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The History and Significance of Mahavir Jayanti

The History and Significance of Mahavir Jayanti

The beauty of India is that there are countless festivals, each with its significance steeped in history and culture. Among the many festivals, Mahavir Jayanti is a key religious festival held in India. A festival celebrated by the Jain community with a lot of pomp and show to commemorate the birth and teachings of the revered sage and the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, Lord Mahavira.

Jainism is all about focusing on world peace and harmony so that no living being comes to any harm. The Jains have a core belief system where they believe that their religion combines eternal (sanatan) religion (dharma) with the Tirthankaras guiding the tenets of the Jain cosmology.

About Mahavir Jayanti

About Mahavir Jayanti

Every year, Mahavir Jayanti is the day that celebrates Lord Mahavir’s preachings and the nitty gritty of the Jain philosophy. The people belonging to the Jain community come together to offer prayers and visit the temples to pay their homage. Devotees adorn their deities with fresh flowers and flags to celebrate Mahavir Jayanti.

Lord Mahavira's teachings were not restricted to India only but all over the world. Mahavir Jayanti celebrates Lord Mahavira's birth and marks the Indian Calendar as one of the most auspicious days. The sage's teachings impacted many individuals during his time. He made Jainism a complexity-free and ritual-free religion so that more and more could follow his path. His teachings left an enormous impact on his disciples, and he continues to be there in the hearts of his followers.

Date and Timing (Muhurat) of Mahaveer Jayanti

When is Mahavir Jayanti celebrated? It is celebrated in April. Mahavir Jayanti is a reminder of non-violence and preaching of love and respect for all living beings. On this auspicious day, there is a long procession with the idol of Lord Mahavira in the Rath Yatra. They devote their time to visiting temples and reciting religious rhymes seeking blessings from divinity. True devotees also try to do charity work for the good of society.

Mahavir Jayanti tithi falls on Monday, April 3, 2023
The Trayodashi Tithi will begin - at 06:24 AM on Apr 03, 2023
Trayodashi Tithi will end - at 08:05 AM on Apr 04, 2023

Significance of Mahavir Jayanti

Significance of Mahavir Jayanti

As per the religious scripts, Lord Mahavira's birth took place on the 13th day of the waxing moon on the Chaitra month in the then Kundalagrama place now known as Kundalpur in Bihar, a stone’s throw away from Patna. Although there is a dispute on Mahavira’s birth date, as per the Swetambar Jains, Mahavira was born in 599 BC, however, according to the Digambar Jains, his birth year is 615 BC. He was christened as Vardhahman by his parents, father King Siddhartha, and mother Queen Trisala.

Background and History of Lord Mahavir

According to legends, Lord Mahavir was born to Devananda, Brahmin Rishabhdeva’s wife. However, as a stroke of miracle, the embryo was transferred to Trisala. During her pregnancy period, Trisala had 16 vivid dreams before the birth of Mahavir, which astrologers believed was the birth of a great soul. True to the belief of the wise men, the child went on to become a great man.

While Lord Mahavir settled into blissful domesticity in the initial period of his life. Soon he left his kingdom to attain greater truth and Nirvana. He gave up all worldly pleasures and turned an ascetic at 30 years of age. He taught the world about the five-fold path after meditating under an Asoka tree for 12 years.

Life of Lord Mahavira

Life of Lord Mahavira

Lord Mahavira, went through a life of extreme penance and endured many hardships before he attained enlightenment. Although people kept throwing sticks, fruits, and potsherds at him to disrupt his meditation, he still went on. He continued to meditate relentlessly braving the chilly winters and the scorching sun. Finally, he got enlightenment in the 13th year of his enlightenment and went on to attain supreme knowledge or the Kevala Jnana. After attaining supreme knowledge Mahavira continued to travel far and wide to places such as Sravasti, Mithila, Vaisali, Champa, and Rajagriha and bestow his teachings to Kings and common people. Powerful kings such as Bimbisara and Ajatasatru offered their respects to him.

Kings and people held him in deep veneration, they listened to him in rapt attention. He breathed his last at Pava, near the city of Rajgriha, when he was just 72 years old. His teachings were enough to help people reach a higher religious state.

