Amongst the numerous Jain festivals, the Ashtahnika occupies an important place. It is one of the oldest Jain ritual observances that can be traced.
Since Mahavira, the propagator of Jainism is considered by some people as an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu, the Ashtahnika days are also considered auspicious by the Hindus.
Amongst both the sects of the followers of Mahavira, Shwetamvar and the Digambars, this festival occupies a special place .the Ashtahnika is an eight day observance which takes place in every four months; in Ashadha, which is June and July as per Gregorian calendar, Kartika which is October and November and Phalguna which is February and March. This age-old festival is only next to importance to Dashalakshanaparva.
Etymologically the word Ashta means eight Aanika means every day. As mentioned earlier this unique festival takes place in the months of Aashad, Phalgun and Karthika from the last eight days till the purnima or the full moon day. If the festival happens in the months of Ashad and Phalguna then the ritual is known as Nandishwar Ashtahnika , the legend behind the Nandishwar Ashtahnika is that there are eight islands in the earth, and the eighth one is called Nandishwara and there are fifty two Jain temples in this world which are worshipped by the angels, but where human beings are forbidden to go.
Thus all the puja celebrations are on earth. This Nandishwara island is surrounded three mountain ranges called the Anjana parvat, the Dadhimukha parvat and the Ratikara parvat. Each of these Parvat or the mountain also boasts of a Jain temple each. According to Jain legends, since the four months from Ashada to Kartick, was a rainy season, and gave rise to lot of flora and faunas, the Jain munis did not travel during this period;lest they unknowingly hurt any living creature. Thus during this period they used to stay put in one place and pray for higher self-realization and upliftment of human kind.this is known as Chaudasa Chaturmasa. The normal shravakas during this four months period will practice normal worship and other ritualistic practices at home.
Regarding the Ashtahnika, we get a vivid picture about the ritual from the literary work of Ravisenacharya called Padmapurana . From Padmapurana we get to know that Kind Dasaratha had observed the Parva in the month of Kartick and had sought the blessings of the lord Jina. Again according to another literary work the Shreepalacharithre, Mainasundari had managed to cure leprosy during this auspicious period of Karthika Ashtahnika. The great Acharya Akalankadeva gained glory by defeating the Buddhist monks in this period and managed to propagate the glories of Jainism.
This ritual is more keenly observed the sect of the Digamvaras. The Siddhachakra pooja vidhan puja ritual is also observed during this month. This ritual is a means to gain greater spiritual insight and it is also fabled that the observance of this ritual brings wish fulfillment for the devotees.