Mahavir Jayanti 2023: Date, history, significance, celebration of Jain festival
Mahavir Jayanti 2023: Here's all you need to know about the date, history, significance and celebration of one of the most important festivals in Jainism
Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal (sanatan) religion (dharma) with the tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain cosmology and Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated by the community to mark the birth anniversary of the founder of Jainism or Mahavir Janma Kalyanak, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. Jainism lays focuses on world peace and harmony such that no or minimal harm is brought to living creatures where Parasparopagraho Jīvānām (the function of souls is to help one another) is the motto of Jainism, while Ṇamōkāra mantra is the most common and basic prayer in Jainism and Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated as one of the most auspicious festivals of the Jain community to observe peace, harmony and to spread the teachings of Mahavira.
This year, Mahavir Jayanti will be celebrated on Tuesday April 4, 2023.
History and significance:
It was on the 13th day in the month of Chaitra or the 13th day of waxing moon in the Chaitra month of Hindu calendar, that Mahavir was born in Kundalagrama in Bihar. He was born as the son of to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala. His birth date, however, is sometimes debatable among the Swetambar Jains, according to whom he was born in 599 BC, while the Digambar Jains believe he took birth in 615 BC.
When he was 30 years old, Mahavir renounced his crown, abandoned all his worldly possessions in search of a spiritual path. He spent 12 years in exile as an ascetic, away from all worldly pleasures and meditated and led an austere life for around 12 years before attaining ‘Kevala Jnana’ or omniscience hence, was also called Sage Vardhamana and preached non-violence (ahimsa).
Mahavir believed in a preached ahimsa or non-violence, satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity) and aparigraha (non-attachment). Mahavir’s teachings were put together by his main disciple, Indrabhuti Gautama. He got his name for his exceptional control over his senses. Seeking truth and spiritual freedom, he went attained enlightenment (Nirvana) at the age of 72.
On Mahavir Jayanti, a procession takes place with Mahavir’s idol on a chariot and people recite religious songs on the way. On this day, the Jains around the world celebrate by doing charity, saying prayers and observing fasts, visiting Jain temples, conducting mass prayers and meditating.
The celebrations include eating satvik food, which includes freshly prepared vegetarian meals made without onion or garlic. Satvik diets do not use these two root vegetables and are prepared with minimum harm to living creatures.
Religious processions (rath yatra) are carried out on Mahavir Jayanti. Jain temples are decorated with flags and offerings are given to the poor and needy. Donations are also made in order to contribute towards saving animals from slaughter.