Mahavir Jayanti is one of the most important holidays for practitioners of Jainism – a religion that advocates the practice of nonviolence and self-control. It’s observance not only coincides with the birth of Vardhamana but is also a celebration of it.
This religious holiday is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the waxing moon in the month of Caitra as prescribed by the Jainism lunar calendar. On the Gregorian calendar this is usually around March or April.
Mahavir is believed by Jainists to be born in either the year 615 BC or 599 BC, depending on the sect. Mahavir was a contemporary of Buddha and is considered to be the last of the great sages.
For over ten years of his life, he spent his time as an aesthetic; Living a rootless existence, wearing rags and begging for food. Then one day he became enlightened, became a great sage or Tirthankara, and spent the last three decades of his life teaching.
Today, Jainism is a religion that is practiced by over six million people worldwide, with the majority of these followers living in India. However, there are also smaller immigrant populations of these followers who live in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Followers of this religion adhere to the five vows. These five vows include nonviolence, adherence to truth, abstention from stealing, chastity for laymen and celibacy for monks and non-possessiveness.
Customs, Traditions and Observances
Mahavir Jayanti is a gazetted holiday in many places where it’s observed. This means that most government offices and business are closed so that practitioners can have the day off of work.
In many places where this religious holiday is observed, the occasion is marked by a large celebration and procession. One of the places where this is practiced is in Calcutta at the Parasnatha Temple. Most observers of Mahavir Jayanti mark this day with prayer and fasting rituals.