India is the birth place of many religions. These religions have a long and golden heritage and are followed even today. Religion plays an important role in India’s past, and frames its present.
Jainism is one such religion. Jainism is thought to be born at around 600 BCE. Its main messages are ‘non- violence’ and ‘live and let live’.
In a way, Jainism reflects India’s ideology which has vowed to not engage in violence and avoid it as far as possible. There are many people who follow Jainism throughout the world.
Jainism is a peaceful and vibrant religion whose teachings have inspired many, including the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
Paryushan Parv is one of the most famous and foremost festival of Jainism and is celebrated by the Jain community with much fervour and enthusiasm.
The religion of Jainism is itself divided into two sects. These two sects are Shwetambera or white clad and Digambara or sky clad.
The festival of the Paryushan Parv is equally important for both these sects. While the basic idea behind the festival remains the same, there are some variations regarding the way the festival of Paryushan Parv is celebrated by the two sects in Jainism.
Paryushan Parv falls three times in the year, but it is mainly celebrated in the month of Bhadrapad which falls in the month of September.
Paryushana as celebrated by the Digambara
It is a festival that is celebrated for a period of ten days. The people belonging to the Digambara sect of Jainism also call it as Daslakshan Parv, ‘das’ for the ten days it is celebrated. Each day represents one of the dharma, or righteous teachings.
These ten dharmas are Uttam Kshama, Uttam Mardav, Uttam Aarjav, Uttam Shouch, Uttam Satya, Uttam Sanyam, Uttam Tap, Uttam Tyaag, Uttam Akinchanya and Uttam Brahmacharya.
Every dharma has its own meanings and values. Kshama means to forgive the wrongs committed by others.
Forgiveness is one of the divine teachings which every righteous person needs to observe. Mardav means to let go of one’s ego. Ego only causes destructions in the end.
One needs to be humble and soft towards others. Aarjav means to be true to yourself and not be fake or artificial.
Shouch means let go of ones greed and create an atmosphere of purity around oneself. Satya means to stop lying. Truth always triumphs. Sanyam denotes the dharma of letting go. It means to leave your addictions that hinder your own self growth.
Tap means penance and meditation. It is only through tap that we can control our vices. Tyaag means to give up and avoid things that bound us to an artificial world.
Akinchanya means to let go of our earthly attachments. It is only through that that we can be free.
The material word needs to be let go of. It is only through this that we can be free of attachments that bound us to the never ending cycle of rebirth.
Brahmacharya means to let go of the pleasure one derives from the touch of other things or being.
When one observes this ten- fold path, she/he is on the way to righteousness and thus will be able to attain moksha. Attaining moksha from this cycle of birth and rebirth is the ultimate goal of the soul according to the teachings of Jainism.
Before the festival of the Paryushan Parv begins, the people belonging to the Jain community often clean their houses, especially their kitchen.
Kitchen is the place where we consume the food that enters our body. We become what we eat; therefore what we eat needs to be pure.
Thus, the kitchen of the house needs to be pure and clean. During these ten days, the people who celebrate this festival usually fast and abstain from eating vegetables that are grown underground or food that is made outside their kitchen.
They do not consume food after sunset and only drink boiled and filtered water. They go to temple daily during these ten days and perform Samohic Pooja with music and bhajans.
Later, in the evening, a religiously learned person gives a sermon and tries to nudge them towards the right path.
After this sermon, some functions are held for the people to enjoy. Usually the Das Lazan Parv of Digambara sect of Jainism corresponds with the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrated in India.
After ten days celebration the day of ‘Kshamavani’ is celebrated during which people ask for forgiveness for any negative acts committed by them towards others by saying Uttam Kshama or Kshama Vani. People simply say sorry.
That goes a long way in mending relations between people, which is a noble thing. To forgive and ask for forgiveness is the chief goal.
Some people go a bit further in their fasting and do fasts that involve only drinking water, and sometimes, not drinking water at all.
They do it to show their penance and religious devotion. Such is their faith. After their fasts end, they are honoured by the Jain community to have done such difficult fasts.
Paryushana as celebrated by the Svetambaras
Paryushana as celebrated by Svetambaras is eight day long, but people often fast for a month. Just like Digambaras, Svetambaras abstain from eating vegetables grown underground and eating food made outside the home.
They only consume boiled and filtered water and do not eat after sunset.
Their fasts are difficult and require a lot of will power and control over oneself and one’s senses. The people who do such fasts are truly devoted to their belief and faith.
During these eight days, many functions, Bhajans and sermons are also conducted.
Usually the Paryushan Parva of the Svetambaras falls before that of the Digambaras and does not coincide with the famous festival of Ganesh Chaturthi.
The last day of the festival is known as the ‘Anant Chaturdashi’ and is the most important day of the eight days of the festival.
On this last day of the festival, the people belonging to the Jain community take out a procession or as they call it, a ‘Jaloos’. This procession is full of color and joy.
People walking in the procession chant out Jain teachings and prayers. They sing and dance in the name of the Lord.
They pray to god. In this procession, they walk barefoot. Such is their devotion.
After the eight days of the festival is over, people with each other ‘Micchami Dukkadam’ which is similar in essence to Digambaras ‘Kshama Vani’.
People ask for each other’s forgiveness for any wrong that they intentionally or unintentionally committed. With this, the festival of the Paryushan Parv comes to an end.
Paryushana Parv is a unique festival. While in most festivals, people enjoy and celebrate to their heart’s content, during the festival of the Paryushana Parv of Das Lakshan Parv, the Jain devotees fast and give up on eating, on speaking lies and on their vices.
Thus, the festival reminds people of the right path, and urges them towards it. Paryushana Parv teaches us to speak the truth, to never be violent, to forgive and be humble enough to ask for forgiveness.
The festival teaches us that without Tap or hard- work, determination, grit and perseverance, nothing can be achieved.
The ten Dharmas of Uttam Kshama, Uttam Mardav, Uttam Aarjav, Uttam Shouch , Uttam Satya, Uttam Sanyam ,Uttam Tap, Uttam Tyaag, Uttam Akinchanya and Uttam Brahmacharya each teach us the correct and noble ways to live our lives.
These are lessons that help us throughout our lives.
In this word of materialism and selfishness, festivals such as the Paryushan Parv which teaches us morals and values help us put our lives into perspective and become a better human being. Thus, Paryushan Parv or Das Lakshan Parv is an important festival.