In Jainism there are two kinds of traditions – festivals and rituals (rites). Rituals are observances like prayers, reading scriptures and other such activities that are held on a daily basis by observant Jains, many of whom actually repeat them more than once in the course of the day.
Contrary to these, festivals are the specific days that are celebrated each year to reinstate some belief or to celebrate a significant event. Jain festivals are generally pivoted around the life and teachings of the Jain Gurus who are known as Tirthankaras. Apart from that Jains are a strong believer of rituals that are aimed to achieve purification of soul and those that lead to salvation. Such observances are of utmost importance too.
Jain festivals are generally somber ones for these are mostly based on the doctrines of renunciation and austerity. People generally pray and meditate on these days in an attempt to connect to one’s subconscious and soul for they believe that this would help them to completely submit themselves to the “Paramatma”.
The calendar system followed by the Jains is a one that shows luni solar pattern. Naturally when Jain festivals are plotted on modern day calendar there are changes in dates from one year to the next. The Panchang followed by the Jains goes by the name of Vira Nirvana Samvat, which is thought of to be the oldest system of such chronology.
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Here is a comprehensive list of the Jain Holiday Calendar for the year 2015 –
- Sri Mahavir Jayanti – Thursday, April 2, 2015 – This day commemorates the birth anniversary of Mahavira who was the last of the Jain Tirthankaras. This day is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the Indian month of Chaitra in the waxing moon phase of the month. People gather at temples for community worships. People also chant hymns that glorify Mahavira. Also there is held a grand chariot procession. Special celebrations are held in the place in Bihar called Kshatriya Kund where it is believed that Mahavir was born.
- Akshaya Tritiya – Tuesday, April 21, 2015 – This is the day when Jains observe complete austerity for they believe that it is on this day that the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabdev, completed successfully a period of austerity. People who observe austerity on this day drink only sugarcane juice. It is observed on the third day of the Indian month of Baisakh in the bright fornight phase. Jains also perform the Varsi Tapa on this day. During this day it is also considered auspicious to make a holy visit to Shatrunjay.
- Samvatsari – September 17, 2015 (Thursday) – This is the day when the 1250 fundamental Jain sutras are chanted for it is considered auspicious to listen to them on this day. Observed annually, this festival is a kind of reminder of all the Sutras that form the platform on which the Jain religion rests. People perform Samvatsarik Pratikraman where they ask for forgiveness for all the sins they may have committed. After performing this ritual the people are expected to free themselves of all kinds of grudges or hatred (Samvatsarik Aradhana).
- Chaturmas (Begins from Ashaadh Chaturdasi and ends on Kartik Poornima) – Literally, the term Chaturmas means Four Months. Jains consider the Indian months of Ashadh and Kartik to be very auspicious. Chaturmas for the Jains is a period when they practice renunciation and austerity. This period begins from the Chaturdasi or the fourteenth day of the Indian month of Ashadh in the waxing phase and ends on Kartik Poornima, the full moon day of the Indian month of Kartik. This is also the time of the year when Jain monks, who are otherwise wandering from one place to another without residing for too long in one place, do not change their place. Jain monks do not encourage any kind of attachment even to a particular place. But this period of Chaturmas is the monsoon time in India, and as such the monks are allowed to stay at one place according to their choice. They however have to follow some rules and rituals which include restrictions of food habit. Many religious observances are held during this period.
- Dashalakshani-Parva – The term literally means the Festival of Ten Virtues. This is an annual festival that the Jains observe in an attempt to uplift the moral virtues and to attain purification of the mind, body and soul. They believe that this ritual would help them in their journey towards salvation, which according to the Jains is the final destination of the journey of life. This is the time when the Jains practice and preach the ten virtues, namely, Kshama (Forgiveness), Mardava (Humility), Aarjaya (Honesty), Shaucha (Purity), Satya (Truth), Sanyam (Restraint), Tapa (Penance), Tyaga (Renunciation), Akinchata (Detachment), and Brahmacharya (Chastity).
