Special Austerities, Jain Festivals & Celebrations

Some Special & Important Austerities

The Jain Festivals

The Jain Celebrations

Some Special & Important Austerities


means fasting for three continuous days during which no food is taken. Some may drink boiled water during day time and some may not. During such time one should perform recitation and meditation. This austerity has been considered extremely auspicious and efficacious.



This means fasting for eight continuous days during which no food is taken. Some may take boild water during daytime and others may not. During this austeritiy, some perform such activites as recitation, meditation, carrying out scriptural studies and worshipping the Paramatma with devotion and concentrating on the soul.  Many pious and devout people in hundreds and thousands perform this austerity during the days of the festival called Paryushan which occurs in the Bhadrapada month, during the Chaturmas every year.



It means one must fast for one month continuously. This austerity is a very rigorous during which some may or may not take boiled water. Many people perform this austerity during the Chaturmas.


Vardhaman tap

One who wants to perform the Vardhaman Tap must lay the foundation for it by performing this austerity, in the beginning, without a break, for twenty days in the following manner. One must perform:

Ayambil on the first day and then fasting for one day, Ayambil for two days and then fasting for one day,

Ayambil for three days; and fasting for one day

Ayambil for four days and fasting for one day, and

Ayambil for five days and fasting for one day.

This comes to twenty days. At this point, it may be broken but when it is resumed the same consecutive order of Ayambils must be continued ( Ayambil for six days and fasting for one day, and so on till Ayambil for 100 days and fasting for one day.  After this there can be breaks in this process or the process may be continued in the form of Ayambils for 101 dyas and fasting for one day or the process may be repeated from one to one hundred Ayambils.  Thus, this austerity can be completed. Even today there are many people who perform Vardhaman tap for more than a hundred days or going back and performing it one to one hundred days. The practice or the observance of the Vardhaman tap is also called Oli. This has been called Vardhaman tap because, it leads daily, step by step, towards progress and Vardhaman means developing or progressing.  The stories of Chandrarshi Kevali and Saddhvi Krishna are connected with this austerity.


Navapad Oli


Every year for nine days in the bright fortnight of Ashvin month from the seventh day upto the full moon day and for nine days in the bright fortnight of the Chaitra month 7th day to the full moon day this austerity is observed with a special kind of worship, holy recitation, meditation and other rituals in honor of the Navapad (Nine kinds of great positions) such as Arihant. This austerity can be completed by observing Ayambil every year twice, 9 days each time or going on for 4 and 1/2 years; that means eighty one days in all. The stories of Sripal and Mayanasundari are connected with this observance




This austerity must be observed from the 8th day of the Krishna Paksh the black fortnight of Chaitra to the Akshay Tritiya the 3rd day of the bright fortnight of the Vaishak of the next year, in the form of fasting for one day; and observing Biyasan for one day.  Sometimes, between such days, fasting also can be done for two days continuously. This austerity Is continued for the whole year and hence it Is called Varshi‑tap. The austerity is to be broken on the day called Akshay Tritiya by taking sugar‑cane juice.  A grand fair takes place on this day, at palitana, a famous Jain pilgrim centre.  Moreover, arrangement is made there for the mass completion ceremony.  The stories of Lord Rishabha Dev, the first Tirthankar and his follower Shreyans Kumar (his great grand son) are connected with this austerity.


Visasthanak Tap

This austerity is not only excellent but efficacious. To perform it, one must worship twenty Padas or positions (Twenty pads prescribed for an important worship) fasting twenty times each, separately. In the middle, for the worship of one special Pad one should perform Chhatth fasting for two days continuously twenty times. Every Tirtankar should have performed this austerity with great penance and a high level of Sadhana in his earlier life.  Apart from this, one hundred other minor and major austeries are prescribed in the Jain Granthas.  Even today some of them are in vogue and established among the Jain society.  One can perform any of those austerities according to his ability and convenience, because each austerity is accompained with devavandan (salutation of the Lord) holy recitation, meditation, Kayotsarga and worship, in different ways.  But there is the need for guidance from spiritual superiors.


