Mahavir Jayanti 2023
One of the most important festivals of the Jain community, the Mahavir Jayanti celebrates the birth of Lord Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara in Jainism. The festival is always conducted without any grand celebration or extravaganza concerning the principles of Jainism. The worship rituals are also not elaborate since their leader did not believe in idol worship. Mahavir Jayanti 2023 will be celebrated on 04th April 2023.
A Brief History
According to the religious scripts and Jain texts, Lord Mahavira was born on the Chaitra month on the 13th day of the waxing moon in Kundalagrama, Bihar, which is just a few kilometres away from Patna. During those days, the state's capital was considered Vaishali.
However, there is still a dispute about the year of his birth. According to the Digambar Jains, he was born in 615 BC, while the Shwetambar Jains consider it to be in 566 BC. Mahavira was given the name Vardhaman by his parents, Queen Trishala and King Siddhartha.
Based on the Shwetambar community's beliefs, Mahavira's mother has 16 dreams. This was later interpreted by many astrologers of the time who believed that he would either become a sage (Tirthankara) or a great emperor. When Mahavira was 30 years old, he left his family and throne for truth and lived 12 years in exile as an ascetic.
He preached non-violence during his time and treated every person with reverence. People gave him the name “Mahavira” after observing his incredible sense-controlling skill. The followers believe that he attained enlightenment (nirvana) at 72. Mahavir Jayanti is to celebrate the birth of Mahavira.
Celebration and Rituals
The Jain communities all over the world celebrate Mahavir Jayanti. Although the community believes in avoiding grandiosity and embracing simplicity, many meaningful ceremonies are performed today.
One of the most important traditions of Mahavir Jayanti is to visit many temples and Tirthankar statues. Processions with the images and pictures of Mahavira are held. Temples also conduct various pujas to honour Mahavira with rice, fruits, flowers, and milk. There are a few places where his messages and core values are taught. Some believers also fast on Mahavir Jayanti.
Mahavira, also known as Vardhamana, was the 24th Tirthankara (a spiritual teacher) in Jainism, which originated in ancient India. Jain temples, also known as Jain Derasars or Basadis, are built to honour Mahavira and other Tirthankaras and serve as places of worship for Jains.
Several Jain temples in India are dedicated to Mahavira and are considered sacred by Jains. Some of these temples are:
- Shree Mahavirji Temple: located in Rajasthan, is one of India's most important Jain pilgrimage sites. It is believed to be the place where Mahavira attained enlightenment.
- Panch Kalyanak Temple: located in Gujarat, is dedicated to the five significant events in the life of Mahavira - his birth, enlightenment, first sermon, Diksha (renunciation) and nirvana (final liberation).
- Ellora Caves Maharashtra: Famous for its rock-cut temples, the Ellora caves are one of the best places to demonstrate the religious essence of Jainism between the 5th and 10th centuries. These caves are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and are a world heritage site.
- Palitana Temples, Gujarat: Located on Mount Shatrunjaya, the Jain community considers the Palitana Temple one of the holiest pilgrim sites. The temple is very ancient and goes back to the 11th and 16th centuries. These temples are about 160 kilometres from Rajkot and 220 kilometres from Ahmedabad.
- Saavira Kambada Basadi, Karnataka: This temple was built during the 15th century by the King Devaraya Wodeyar of the kingdom Vijayanagara. The temple is very popular because of the presence of 1000 pillars. It is situated in Moodabidri, a town that has around 18 shrines. Among these 18 Jain temples, the Saavira Kambada Basadi temple is the most popular and beautiful one. The complex is around 30 kilometres from Mangalore and 350 kilometres from Bangalore (Bengaluru).
- Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Odisha: These caves are considered one of the world's oldest Jain masterpieces, with many rock-cut statues and inscriptions. It is about 10 kilometres away from the capital city, Bhubaneswar. It has 15 caves in Khandagiri and 18 in Udayagiri, totalling 33 caves.
- Ranakpur Temples, Rajasthan: Considered to be one of the largest and most remarkable Jain temples, the Ranakpur temple is an exceptional masterpiece housing intricate artworks along with 80 domes, 24 pillared halls, and about 400 columns. It was built during the 15th century, and construction took about 65 years. The temple is only 95 kilometres from Udaipur and is a great place to visit for Mahavir Jayanti.
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