, such as the Magha Mela at Prayag (ALLAHABAD), which are observed with vows of silence.
   Both the DIGAMBARA and the SHVETAMBARA Jain communities observe the birthday of MAHA-VIRA (Mahavira Jayanti). which takes place in the bright half of the month of Chaitra (March–April). Shvetambaras celebrate “Knowledge Fifth” (Jnana Panchami) on the fifth day of the bright half of Karttika (October–November), while Digambaras celebrate “Scripture Fifth” (Shrutapanchami) on the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Jyeshtha (May–June). In both these festivals books are cleaned and repaired and manuscripts are recopied.
   Most important for the Jain festival cycle is the time called Chaturmas, the four months of the rainy season, when Jain monks traditionally do not travel, so as to prevent injury to water beings and other small creatures that emerge only in the monsoon. Paryushan is an eight-day observance for Shvetambaras during these four months. It is a time of fasting and concentration on purifica-tion for the lay person. One of the central events of Paryushan is the recitation of the Kalpa Sutra by monks. The final day of the festival includes a ceremony of communal confession and asking of forgiveness of creatures for the harm that may have been inflicted over the year.
   The Digambara equivalent to Paryushan is called Dashalaksanaparvan, the Festival of the 10 Religious Virtues. It is conducted in the temples. The TATTVARTHA SUTRA is recited and homilies are delivered relating to the 10 virtues outlined in that text.
   Divali (Dipavali) is celebrated by Jains, but the lights of the festival are intended to commemo-rate the final liberation of Mahavira. As among the Hindus, however, worship of LAKSHMI is per-formed (by laypeople only) in order to promote prosperity.
   Another festival celebrated by both major sects of Jains is Akshayatritiya (Undying Third), celebrated in the bright half of Vaishakha (April–May). It is a commemoration of a gift of “undying merit” to RISHABHA, the first TIRTHANKARA in our half-era.
   Further reading: John E. Cort, Jains in the World: Reli-gious Values and Ideology in India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Paul Dundas, The Jains (Lon-don: Routledge, 1992).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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