Jain Holiday calendar revolves around traditions that can be classified into two types – one is the festival and the other is the rites or rituals.

Devout Jains observe some such rites and rituals in their daily course of like, for example, praying or reading scriptures, and in fact many of them perform these multiple times during the course of a day. On the other hand festivals are the specified days that commemorate some event or belief and are celebrated every year.

Jain Festivals are mostly centered round the life of the Jain Tirthankaras (teachers or Guru) and the principals that they had laid down. Alongside, the Jains also believe very strongly in purification of soul so as to attain salvation – such observances and rites are also of high significance.

Jain festivals are generally solemn occasions and are mostly related to doctrines of austerity, renunciation etc. Jain principles teach people to connect to one’s soul and subconscious and find ways that would help them in completely surrendering themselves to the Lord whom they call the “Paramatma”. Prayers, reading scripts, chanting humns and meditation are common form of ritualistic Jain prayers.

The Jain festivals follow a luni solar calendar system. The Jain almanac goes by the name of Vira Nirvana Samvat and it is considered to be one of the oldest methods of chronicling such events. However, when plotted against the modern day Gregorian calendar, the dates keep changing from one year to the next. For your convenience we have given the modern day dates.

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Here is a comprehensive yet concise list of the Jain Festivals in the manner of a Jain Holiday Calendar for the year 2016 –

  • Sri Mahavir Jayanti – Tuesday, April 19, 2016 – This is a very important day for the Jains for it marks the birth anniversary of Mahavira, who was the last Tirthankara of the Jains. Thousands of people flock Kshatriya Kund, a place in Bihar (India) where Mahavira is believed to have been born. Prayer programs are organized at all temples. In some places Chariot processions too are organized for. People read about the life and teachings of Mahavira and sing hymns in his praise.

  • Akshaya Tritiya – Monday, May 09, 2016 – This is a day when the Jains practice complete austerity. This is an auspicious day for the Jains since it is believed that on this day Tirthankara, Rishabdev, the first Tirthankara of the Jains, could successfully accomplish austerity. Varsi Tapa is also performed on this day. It is also considered auspicious to visit Shatrunjay, a holy place for the Jains, on this auspicious occasion. .

  • Samvatsari – September 06, 2016 (Tuesday) – This is the day that is considered to be extremely auspicious by the Jains. This is the day when they read or listen to all the 1250 Sutras or teachings that are considered to be the Pillars of the Jain religion and faith. This day kind of acts as a yearly reminder to the Jains of all the principles that they are supposed to follow in their life. The day begins by seeking forgiveness in a ritualistic manner for all the sins that they may have committed, whether knowingly or unknowingly. After this ritual the soul becomes free of any grudge or hatred.

  • Chaturmas -- Begins from Ashaadh Chaturdasi (Friday, July 15) and ends on Kartik Poornima (Monday, November 14) – The term Chaturmas when literally translated means “Four Months”. This signifies a period of four months which are considered to be extremely auspicious by the Jains. This is also the time when people adhere to certain rules, rituals and rites. However, these four months have special significance for the Jain Monks. The Jain monks are not allowed to develop any attachment to any person or object or even place. As such they lead a wandering life moving frequently from one place to the other. Now this Chatusmas period coincides with the monsoon season in India. During the monsoon season it becomes increasingly difficult for the Jain Monks to continue their life of Wanderlust. Because of this they are allowed to stay in one place during this period of time. However, they have to adhere to some rules and rituals during the period.

  • Anata-Chaturdasi – Thursday, September 15, 2016 – This is an extremely auspicious day according to the Jains and they observe it with special prayers and meditation. At some Jain temples processions are organized in mark of the occasion.

  • Paryushana-Parva – August 30, 2016 (Tuesday) to September 06, 2016 (Tuesday) – This is one of the most auspicious periods of time according to the traditional Jain calendar. People adhering to the Jain faith take to fasting during this time. Performing the Atthai Tapa is a common custom during this period. This is a period of austerity for the Jains. Another custom during this time is to read or listen to Kalpasutra, which is the sacred book for the Jains.

  • Ksamavani – Friday, September 16, 2016 – This is the day when the Jains aspire to turn all evils ineffective. The term when literally translated means “Forgiveness”. This is the day when people ask for forgiveness for all sins or evils that they may have committed knowingly or unknowingly. It is a common custom to utter “Michchami Dukkadam” while seeking forgiveness. This is their way of self correction and this rectification consequently leads to purification of the soul.

  • Mahavira Nirvana and Deewali – Sunday, October 30, 2016 -- This day is considered to be an extremely auspicious day, for it is believed by the people adhering to Jainism that on this day Mahavira attained Nirvana. It is a common custom to recite the  Uttaradhyayan Sutra on this day, which is the final message imparted by Mahavira.

  • Gyan (Jnan) Panchami – Saturday, November 05, 2016 – This is an extremely auspicious day for the Jains, and they consider this day to be idea to acquire knowledge (Gyan/ Jnan). It is a common practice to worship the religious books, manuscripts and scriptures on this day. People read the religious texts, chant hymns and practice meditation.

  • Jain New Year – Monday, October 31, 2016 – The Jain traditional New Year commemorates from the first day of the Indian month of Kartik. This is considered to be an auspicious day for the Jains for they believe that it is on this day that the Chief Disciple of Mahavira, Gautama Swami attained Enlightenment. Snatra Puja is done on this day to mark the occasion.

  • Pausha Dashami – Tuesday, January 19, 2016 – This day commemorates the birth of Bhagwan Parshwanath. During this period many Jain people observe a fast for a period of three days. People observe special prayers in hope of spiritual upliftment of the soul. On this occasion a special fair is organized each year at Sankheshwar, which is a holy place for the Jains, and people from all over the world congregate to attend the same.

  • Maun-agiyara – Saturday, December 10, 2016 – This day is believed to be extremely auspicious by the Jains and they practice austerity on this day. Special prayers take place.

  • Navapad Oli, April 13 (Wednesday) to (Friday) April 22, 2016 – This is a nine day period of austerity when people observe special prayer rituals, and often restrict themselves to having a single meal in a day.

  • Bhai Beej – Tuesday, November 01, 2016 – This is observed as a day of bonding between brothers and sisters. This stems from the belief that when Mahavira attained Nirvana his brother became extremely unhappy. To make him feel better their sister invited the latter to her place. On this day sisters pray for the wellbeing and longevity of their brother(s).