Jain rituals and festivals

Jain rituals and festivals

Jain rituals and festivals play a prominent part in Jainism. Rituals can take place daily or more often, while festivals occur on designated days of the year.

Everyday rituals

Pious Jains incorporate a number of rituals into their daily life. Spreading the grain for the birds in the morning, and filtering or boiling the water for the next few hours' use are ritual acts of charity and non-violence.

Some people dismiss the ritual acts as superstition. Others recognize that while the Jain idols have no miraculous powers, daily rituals help the worshipper towards a reverent state of mind.


Samayika is the practice of equanimity, translating to meditation. It is a ritual act undertaken early in the morning and perhaps also at noon and night. It lasts for forty-eight minutes (Two Ghadis) and usually involves not only quiet recollection but also usually the repetition of routine prayers.The ritual is chanting and praying about the good things


Pratikramana is performed in the morning for the repentance of violence committed during the night, and in the evening for the violence during the day and additionally on certain days of the year. During this, the Jain expresses remorse for the harm caused, or wrong doing, or the duties left undone.

Worship of Jain idols

Worship before the Jain idols, bowing to the idols, and lighting a lamp in front of the idols is an ideal way to start the day for many Jains. More elaborate forms of worship (puja), as described, is a regular daily ritual usually done in the temple. The worshipper enters the temple with the words 'Namo Jinanam' 'I bow to the Jina', and repeats three times, 'Nisihii' (to relinquish thoughts about worldly affairs). The simpler surroundings of the household shrine can als provide a suitable setting. The members of some sects of Jainism don’t believe in worship of the Jina image. They believe in meditation and silent prayers. Worship, or puja, can take many forms.
# The ritual bathing of the image (Snatra Puja) is symbolic to the bathing of the newborn Tirthankara by the gods (celestial beings). A simple symbolic act is to touch one's forehead with the liquid used to bath the idol. Bathing the idol also takes place during the Panch Kalyanak Puja, a ritual to commemorate the five great events of the Tirthankara's life, namely conception, birth, renunciation, omniscience and moksa.
# Antaraya Karma Puja comprises a series of prayers to remove those karmas which obstruct the spiritual uplifting power of the soul. A lengthy temple ritual which can take three days to complete is the
# Arihanta Puja, paying respect to the arihants.
# There is a ritual of prayer focused on the siddhachakra, a lotus-shaped disc bearing representations of the arhat, the liberated soul, religious teacher, religious leader and the monk (the five praiseworthy beings), as well as the four qualities namely perception, knowledge, conduct and austerity to uplift the soul.


In India the solar (European) calendar is generally used for the business and government matters but religious festivals are usually dated according to the lunar (Indian) calendar. This calendar is quite straightforward but, as it is based on the phases of the moon, dates are not always the same from year to year as in the solar calendar.

Festivals of Jaina

Paryusana Parva

The Paryusana Parva is the most important festival for the Jains. This is the eight-day period during which many Jains fast and carry out the religious activities. This period falls in the months of Shravana and Bhadra (August or September). During the rainy season in India Jain monks stop walking from one town to another and settle in a fixed location with the purpose of reducing the injury to the living things now springing to life. Often a township invites respected monks to stay in its vicinity during the rainy season (sometimes with a beautifully written manuscript invitation) and the people receive them with great pomp and rituals. A course of lectures or sermons by a monk or other respected person is a regular feature of the Paryusana Parva.The word Paryusana is derived from two words meaning (gada) ‘a year’ and ‘a coming back’. It is a period of repentance for the acts of the previous year and of austerities to help shed the accumulated karmas. It should be remembered that the austerity is not just to shed karmas, but to control the desire for sensual pleasures as a part of the spiritual training to prevent the accumulation of the new karmas. During this period some people fast for all eight days, some for the lesser periods (a minimum of three days is suggested in the scriptures), but it is considered obligatory to fast on the last day of the Paryusana Parva. Fasting usually involves complete abstinence from any sort of food or drink, but some people do take boiled water during the daytime.There are regular ceremonies in the temple and discourses of Kalpa Sutra (one of the sacred books) in the Upashraya during this time. Kalpa Sutra contains the detailed account of Mahavira's life, is read to the congregation. On the third day of the Paryusana Parva the Kalpa Sutra receives a very special reverence and may be carried in the procession. On the fifth day, at a special ceremony, the auspicious dreams of Mahavira's mother, queen Trishala, are demonstrated. Listening to the Kalpa Sutra, taking active steps to prevent the animal killing, asking and offering forgiveness to all living beings, visiting the neighborhood temples, etc., are some of the important activities during this time.The final day of Paryusana is the most important of all. On this day those who have observed the fasts are specially honored. This is also the day when Jains ask for forgiveness from the family, friends and foes alike for any acts they might have committed towards them in the previous year. Therefore this annual occasion of repentance and forgiveness is very important. Shortly after Paryusana it is the custom to organize a Swami Vastyalaya-dinner when all the Jains get together and renew their friendship with each other regardless of their socio-economical status.

