Paryushan is the most significant annual holy event of Jainism, usually celebrated in the months of August or September. It is observed with equal reverence by both of the branches of Jainism – Digambara and Swetambara.  Paryushan is referred to as Mahaparva i.e. great festival and is often called “Mahaparva Paryushan”.

Digambara Jains celebrate the event for 10 days while Swetambara Jains observe it for 8 days. Devotees are required to strictly follow Jainism’s code of conduct, going through fasting and meditation, for the complete duration of the observance.

The main objective of the festival is spiritual awakening, through self discipline and abandonment of materialistic desires, greed, hatred and pride.

Paryushan Festival 2019

Paryushan Mahaparva in 2019 will be celebrated from Tuesday, 27th August 2019 to Tuesday, 3rd September 2019 by the Swetambara sect, while the Digambara sect will celebrate it from Tuesday, 3rd September 2019 to Thursday, 12th September 2019. The dates have been decided based on the traditional Jain calendar, which is a lunisolar calendar and the exact dates of celebration may vary.

When is Paryushan Festival Celebrated?

Paryushan Mahaparva is celebrated in Shukla paksha of the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapada. Bhadrapada or Bhadra is the sixth month of Hindu lunisolar calendar and corresponds to Gregorian months of August/September. Shukla Paksha refers to the fortnight period of bright or waxing moon. Jain scriptures emphasize on the fact that the start of Paryushan Parva should be at least 20 days after the advent of rainy season.

Nomenclature

The word “Paryushan” has many meanings, based on the belief and the language. Some religious ascetics believe that it is derived from words “Pari” and “Ushan”.  Former means “all” while the latter refers “to burn” or to shed. In this case “Paryushan” refers to shedding or burning all of the bad karmas like – greed, hatred, pride etc.

Another theory professes that the word “Paryushan” has been derived from the word “upshamana”, meaning “to suppress”. In this case Paryushan refers to suppress ones anger, greed, ego and deceit.

How is Paryushan Festival Celebrated?

Paryushan is a major festival in Jainism and is devotedly observed by the Jain community, not only in India but also abroad. Usually the festival is marked by fasting, praying and reading religious texts. The activities are mostly carried out in gatherings, with the presence of Jain munis or saints. Some devotees take out a ceremonial procession in reverence to religious scriptures and saints.

Water is sprinkled on the streets which were cleaned before, to welcome the procession. There are five main vows that every Jain takes during the Paryushan Mahaparva, they are – satya (truth), ahimsa (non violence), Asteya (non-stealing), Aparigraha (non-possession) and Brahmacharya (chastity).

The Jains observe the Paryushan Mahaparva by fasting, reading religious text books and doing other spiritual activities like meditation. Digambara Jains, during the festival recite the ten chapters of holy book Tattvartha Sutra (written in Sanskrit), over a span of 10 days, accompanied by fasting. Jains, who don’t fast, switch to a strict vegetarian diet, avoiding onion and garlic.

 

Digambara Jains also celebrate Ananta Chaturdashi, the 14th day of the lunar fortnight, by performing special worship. Processions are also taken out in reverence to the tirthankaras and religious scriptures, to the main Jain temple in the town. Devotees believe that, on the day of Ananta Chaturdashi, twelfth tirthankara, Vasupujya attained Nirvana.

Swetambara Jains, observe the eight days of the festival by revering all the tirthankaras (teaching Gods) of Jainism. They read the religious books like Kalpa Sutra and Sthanakayvasis, containing biographies of tirthankaras and the teachings of a Jain reformer Lonkashah, respectively.

Fasting is another most significant ritual followed by both sects of Jainism during Paryushan; however, the duration of fasting might range from a day to the whole month. Devotees of the Digambara sect are allowed to eat food and drink boiled water, only once in a day. Swetambara Jains, on the other hand don’t eat food and only survive on boiled water, consumed only between sunrise and sunset.

