Jainism – a way of life
(1) Āyambil oli- this comes twice a year. During these days people who observe āyambil, eat food that is devoid of butter, salt, sugar etc and eat a strict Jain diet prescribed for these days.
(2) Paryushan- these are the days when all Jains come together and celebrate the holy days. There are different theories about the exact starting day. It is widely accepted that great Achāryas had devised these celebrations before the start of their monsoon sojourn period. Sthānakvāsis and Derāvasis celebrate this for eight days whilst Digambaras celebrate for ten days and call this festival Das Lakshna Parva.
Paryushan are the days of religious activities. During these days Jains observe fasts or take some vows. They voluntarily impose some regulations and hardships on themselves to keep their minds firmly fixed on religion. People go to temples, worship Tirthankaras, hear religious discourses and do Sāmayika and/or Pratikraman.
The holy book Kalpa Sutra is read during Paryushan festivals. On the 5th day of the festival a part about the birth of Lord Mahāvir is read and that too is celebrated with joy and devotion. Fourteen dream-objects of Mother Trishala are ceremoniously brought to the main platform and few lucky ones who bid a high price for the privilege swing a small silver cradle with the child Mahāvir in it. All the money goes to the maintenance or construction of a temple.
(3) Tirthankara kalyānaks. Every Tirthankara has five auspicious events in their lifetime. First comes the conception (chyavan kalyānak) then the day of the birth (janma kalyānak), after that comes the day when Tirthankara leaves household and becomes a monk (dikshā kalyānak) then comes omniscience (keval-gyan kalyānak) and finally the day of death is nirvāna-kalyānak.
Some of the important days associated with Tirthankara Rushabh and Mahāvir are celebrated every year with great zeal and devotion. The birthday of Lord Mahāvir, (Mahāvir janma-kalyānak) is celebrated by Jains all over the world. In India this day is a public holiday. This generally falls in late March or early April. (13th day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra in Indian calendar)
(4) Diwali- As far as Jains are concerned it is a festival of lighting lamps. Lord Mahāvir had died (attained moksha) on that day and the lamps or diwās represent true knowledge dispersing the darkness of ignorance.
(5) Local festivals- This relate an event, which took place locally. A building of a temple would be a day to remember and celebrate for the people of that particular area and naturally they would celebrate in grand style at every anniversary day.
Special events- In Shravan Belagolā in Karnātaka, Jains celebrate bathing ceremony of colossus of Bāhubali every twelve years.
Akshay tritiya- Popularly known as akhātrij. Hindus, Buddhists and Jains all celebrate this day. Jains say that the first Tirthankara Rushabhdev broke his yearlong penance (varsi-tap) on this day by drinking sugarcane-juice. This same ritual is followed even now by the people who carryout year long Varsitap. In this penance one is supposed to fast on alternate days for slightly more then a year.
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