The Jain Festivals

( Some special days of worship and fasting )


Generally, festivals are celebrations and jubilations characterized by excitement, enthusiasm, enjoyments and entertainments; but the Jain festivals are characterized by renunciation, austerities, study of the scriptures, repetition of holy hymns, meditation, and expressing devotion for the Paramatma. Even those people who are caught in the meshes of mundane life, according to their ability and conveniences, get free from the worldly entanglements to the extent possible and become immersed in worship and meditation Renunciation and austerity constitute the very foundation of the Jain Dharma.


Paryushan Mahaparva & Das Lakshana


The word “Parva” means auspicious day. There are three types of auspicious days - 1. Ordinary (Sämänya) like every third day -beej (2nd), päncham (5th), etc., 2. Incidental (Naimitik) like Mahävir Jayanti (Birthday) and 3. Natural (Naisargik) like Paryushan. The word “Paryushan” has several different meanings: 1. Pari + ushan = all kinds + to burn = to burn (shed) our all types of karmäs[1]. To shed our karmäs, we do twelve different types of austerities including fasting.  2. Another meaning of “ushan” is to stay closer. To stay closer to our own soul from all directions and to stay absorbed in our own-self (soul), we do Svädhyäya[2] (self-study), meditation, austerities, etc., and 3. Pari + upshamanä = upshamanä means to suppress, to suppress our passions (kashäyas - anger, ego, deceit and greed) from all directions.


Therefore, the real purpose of the Paryushan is to purify our soul by staying closer to our own soul, to look at our own faults, to ask for forgiveness for the mistakes we have committed, and take vows to minimize our faults. We try to forget about the needs of our body (like food) and our business so that we can concentrate on our-self.


To ask for forgiveness is the toughest thing to do. Therefore, our great Ächäryas[3] have said: “Kshamä Viram Bhushanam, Kshamäväni Michchhä Mi Dukkadam” - To ask for forgiveness is a great quality of the brave ones and if I have committed any mistake, knowingly or unknowingly, I ask for your forgiveness.


There are several great aphorisms (Sutras) to ask for forgiveness with the unity of the body, speech and mind, and one of them is as follows:


Khämemi Savve Jivä, Savve Jivä Khamantu Mi

Mitti Me Savva bhuesu, Veram majjham na Kenai.


Meaning: I forgive all the living beings of the universe, and may all the living-beings forgive me for my faults. I do not have any animosity towards anybody, and I have friendship for all living beings.


The process of shedding our karmäs really begins by asking for forgiveness with true feelings, and to take some vows not to repeat mistakes. The quality of the forgiveness requires humility (vinay - absence of ego) and suppression of anger.


Svetämbars[4] (one of the major two Jain sects) celebrate eight days of Paryushan and the last day is called Samvatsari. Digambars[5] celebrate Dash-Lakshanä Parva for ten days starting on the last day of Shvetämbar Paryushan. They celebrate ten best characteristics of the soul: Kshamä (forgiveness), Märdav (Humility),  Ärjav (straightforwardness), Shauch (content - absence of greed), Satya (truth), Samyam (restraint of all senses), Tapa (austerities), Tyäga  (charity), Äkinchan  (non-possessiveness) and Brahmachärya (celibacy).

The Paryushan is the most important festival among the Jain festivals; and it is observed during every Chaturmas commencing on the twelfth day of the fortnight of the waning moon, in Bhadrapad and ending on the fourth day of the fortnight of the waxing moon in the Bhadrapad. During these eight days, the entire Jain Society becomes spellbound in an  atmosphere of enthusiasm and felicity. All Jains, the young and the old perform Atthai Tap ‑ fasting for eight days at a time. Some men and women; and even children take the vow of Paushadh Vrat also for eight days During these days, the spiritual preceptors read out and explain in detail the Kalpasutra, the most sacred scripture of the Jains. All the members of the congregation listen to that explanation, overwhelmed with the emotion of devotion. Seven days are days of attainment and the eighth day is one of fulfillment or achievement In this manner,the Samvatsari Mahaparva the annual festival is celebrated. Listening to the holy voice of the spiritual preceptors when they explain the 1250 fundamental Sutras; performing the Samvatsarik Pratikraman,  (the annual atonement) for seeking the forgiveness of those people whom one hates or against whom one nurses a grudge; forgetting all hatred and spite‑these, constitute the Samvatsarik aradhana ‑the annual atonement.


Navpad Oli


This has been described under the section, dealing with austerities. During the days of this festival, every day, worship is offered to the Navpad; and a dramatic performance of the story of Shripal and Mayana is carried out.


