Paryushan is a Jain festival that falls in the Bhadrapada month and in the mid of August or September. The Jain community all over the world celebrates it with profound devotion. Since there are two Jainism schools of thoughts, the Shvetambara calls it Paryushan whereas the Digambara refer to it as Das Lakshana. Anyway, the essence of this festival is to purify one's soul by following the Ten Commandments written in the Jain scripture.
This festive period involves making vows and resorting to fasting for gaining spiritual bliss. The period lasts for eight to ten days and is usually appears in the month of chaturmas, which is a common term used for the four months of the rainy season. The monks cut down their itinerary, seek a temporary sojourn, and utilize it for meditation. The community believes that the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha phase in the Bhadrapada month is auspicious to perform Paryushana. The Digambara sect performs fasting for ten days starting with the fifth day of Shukla Paksh and the Shvetambara observe it for 8 days.
This festival is to inculcate the Jain beliefs regarding the ten truths of life into practicality. The practices and rituals of this festival are meant to help the laities and the monks in attaining salvation. All the members from both the sections of the Jain community, whether rich or poor, young or old, male or female, try to associate with the rituals. They seek spiritual knowledge from scholars and priests, who have dedicated their lives in practicing austerity in their lives.
Legend of Paryushan
Though there is no certainty about the starting of this festival, the main idea behind following the ritual is to restrain oneself from any and every thing that could spoil heart and soul and to shed away the longing for lust and pleasure. There are many elements in the world that could easily spoil the nobler mind and heart. The world is full of distractions and potential to inflict misery and sorrow in one's life. Since ages, humans have a voracious desire for sensuous pleasure and luxurious life. Only a few and the great souls are able to control from the prevailing distractions.
The only way spiritual masters have found to purify one's soul is through meditation. The Jain Acharyas (masters) too resorted to this practice and helped the followers to uplift their spirits through fasting and meditating. They also made people familiar with the importance of service. Every rich or poor Jain donates something according to his/her capacity to the needy. Many scholars and writers consider this festival as an opportunity to publish their work related to spiritual or for making an impact in the society by bringing positive changes.
The festival marks the annual celebration of self-purification. This is a time when all laities and priests of the Jain communities share a platform, recall, and implement the ten supreme virtues in life. All the Jains observe fast that lasts for a day or 30 days. The eight-day festival helps people in understanding and lighting the lamp of spiritual life to attain salvation. As water does all the cleansing of the body from outside, the inside within is cleaned by adhering to strict practices. Followers seek salvation by making vows of never indulging in materialistic pleasure and sticking to fasting. Any sins committed in the previous year due to ignorance or out or greed or lust is asking for forgiveness.
The goal of this festival is to do penance, worship and recitation of mantras. Throughout the ten days or the fasting-period of 30 days, meditation and prayer are the important activities of the Jain. This is time to reckon with the teachings of the Tirthankaras and seek guidance for spiritual gain. It is compulsory for all the people to read the Kalpa Sutra. This sacred scripture talks about the life of Lord Mahavira and the 14 dreams had by his mother before his birth. The rules of Paryushan and attainment of salvation of other Tirthankaras are also described in the scripture to guide believers about life beyond personal gain and worldly pleasure.
Each of the Jain sect follows the last day, which is the eighth and the tenth day of the festival, by dedicating it to Samvatsari Pratikraman. The importance of this day is to ask forgiveness to the God for self, family, and friends. The day is also utilized to seek forgiveness for all and ask for peace and prosperity in the world. People take a vow to forgive all who have inflicted some pain to them and ask for forgiveness to them who experienced sorrow because of them. They also confess that henceforth there will be no enmity with anyone and pray for peace, harmony and prosperity for all.
Paryushan is the Jain festival to realize oneself by indulging in extreme penance, worship and meditation. Through this festival, they try to clean their soul and uplift the spirit of forgiveness and atonement within them.