Date : March / April each year
Legends : According to the Digambar school of Jainism, Lord Mahavir was born in the year 615 BC, but the Swetambaras believe that He was born in 599 BC. Both sects however agree that he was the son of Siddharth and Trisala. Legend has it, that he was conceived by Devananda, wife of a Brahmin named Rishabhdeva. The gods, ingeniously, transferred the embryo to the womb of Trisala. It is said that the expectant mother had sixteen auspicious dreams before the child was born (only 14 according to the Swetambaras). Astrologers interpreting these dreams stated that the child would be either an emperor or a Teerthankar.
Practice : The main Jain festival of the year is Mahavira Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. On this day Jain devotees visit sacred sites and worship the Teerthankars or the religious gurus. The event holds special significance in Gujarat and Rajasthan, due to the ancient shrines at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat. Mahavira Jayanti is also celebrated at Parasnath temple in Calcutta and at Pawapuri in Bihar.
Dates : Diwali takes place in October / November
Legend : This festival is observed in honour of Jain deities and the final liberation of Lord Mahavira, the 24th Teerthankar, from the cycle of life. He died on this day at the age of 72, at Pawapuri in Bihar.
Practice : On this day, Mahavira is worshipped at midnight and early next morning. Sacred scriptures are recited and houses are grandly illuminated. The festival is celebrated with much zest in Girnar, in Gujarat. Devotees from all parts of the country congregate at Pawapuri and sweets are distributed.
Dates : Paryushana takes place in August / September every year, coinciding with the South-West monsoon.
Practice : Paryushana is practised for eight days by the Swetabara sect of the Jains, while celebrations last for ten days among the Digambaras. Paryushana marks the retreat of the nomadic monks for two reasons. Monsoon showers and torrential rains made it impossible for the monks to travel across the country. This coupled with the principle of Ahimsa or non-violence, made it difficult for them not to trample on and squash insects and other forms of life that emerged in the monsoon.
Paryushana is marked by strict observance of the ten cardinal virtues: forgiveness, charity, simplicity,
contentment, truthfulness, self-restraint, fasting, detachment, humility and continence. They also observe a
unique custom, where they ask every individual they may have offended during the year for forgiveness. Old
quarrels are forgotten and friendships and relationships renewed, as they fold their hands and ask for
"Micchamidukadam" or forgiveness.