The Origin of Jainism

Jainism is an ancient religion, that leads a pathway to liberation and enlightenment through being compassionate to fellow creatures and nonviolent to all living creatures. It came into the spotlight in the 6th century B.C. as Lord Mahavira started propagating the religion. There were 24 teachers, propagating the religion, and the final teacher among them was Lord Mahavira. The word “Jain” or “Jaina” means “Conquerer.” The 24 teachers also known as Tirthankaras attained Moksha and preached to people.

Importance of Lord Mahavira

As per the Swetambar community’s beliefs, Mahavira’s mother had dreams (14,) and as the astrologers prophesied, Mahavira would either become a king or a sage (Tirthankara). When Mahavira reached 30, he sacrificed his familial life in the search of truth. He spent 12 years as an ascetic. During this time, he preached non-violence and treated everyone with reverence. He got his name “Mahavira” after showing exceptional skills in controlling the senses. It is widely belied that when Mahavira was 72, he attained enlightenment (Nirvana).

Mahavira gave Jainism the shape of what it is today, no wonder he is known as the “founder of Jainism". Mahavira is regarded as the most recent and the last Tirthankara. He is more of a reformer and introduced a way of life rather than finding a new faith.

Overview of Jain philosophy

Jainism asserts that every soul can achieve perfection if it fixedly walks in that direction. The soul aims for spiritual emancipation and needs to find the causes that stop in the way of its emancipation. As per the tenets of Jainism, the universe is divided into two categories, Jiva (the soul) and Ajiva (non-soul). Jainism has made a key contribution to Indian culture, philosophy, and spirituality.

Key Beliefs and Principles

The ultimate aim of a Jain is to get rid of the karma in the soul so that they can end this cycle. Karma is to follow certain rules which are based on certain principles namely,

  • Ahimsa – To practice non-violence.
  • Satya - To speak nothing but the truth.
  • Asteya - To stay away from stealing.
  • Brahmacharya - To stay away from adultery.
  • Aparigraha - To have little attachment to possessions.

Jains also uphold these primary beliefs with the practice of key principles such as non-violence in thoughts, deeds, and actions.

Worship and Celebration

Mahavir Jayanti celebration has Jain temples bedecked in beautiful flags and other finery. While food is prepared, much of it is offered to the poor. Donations are approved, to stop animals from getting slaughtered. The Jains celebrate the festival with prayers and meditation to the divinity. Here the teaching of Ahimsa is taught to the people, reiterating Lord Mahavira's message of Ahiṃsā or non-violence.

The Celebration of Jayanti All Over India

Mahavir Jayanti is a reminder of non-violence, and preached love and respect for all living beings. On this auspicious day, there is a long procession with the idol of Lord Mahavira in the Rath Yatra. They devote their time to visiting temples and reciting religious rhymes seeking blessings from divinity. True devotees also try to do charity work for the good of society.

To celebrate Mahavir Jayanti 2023, people belonging to the Jain community, observe a fast to offer prayers. They also visit the Jain temples, and there are processions carrying the idol of Lord Mahavira in a chariot. People chant religious hymns while walking march. People also carry Lord Mahavir in his infant form on their heads while singing songs.

The Rituals Associated With Mahavir Jayanti

The Rituals Associated With Mahavir Jayanti

Jains continue to participate in mass prayers and take part in charitable works on this auspicious day. They also observe fast and visit Jain temples to seek Lord Mahavira’s blessings. The temples also prepare vegetarian foods without onions and garlic, as per the practice of Jains. Devotees prepare a clean Satvik diet without harming any living creatures.

On the day of the festival, the idol of Mahavira is bathed in the morning in a procedure called “Abhishek.” After the elaborate bath ceremony, the idol is placed in the cradle and carried in the procession held by eager devotees. There is the accompaniment of drummers, elephants, horses, singers, and lamps. The divine march finally rounds off at a temple or shrine where they pay homage to the devotees.

The Jain communities believe in avoiding overt exhibitionism and embracing simplicity, and many ceremonies are performed. One of the most enduring rituals of Mahavir Jayanti is to visit many temples and pay homage to Tirthankar statues. Devotees pray to the deity with fruits, flowers, rice, and milk.

Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated with prayers and fasting. The holiday is especially popular all over India especially, in the eastern state of Bihar, where Mahavira was born near present-day Patna, and in Parasnatha temple, Calcutta.

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