The birthday of Mahavir


The birthday of Shraman Bhagwan, the last Tirthankar, is  celebrated on the thirteenth day of the fortnight of the waxing moon, in the month of Chaitra.  On this occasion, a grand chariot procession, community worship, glorification of the Lord, discussions, discourses, seminars and devotional and spiritual activities are organized. On this day, a magnificent celebration takes place at Kshatriy Kund in  Bihar because Bhagwan Mahavir was born there.




Diwali is celebrated on the new-moon day of Kartik. On the night of that day, Mahavirswami attained Nirvan or deliverance and attained to a state of absolute bliss. The Lord discarded the body and the bondage of all Karmas on that night, at Pavapuri and attained Mukti or deliverance. Chaturdasi (the fourteenth day of the bleak fortnight of Kartik), the full‑moon day and the new year (the first day of the fortnight of the waxing moon in Kartik ‑ These three days are celebrated with Paushadh, fasting, special repetition of holy hymns, and meditation. People should fast on the Chafurdasi (14th day) and the new‑moon day and listen to the Uttaradhyayan Sutra which contains the final message of Lord Mahavir.  The whole of the night of Diwali should be spent in the recitation of holy hymns and in meditation on Shraman  Bhagwan Mahavir. In the early morning of the first day of the new year, Ganadhar Gautam Swami, the first disciple of Lord Mahavir attained absolute enlightenment. The Jains begin the new year with a glorification of Lord Gautam Swami; and listen with devotion to the nine Stotras holy hymns and with listening to the auspicious Rasa (epical poem) of Gautam  Swami from their Guru Maharaj.


New Year


Lord Mahavir's chief disciple, Indrabhuti Gautam, had not been able to overcome his attachment to his master and that had prevented his achieving enlightenment. The barrier was only broken after a period of grief over his master’s Nirvän. He at last managed to achieve the highest degree of non­-attachment which enabled him to attain the stage of omniscience, the full enlightenment, in the early morning of the first day of the new year. The Jains begin the new year with a glorification of Lord Gautam Swämi; and listen with devotion to the nine Stotras (Navsmaran) and  the auspicious Räs (epochal poem) of Gautam Swami. Some fast for three days including the New Year day. The real wish should be that the whole coming year may be filled with realistic Dharma, intellectual serenity and equanimity.


Bhai Beej

The festival day for brothers.


When Raja Nandivardhan, the brother of Shraman Bhagawan  Mahavir was steeped in sorrow and anguish on account of the latter's nirvan (attainment of Mukti) his sister, Sudarshana  took him to her house and comforted him. This happened on the second day of the fortnight of the waxing moon, in Kartik. This day is observed as Bhai Beej. This festival is like Raksha Bandhan. On the day of Rakshabandhan, the sister goes to the brother and ties the Raksha; but on this day, the sister invites her brother to her house to felicitate him.


Jnan Panchami

(The holy day for acquiring knowledge)


Jnan Panchami is the name given to the celebration that takes place on the 5th day of the fortnight of the waxing moon in Kartik (the 5th day after Diwali).  This day has been fixed for the worship of pure knowledge; and on this day, by way of worshipping knowledge, fasting, taking Paushadh,  devavandan (offering veneration to Gods). holy recitation, meditation, Pratikraman etc., are carried out. Moreover. the books preserved in the religious libraries are cleansed and worshipped .


Ashadh Chaturdasi


The sacred commencement of Chaturmas takes place on the 14th day of the fortnight of the waxing moon, in the month of Ashad. The Jain Sadhus and Sadhvis remain where they happen to be on that day until the 14th day of Kartik Shukla. They have to stay there. During these four months. among the Jains, many austerities like renunciation, tapasya, undertaking of religious ceremonies, etc., are organized. Even in respect of eating and drinking during these days, some rules have been prescribed.


Kartik Poornima

The full moon day of Kartik


The Chaturmas that begins on Ashadh Chaturdashi comes to an end on the full moon day in Kartik.  After this, the Jain Sadhus and Sadhvis begin their wandering Padyatra i.e., travel on foot. A pilgrimage to Shatrunjay‑Palitana on this day is considered to be of great importance. Thousands of Jains go on pilgrimages on this day. This day also is celebrated as the birthday of Kalikalasarvajna, Acharya  Bhagavant Srivijay Hemachandrasooriji who was born on this day. (in Vikram Samvat 1134 or 1078 A.D.).


