Mahavir Jayanti festival is one of the most significant festivals of the Indian Jain community. It is renowned for being celebrated with a lot of zeal and excitement to commemorate the philosophies and the birth anniversary of their religious leader – Lord Mahavira.
Besides Buddhism, Jainism is the second major religion that has its roots in ancient India. This religion came into existence because of Mahavira. He is the last known Tirthankar and the official founder of the religion in India. He was born on the 13th day of the month Chaitra (according to the Hindu calendar) in Vaishali (now Bihar), located just a few miles from Patna.
According to Swetambars, the expecting mother (Queen Trisala) had numerous dreams. Later astrologers were brought in to interpret these dreams, as a result, they claimed that the unborn child would grow up to become either an emperor or Tirthankar (one who attains spiritual freedom. These prophecies turned out true and later he announced the 24th Tirthankar.
Mahavira’s early childhood
In his early childhood, Mahavira had developed a very keen interest in meditation and in the core beliefs of Jainism. By the time he turned 30, he had given up the royal life, throne, and his family to seek divine truth, and in the process spent 12 years as a simple ascetic.
During this phase of his life, he exhausted most of his time preaching non-violence and meditating to the common. The remainder of his life was spent preaching the truth of divinity and spiritual truth. Thus, Mahavir Jayanti in India is celebrated annually to commemorate Jain philosophy and Mahavir’s preaching.
The Mahavir Jayanti festival
Mahavir Jayanti is an auspicious event for the entire Jain community in India. Pilgrimages and Jains flock to the temples to offer ‘abhishek’ (or the ceremonial bath), to Mahavira’s idol. During the festival, these temples are bedecked with flags to signify the birth anniversary of Mahavira.
Grand chariot processions are carried out on the streets, with images of the Lord. This procession is followed by innumerable number of followers, who are required to chant prayers. Some of the conventional dishes that are arranged during this festival are offered to the less deserving and poor.
Mahavir Jayanti celebrations also incorporate to preach the philosophy of virtue and spiritual freedom. Some of the important portions from Mahavira’s life are read out to the devotees present in the ceremony. Followers and devotees exchange greetings, food and relive their beloved Lord’s preaching.