Varshitap is an important ritual amongst the Jains. Varishtap starts on the eighth day of the Amavasya period or the dark half of the lunar month of Falgun and ends on the third day of the first half of the month of Vaisakha, on the day of Akshaya Tritiya. The duration of Varshitap is around thirteen months and thirteen days.
- Legend behind Varshitap-
The story behind the Varshitap goes in the manner that when Lord Rishabdev was striving to attain enlightenment, he meditated for a period of six months without any food. Upon attaining the enlightenment or what is known as the Kevalya Gyana, he set out in search of ahara or food.
Tithankar Rishabhdav went from place to place seeking food, however since people were not aware that the Jain sadhus did not ask for food, they gave him offerings of various other things. People of Ayodhya offered him gold, gemstones, elephants etc but no one offered him any food. Finally, a year later, his own grandson Shreyansha Kumara understood Rishabhdev’s quest and offered him food from his Purba-bhava-smaran or remembrance of erstwhile life. He offered Adinath or Rishbhdev some sugarcane juice.
This auspicious event took place on the day of the AkshayaTritiya and is thus considered to be an important day to the Jains. Jains all over the world till date end their fast on Akshaya Tritiya with a glass of sugarcane juice. The observance of this ritual is said to lead one to the path of enlightenment and rids oneself of impurities such as desire and the subsequent result of sin. Thus this leads one to a life of bliss and devoid of bad karma.
- Observance of Varshitap-
Varshitap or the yearly ritual, loosely translated as Varshi or yearly or Tap as in ritual is carried out by fasting on one day and carrying out biyasan the other day. Between these two days, one can fast also consecutively for two days. On the first day the devotee can only drink boiled water from an earthen pot and for the rest of the year it is highly advisable to consume a meal a day or if possible to fast on alternate days. Celebrations in terms of a grand fair takes place at Shatrunjay in Palitana, Gujarat; which is a very famous Jain pilgrimage center. Nearly 2500 Jains complete and celebrate their Varishtap in this temple annually.