Maun Ekadashi

(The holy day for observing silence).


Maun Ekadashi falls on the 11th day of the fort‑night of the waxing moon in the month of Margshirsh.  This is an important day for Jains on which they observe total silence‑Maun and carry outsuch austerities as Paushadh vrat, fasting, worshipping of gods, meditation etc. This is the day on which the great events relating to the one hundred and fifty Jineswaras are celebrated by means of holy recitation. The story of Suvrat Shresthi is connected with this day.


Paush dashami


This day is famous as the birthday of Bhagwan Parshwanath.  On the 10th day of Pushya, 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.


Akshay Tritiya


Those noble people who perform the austerity of Varsitap  complete the austerity on this day by taking sugar‑cane juice in the cool shadow of Shatrunjay.  Bhagwan Rishabdev  performed the Parana (completion of an austerity) on this day after fasting for one year continuously. This day is considered to be very auspicious for going on a pilgrimage to Shatrunjay. This falls on the 3rd day of the bright fortnight of Vaishakh.


The Jain Celebrations


Snatra Mahotsav

The festival of oblation


Snatra Mahotsav is the name given to the ceremony of performing oblations to the image of the Lord; worshipping the Lord with various auspicious things, making offerings to the Lord; and worshipping the Lord with songs. music and dances. It is also called Snatra Puja. The Snatra  Mahotsav is performed generally every day, in most Jain temples.


Showing devotion to the Lord and seeking his blessings can be done on any auspicious day or happy occasion. This constitutes an aspect of the very foundation of the Jain dharma.


Atthai Mahotsav

The festival of eight days


This is a festival of eight days and so it is called Atthai Mahotsav. During these eight days or sometimes five days, many devotional and religious activities are arranged in the Jain temples. The activities include such things as cleaning and decorating the temples, offering prayers to the Paramatma along with songs, music and dances, chanting of hymns of glorification, recitation of songs for worship decorating the images and organizing some other religious and auspicious activities.


Shanti Snatra

Special oblation for universal peace


This activity has been regarded as the most auspicious and beneficial. This is organized on the last day of any minor or major ceremony. On this occasion, oblations are performed to the image of the Lord 27 or 108 times with absolute devotion. Moreover, worship is offered to the Lord with special and auspicious articles. As a part of this ceremony, the Mangal Kumbh (The sacred vessel) is installed; the holy light is installed; worship is offered to the nine grahas; and to other divinities. This observance seeks the welfare of all beings in the universe. On this occasion, Sanskrit shlokas are chanted and this great wish is expressed: "May felicity, bliss. cheerfulness and holiness prevail everywhere".



The Grand Worship of Siddhachakra Yantra


The Siddha Chakra Yantra is designed in some pure and holy place. The yantra is colorfully designed with wheat, green dal, black gram, Bengal gram and rice. Holy recitation, meditation, worship and prayer are carried out for the Navpad  and also, worship is offered to other gods, goddesses. powers etc.


The Atharah Abhishek

Eighteen oblations for purity.


This activity is carried out for the sake of the purification and consecration of any old or new idol.  any picture or engraved marble slab. At such times. to those things 18 oblations containing different kinds of pure water, herbs and some special substances, are offered.

This activity is regarded as very auspicious and beneficial.


The Anjan Shalaka

(Applying holy collyrium to the eyes of a new image)


The name Anjan Shalaka is given to the ceremony of decorating the eyes of new images of Jins with collyrium made of many special substances. using in the process a gold‑stick.

On this occasion, the following five auspicious events relating to the Lord are celebrated.

1. Chyavan‑ incarnation

The incarnation of the Lord in his mother's womb.

2. Janm ‑ birth

The birth of the Lord.

3. Deeksha‑ Renunciation

The event of the Lord's renunciation of worldly life and commencement of a life of austerity, discipline and attainments.

4. Kaivalya gnan

The event of attaining absolute enlightenment after performing austerities and tapasya.

5. Nirvan

Being completely delivered from the body and the karmas.