Mahavir Jayanti

Mahavira was born most probably in the year 599 B.C. and the exact date is given in the scriptures as the thirteenth day of the bright half (i.e. when the moon was waxing) of the Hindu calendar month of Chaitra. In the solar calendar this will fall in March or April. The festival to commemorate this, known as Mahavira Jayanti, is an occasion for great celebration. Jains gather together to hear Mahavira's message expounded, so that they can follow his teachings and example. The dreams of his mother before his birth may be dramatically presented and the circumstances of his birth, as narrated in the scriptures, explained to the assembled people. The idol of Mahavira is ceremonially bathed and rocked in a cradle. In many places the processions take place through the streets with the image having the place of honor, and in some regions in India this is a general public holiday.


Diwali or Deepawali is the most important festival in India. For the Jains, it is the second most after the Paryusana Parva. For Jains Diwali marks the anniversary of Mahavir's moksha. Mahavir attained moksha on this day in 527 B.C. (and also of the achievement of total knowledge, omniscience, by his chief follower, Gautama Indrabhuti). The festival falls on the last day of the Hindu calendar month of Ashvina, the end of the year as per Indian calendar (in October or November), The celebration starts in the early morning of the previous day, for it was then that Mahavira commenced his last sermon which lasted till late in the night of Diwali. It is narrated that the eighteen kings of northern India who were in his audience decided that the light of their master's knowledge would be kept alive symbolically by lighting of the lamps. Hence it is called Dipawali, (dipa means lamp), or Diwali.

New Year

The New Year begins the next day of Diwali and is the occasion for joyful gatherings of Jains, with everybody wishing each other a Happy New Year.

Gyana Panchami (Knowledge day)

The fifth day of the New Year is known as Gyana Panchami, the day of knowledge, when the scriptures, which impart knowledge to the people, are worshipped with devotion.

Paush dashami

This day is famous as the birthday of 23rd JainTirthankar lourd Parshvanath. On the 10th day of Posh month of Hindu calendar, hundreds and thousands of Jain men and women perform the tapasya of 3 Upavas-attham (continuous fasting for 3 days) and by means of recitation and meditation they try to attain spiritual welfare. A grand fair takes place in Sankheswar which is a sacred place for Jains. Thousands of people gather here and perform the austerity of 'Attham'.

Varshi Tapa / Akshay Tritiya Tapa

Those noble people who perform the austerity of Varshi tapa complete the austerity on this day by taking sugar-cane juice in the cool shadow of Shatrunjay. First Jain Tirthankar Rishabhdev performed the Parana (completion of an austerity) on this day after fasting for 13 months and 13 days continuously. This day is considered to be very auspicious for making a pilgrimage to Shatrunjay (Palitana). This falls on the 3rd day of the bright fortnight of Vaishakh month of Hindu calendar.


It in November/December when a day of complete silence and fasting is kept and meditation is directed towards the five holy beings, monk, teacher, religious leader, arhat and siddha. This day is regarded as the anniversary of the birth of many of the Tiirthankaras.

Navapad Oli

The serious Jain layman fast, more or less completely, and undertake other religious practices on many auspicious days throughout the year. As many as ten days in a given month are observed for the fasts by the pious Jains (though others may observe a lesser number). The first day of the three seasons in the Indian year is also of special sanctity. Twice a year, falling in March/April and September/October, the nine-day Oli period of semi-fasting is observed when Jains take only one meal a day, of very plain food.

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