Nagpur: Paryushan’, the largest festival of Jains started from Thursday. Thousands of people, young and old took to observing the holy eight days with great fervor across the country.
Even though the festival was in the news for political reasons, the practitioners of this faith have taken to a disciplined following of the ten universal, supreme virtues in one’s daily life for the next few days.
‘Paryushan’, meaning par (all) and ushan (to burn) is an important annual Jain observance that aims at burning or ending all karmas accumulated in a person’s life; Jains try to achieve this through fasting, meditation, soul-searching, self-study, compassion and practicing forgiveness towards fellow beings.
While Shvetambars observe the ritual over eight days, for Digambars, the festival lasts 10 days. According to scriptures, during Paryushan, the practitioners must perform 12 kinds of austerities, including fasting and self-study (svadhyaya).
The purpose of Paryushan is to stay close to your soul, reflect on your shortcomings, seek forgiveness for wrongdoings, remove corruption within and vow to minimise mistakes.
Daily meditation and prayers are a big part of the festival, along with reading the Kalpa Sutra, a scripture which recounts the life of Mahavira, the last tirthankara. It recounts the story of his birth, life and liberation and details of the lives of other 23 tirthankaras.
According to the Jainism, Mahavira, the most widely worshsipped tirthankara, led a socio-spiritual, non-violent movement. He also rejected the caste system and gender bias.
He regarded all species of flora and fauna equally integral and emphasised the concept of aparigraha or non-possessiveness to protect various living beings from human greed.
Teachers of Jainism (the monks or sadhus/sadhvis) give lectures that are based on lives of the tirthankaras and provide knowledge and guidance to living in a contemporary world in tune to the religion.
On the last day of the festival, Shvetambars practice annual confession or ‘Michhami Dukkaddam’; the ritual of seeking forgiveness from one and all. This includes receiving forgiveness and also forgiving everyone.