Mahavir Jayanti

Mahavir Jayanti 2016 Date

Tuesday 19 April

Mahavir Jayanti

In 2016, Mahavir Jayanti falls on 19th April and this is a holiday in most of the government organizations. However, in Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh, the official holiday of Mahavir Jayanti has been declared on 20 April 2016.

Mahavir Janma Kalyanak or Mahavir Jayanti is the most important festival of the Jain community who celebrate this day to commemorate birth of Mahavir Swami- the last Tirthankara. Lord Mahavira was born on the thirteenth day of the Chaitra month in Shukla Paksha (rising moon fortnight) in Kundalagrama, Bihar. Although there is no dispute regarding Mahavira’s date of birth, there is a conflict regarding his year of birth among the two sects of Jain community- the Digambars and the Shwetambars. The Digambars believe that Lord Mahavira was born in 615 BC while Shwetambaras believe that he was born in 599 BC.

Lord Mahavira Birth Legend

Lord Mahavira also called Vardhamana, is the last of the Twenty-four Teerthankaras (Jain Spiritual Leaders). He was born to the royal couple, Siddhartha and Priyakarani who was popularly known as Trishala Devi. Mahavir Swami’s father Siddhartha was the king of Kaundinyapura situated on the outskirts of Vaishali (near present day Patna in Bihar). The couple was an ardent follower of the philosophy of Jainism preached by the 23rd Teerthankara- Parswanatha.

Legend of Mahavira Birth

It is believed that Trishala while carrying Mahavira, had certain auspicious dreams that were interpreted by the astrologers as indicating the birth of great man from her womb. The Shwetambar and Digambar sects of the Jain community, however, do not agree on the number of dreams she had. Svetambaras believe Trishala had fourteen dreams while Digambaras say she had sixteen dreams. The astrologers of Siddhartha’s kingdom interpreted on the basis of these dreams that the child about to born would become either an emperor or a Tirthankar.

Mahavir as a child had shown great physical prowess and intellectual acumen too but he renounced the worldly pleasures at the young age of 30. He led a life of intense penance for over twelve years and finally got self-illumined. After attaining knowledge, he preached the truths of life and emphasized `Unity of Life’ forms. His teachings made him God Mahavira for Jain community. He was the great reformer of Jain religion who made it a a scientific and compassionate religion. Mahavir Swami gave five code of conducts that a true Jain must follow. These include:

  • Ahimsa (Non Violence)
  • Satya (Truth)
  • Asteya (Non Stealing)
  • Brama charya (Chastity)
  • Aparigraha (Non- possessiveness)

Festival Celebration on Mahavir Jayanti Day

Mahavir Jayanti Procession

Jain communities living all over India as well as abroad celebrate Mahavir Jayanti by gathering at Lord Mahavira’s temples, bathing the statue of Lord Mahavir with milk, listening to the teachings of their God, observing fasts, and holding procession with the Statue of Mahavira. They also perform charity by donating things as stated by Mahavir Swami. As Rajasthan and Gujarat are the two Indian states where more people belonging to Jain community live, this festival of Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated in these states with more fervor. People from all over come to the temples of Mahavira in Gujarat at Girnar and Palitana. In Mount Abu of Rajasthan too, the Jains come to the famous Delwara temples having a separate temple dedicated to God Mahavir. Pawanpuri in Bihar and the Parasnath temple in Kolkata too observes the day of Mahavir Jayanti with great enthusiasm.

Mahavir Jayanti Rituals

On Mahavir Jayanti day, the Jain temples are decorated with flags. In the morning, the idol of Lord Mahavira is given a ceremonial bath with milk and water known as ‘Abhishek’. The statue of Mahavira is then placed in a cradle and a procession is carried throughout the city. This is a grand procession where assembled Jain devotees of God Mahavira offer milk, rice, fruit, incense, and water etc. to the people participating in the procession. People with images of Mahavira parade through the streets with much pomp and ceremony having drummers, horses, elephants and singers all included in it.

Mahavir Jayanti Festival Celebrations

The Mahavira temples hold spiritual discourses and conduct lecture-sessions to preach the path of virtue and non-violence that Lord Mahavirs showed to all. The Mahavir Jayanti procession ends at a temple, shrine or large communal area where Jain people may pray and meditate.

As Lord Mahavira has placed special stress on ‘Daan’ (Donations), on this festive day, Jainism recommends every Jain to give the following four donations or ‘Daan’

  • Gyan Daan: Donating knowledge by sharing it.
  • Abhay Daan: Donating fearlessness by protecting people from bad actions.
  • Aushad Daan: Donating medicines to the people in need.
  • Ahaar Daan: Donating food to the hungry.

Many Jains prefer to offer silent prayers and to recapitulate the preachings of Mahavira in the form of sermons to the followers on this day.

Traditional Mahavir Jayanti Recipes

Mahavir Jayanti FoodsOn this day of, the traditional Mahavir Jayanti recipes are prepared in Jain households and in community gatherings to celebrate the festival. Some of these traditional recipes include the following

  • Kheer- Sweet dish cooked with rice, milk and sugar.
  • Dahi Chane Ki Subzi- A vegetarian curry dish made with red chana (chick peas) and yogurt.
  • Puri- These are the deep fried small chapati type preparation made with spicy wheat dough having cumin, coriander and turmeric.
  • Baloo Shahi or Badusha- Yet anaother sweet made of Maida (refined flour) and coated in sugar syrup.
  • Boondi Raita- A dish made with yogurt and Boondi (pea sized balls of gram flour) mixed with spices.

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