- Anata-Chaturdasi – Thursday, September 17, 2015 – This is the fourteenth day (Chaturdasi) of the Indian month of Bhadrapada observed in the bright phase of the lunar cycle. This is considered to be an auspicious day when special prayers are organized. Many places, especially near Jain temples, processions are held to mark the occasion.
- Paryushana-Parva – September 9, 2015 (Wednesday) to September 17, 2015 (Thursday) – This period is considered to be one of the most auspicious phases of the Jain calendar. It is observed in the Indian month of Bhadrapada. Jains, young or old, take to fasting during this period. Apart from that they also perform the Atthai Tapa. People also practice austerity during this period. It is considered auspicious to listen to Kalpasutra, the sacred book for the Jains.
- Ksamavani – Sunday, September 27, 2015 – Literally signifying Forgiveness, this is the day when the Jains observe to seek forgiveness from all and sundry for all the mistakes and sins they may have committed knowingly or unknowingly. They often utter “Michchami Dukkadam” as they seek forgiveness. This is the Jain way to attempt to turn all evils fruitless. This day is observed on the fourth day in the waxing lunar phase of the Indian month of Bhadrapada.
- Mahavira Nirvana and Deewali – Wednesday, November 11, 2015 — This festival is celebrated on Amavas (new moon day) of the Indian month of Kartik or Karthik. It isconsidered to be a very auspicious day for the Jains since they believe that it is on this day that Mahavira attained Nirvana. People often fast to mark the occasion. People also read or listen to the Uttaradhyayan Sutra which is the final message conveyed by Mahavira.
- Gyan (Jnan) Panchami – Monday, November 16, 2015 – As the name suggests, this day, according to the Jains, is very auspicious to acquire knowledge. People often fast on this day as they offer prayers and veneration to Gods. Religious books too are worshipped on this day. People also often recite holy chants and engage in meditation. This day is observed on the fifth day (Panchami) of the waxing moon period of the Indian month of Kartik or Karthik.
- Jain New Year – The Jains begin their New Year on the first day of the Indian month of Kartik or Karrthik. This is the day when the Jains believe that Gautama Swami, who was the chief disciple of Mahavira, attained the Supreme Knowledge. People often observe this day by paying tribute to Lord Jineshwar and to the Tirthankaras, and also by performing a special ritual which is known as Snatra Puja.
- Lokashah Jayanti – Wednesday, November 25, 2015 –This is the day that marks the birth anniversary of Lonka Shah, who was a Jain reformer in the 15th century. He is believed to be the founder of the Sthanakvasi Jain sect which propagate the idea that there is no need for temples or for idol worship.
- Pausha Dashami – This is observed on the tenth day (Dashami) of the Indian month of Paush or Pushya to commemorate the birth anniversary of Bhagwan Parshwanath. Observant Jains often fast for three days during this period. On this day, special prayers are organized to attain spiritual upliftment. At the Jain holy place of Sankheshwar, a grand fair is organized in the honor of the occasion and Jains from all over the world throng the place to attend the fair.
- Maun-agiyara – Monday, December 21, 2015 – This day is considered to be very auspicious by the Jains and is observed on the eleventh day or Ekadasi of the Indian month of Margshirsh in the waxing phase of the lunar cycle. Jains practice austerity for the occasion apart from attending special prayers and mediations.
- Navapad Oli, March 26 (Thursday) to (Saturday) April 4, 2015 – This is a period of nine days which is observed every year to uphold the principle of austerity that the Jains strongly believe in. People often restrict themselves to partaking of a single meal each day during this period that too consisting of simple food. Special prayers known as Siddhachakra Mahapujan or Navpad Mandal Puja are organized.
- Bhai Beej – 13 November, 2015 (Friday) – Jains observe this day with much reverence. It is believed that when Mahavira attained Nirvana, his brother Raja Nandivardhan was engulfed in deep sorrow. To console him and to bring him out of this unhappy frame of mind his sister Sudarshana took him to her place. Since then the Jains have dedicated that day to the brothers, and the sisters invite their brothers to their home on this day to pray for their wellbeing. This is observed on Dwitiya or the second day of the Indian month of Kartik or Karthik in the waxing period of the moon.