On their respective concluding days, both Digambaras and Swetambaras follow a ritual of asking forbiddance from past year’s sins or misconducts, known as Kshamapana or forgiveness. Devotees greet each other by the words – Micchami Dukkadam” or “Uttam Kshama” which are meant to seek forgiveness in case if they have knowingly or unknowingly hurt the feeling of someone.

There are also certain essential conducts and rituals which are followed by the ascetics as well as common people of both sects, namely – Sadharmik Vatsalya, Aatma Tapa, Amari Pravartann and Chaitya Paripati (temple Yatra).

Sadharmik Vatsalya refers to the welfare of other fellow jains; though, in broader perspective it includes the welfare or care of any other living creature. It implies that one should be compassionate towards other living organisms and always extend support to the needy.

Aatma Tapa refers to the ritual of fasting continuously for three days. Each day is devoted to one of the three jewels of Jainism – right faith, right knowledge and right conduct. Fasting for three consecutive days is believed to make the soul pure and cleanse the body and mind.

Amari Pravartann refers to non violence, that is, one should restrain from any kind of violent or provoking activity. Non violence should be reflected in words, deeds and conduct.

Chaitya Paripati refers to going on holy pilgrimage of Jain temples, for reverence, worship and meditation. Some of the major Jain pilgrimage centers for Jainism in India are – Gommateshwara Bahubali at Shravanabelagola, Karnataka; Shatrunjaya hills in Gujarat etc.

 

Digambara Jains follow a ten day fast, dedicating each day to one of the ten dharmas as written in Tattvarta Sutra.  The book states ten important conducts or rituals to be followed by every Jain – Uttam Kshama (supreme forbearance), Uttam Mardava (supreme modesty), Uttam Aarjava (straightforwardness), Uttam Satya (supreme truth), Uttam Soch (supreme purity), Uttam Sanyam (supreme restraint), Uttam Tap (supreme austerity), Uttam Tyaga (supreme renunciation), Uttam Aakinchanya (supreme non attachment) and Uttam Brahmacharya (supreme celibacy).

Paryushan Mahaparva History

The history of Paryushan Mahaparva dates back to nearly 2500 years. It is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures that Lord Mahavira started observing Paryushan on Shula Panchami in the Bhadra month. The origin of Paryushan lies in the staying of wandering monks at one place, during the rainy season.

Rain forced the Jain monks to stop their travelling and stay at one place for longer duration – four months of rainy season. This is why Paryushan is also popularly called Chaturmasa, as the duration of rainy season is of four months.

Since ages India has been an agriculture based economy with majority of populace involved in agriculture related activities. These people got a few months of spare time during the monsoon. Also, rains made it difficult for the saints to shift their location.

The saints knowingly or unknowingly would have to kill some insects in doing so, which abound in rainy season. Thus, the custom of self purification through spiritual guidance by a guest monk began. People started to listen to the views and teachings of the monks who stayed with them and recited religious texts.

Modern Day Relevance and Significance of Paryushan Mahaparva

Paryushan is the most important religious event in Jainism. It gives a time for introspection and purification of thoughts, deeds and conduct in the pious company of religious texts and saints. Modern life is filled with busy schedules, deadlines and resembles a race with no visible end.

Amid such strenuous life style, Paryushan Mahaparva provides a time for solace in distress and also gives a chance to look deeper into one’s soul and religion. It is a kind of personal retreat that lets you explore your inner qualities of love, respect, contentment and joy. You can very well utilize these qualities in your daily life once you are back from the retreat.

Daily meditation and prayers in the company of a religious saint, gives the people an opportunity to look deep inside their souls and listen to the teachings of tirthankaras for spiritual guidance. Apart from providing spiritual purity, the festival also cleanses one’s physical body. The process of fasting and surviving on boiled drinking water, removes toxins from body cells, energizing and rejuvenating the body.

The festival celebrates forgiveness thus spreading peace, harmony and joy. People seek forgiveness from those whom they have harmed and also forgive those who have harmed them. If we nurture resentment, hatred and envy, we will disturb peace and make more enemies than friends. Paryushan Mahaparva gives a chance to forgive and forget, relieving the soul from pain of hatred.