Paryushana: What is the Jain festival and how is it observed?

Paryushana is known as a festival of forgiveness

An Indian Jain priest decorates an ancient idol of Lord Mahavir Swami don the eve of Mahavir Janma Vanchan Divas, 15 September 2012. Mahavir Janma Vanchan Divas is the 5th day of Paryushan.
An Indian Jain priest decorates an ancient idol of Lord Mahavir Swami don the eve of Mahavir Janma Vanchan Divas, 15 September 2012. Mahavir Janma Vanchan Divas is the 5th day of Paryushan.

The Jain festival of Paryushana is currently taking place.

Jainism is an ancient Indian religion, one of its defining principles being a commitment to non-violence.

The annual commemoration is regarded as the most holy event of the year for Jains, as those who observe it fast, reflect on the past year and repent for any wrongdoings they may have committed.

Here is everything you need to know.

When is Paryushana this year?

This year Paryushana is taking place from Saturday 15 August until Saturday 22 August.

The festival is commemorated across India in the month of Bhadrapada on the Hindu calendar, which falls between August and September on the Gregorian calendar every year.

How long is it observed for?

There are two major sects in Jainism: the Digambara (meaning sky-clad in Sanksrit) and the Svetambara (meaning white-clad). Monks in the Digambara sect do not wear clothes, while monks in the Svetambara sect wear white clothing, hence their names.

Jains in the Svetambara sect observe Paryushana for eight days, while Jains in the Digambara sect commemorate the holy festival for 10 days.

Furthermore, Jains in the Digambara sect refer to the festival as Das Lakshana, while Jains in the Svetambara sect refer to it as Paryushana, explains the Jaina Education Committee.

“During these eight or ten days, the entire Jain community becomes engrossed in spiritual and religious activities,” the committee states.

What is the significance of the festival and how is it observed?

Paryushana, which means “abiding” or “coming together”, is a festival of forgiveness, with those who observe it taking the time to reflect and repent.

Those who take part traditionally go to temples and impose restrictions on themselves, such as through the act of fasting.

The festival is “marked by strict observance of the 10 cardinal virtues”, the Federation of Jain Associations in North America states.

These are: forgiveness, charity, simplicity, contentment, truthfulness, self-restraint, fasting, detachment, humility and continence, the organisation outlines.

“A Jain is supposed to spend the time focusing inward on their own soul, reflecting on their habits and actions, and affirming their commitments to Jain principles,” states the Young Jains of America.

The final day of the festival, which is known as Samvatsari, involves worshippers making a confession for the sins they have committed during the previous year. The confession is called Samvatsari Pratikramana.

“During the Pratakraman, we repent or ask for forgiveness for various deeds where we might have done wrong. It also reminds us of what is right and what is wrong, so we can attempt to prevent those things from happening again in future,” it states in an article published by the Federation of Jaina.

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