Mahavir Jayanti celebrates the birth of Lord Mahavira on the 13th day of the rising moon in the Hindu month of Chaitra. It is an important celebration among the Jains. It is a public holiday in India so schools and government businesses remain closed.
Lord Mahavira is the 24th and last Tirthankara (In Jainism, Tirthankaras are spiritual teachers who are believed to have conquered the cycle of death and rebirth. They are free from all sorts of attachments and emotions such as anger, pride, and greed).
Mahavir Jayanti History
Lord Mahavira, also called Vardhamana Mahavira, was born to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala in Kundalagrama, Bihar on the 13th day of the rising moon in the Chaitra month according to the Hindu calendar.
The two sects of Jainism, the Digambara and Svetambara, hold different beliefs regarding the birth year of Lord Mahavira. While the former claims it to be 615 BC, the latter believes it was 599 BC.
His parents bought him up with great care and comfort in their royal home. Due to his upbringing, Mahavira did not witness the sufferings and ugly truths of the world. However, things changed when he lost his parents at the age of 28. He became very lonely and finally started realizing the actual way the world works.
This is why, at the age of thirty, Mahavira decided to renounce all worldly pleasures including the title of king to embark on a spiritual journey and find answers to all his questions. Although his elder brother advised against it, he did not turn back. He became a monk and was away for 12 years.
During this period, he meditated and practiced silence and penance. He led a strict life where he only slept for three hours a day, and quit food and clothing as he only wrapped a small piece of cloth around himself. Due to the life he led and the experiences he gathered, he was able to gain complete control over his senses and emotions. He freed himself from emotions such as anger, happiness, and sadness and achieved a higher level of satisfaction from within. He finally achieved 'Nirvana' or enlightenment at the age of 72.
Mahavir Jayanti Celebration
Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated grandly in India.
- On this day, processions called 'Rath Yatra' are carried out. In this procession, Lord Mahavira's idol is placed on a chariot which is decorated and taken around the streets while people sing devotional songs.
- Jains also visit temples, which are decorated with flags, for prayers and blessings. The ceremonial bath called 'abhishek' is performed where people bathe Mahavira's idol with milk and beautify it with new jewelry and clothes. They also bring many fruits, sweets, and other offerings to seek blessings.
- On this day, people eat satvik food meaning fresh vegetarian food without onion or garlic.
- Many people in the Jain community fast and meditate for the purification of their souls. They also donate money, food, and clothing to the poor and needy.