Only the event of the Kaivalyagnan is called Anjan Shalaka  and it is arranged to be carried out at an auspicious and sacred period, at midnight,

The smearing of collyrium to the eyes of the image with a gold‑stick can be done only by the Acharya Bhagavant, in the Jain command or by the Anuyogacharya, the one next to him.



Installation of the image of the Lord


Pratishtha is the name given to the ceremony of installing the image of the Lord in a newly built or a renovated Jain temple. But, of course, it is absolutely essential that Anjan  Kriya should be done to the new image. (smearing of collyrium to the eyes of the image).  This ceremony is carried out along with other celebrations for some days, The image of the Lord is installed by a noble householder at an auspicious time on an auspicious day. On this occasion many kinds of worship are offered to the sacred powers and divine objects along with singing of hymns and observances.  The image installed in the temple is only a symbol; but actually. it should enable people to install the Lord in their hearts.



Hoisting the holy flag


On the day of the installation of the image of the Lord; and every year. on the day of the annual celebration of the event, a new flag is hoisted on the tower of the temple. On that day, at the time of the worship of the flag; it is hoisted. On this day the Satrah Bhedi, the 17 kinds of worship of which Dhwaj puja is  one are read out with an orchestra. At the time of the Dhwaj  pujJja, the flag is hoisted.



The holy Chariot procession


Rathyatra means taking the resplendent image of the Lord in a procession, in a chariot along the main roads of the city or town so that all people might have a darshan of the Bhagawan's radiant face. The Rathyatra is accompanied by a band (of musicians and players on various instruments) and by thousands of devotees, and by the fourfold society of Jains. It Is a procession of sublime radiance. It is called in spoken dialect Varghoda but its actual name is Rathyatra or  Chaityayatra. Chaityayatra means having a darshan and worshipping the Chaityas or temples in the City.


Sangh Yatra


The Sanghyatra is the holy travel of the fourfold Jain society on bare foot from place to place.  They wander thus from place to place, having a darshan of the Jain temples; and worshipping them; going on a pilgrimage to various places of pilgrimage; disseminating and preaching the dharma; and helping the people in distress. This is called Sanghyatra.  During this Yatra. six very important rules should be scrupulously observed. Hence, It is also called Charipalit sanah or Padayatra sangh.

1) Samyaktva Dharan

They must take the vow of righteousness, with reverence and devotion.

2) Ekashan

They must eat food only once a day.

3) Bhumishayan

They must sleep on a carpet on the ground and should not sleep on a bed; and a mattress.

4) Brahmacharya

They should keep off sensual and carnal delights.

5) Padyatra

They should travel on foot (bare foot).

6) Sachitt Tyag

They should not consume any raw and green vegetables.

The Padyatra carried out in accordance with these six rules really becomes a journey towards salvation.  It marks the end of the journey of worldly life, but the longest journey is the journey inward.



Honouring with a garland.


Any one. who organizes a padyatra; and bears all the expenses relating to it; and carries out Upadhan (austerity) first. earns the honour of being garlanded.  The ceremony of offering a garland to a devout person acquires great significance because it is accompanied by the performance of some special austerities and by the recitation;s of mantras or holy hymns. Some times.  an offer is made for a higher amount. and the people who pay the highest amount generously are first garlanded. The securing of a garland in this manner is a sign of being blessed.



Celebration of completing an austerity.


Udhyapan is the ceremony of expressing a feeling of gratitude for having been able to complete an austerity or spiritual activity without any impediments.  In the spoken dialect. this is called Ujamana or Ujavana.  This ceremony is performed by giving away articles useful for the temple, articles useful for the dissemination of knowledge; and things useful for the Sadhus and Sadhvis. The ceremony comprises the exhibition and the donation of these articles relating to knowledge, to the temple and to the life of austerity. The devotees offer at the time of the completion of the vow, with joy, the ornamental canopy, embroidered velvet back‑curtain with gold and silver‑thread design for the image of the Lord in temples and for the platform in Upashray.


Sadharmik Vatsalaya

Jain community dinners.


All those who meditate on and remember the Navkar Mantra; and who have devotion and reverence for Shraman Bhagwan Mahavir gather at a place and dine together and feed one another. This celebration is called Sadharmik Vatsalya On this day, worship of the Lord and other devotional activities are organized, These community dinners are controlled by the code of Jain customs and practices. It is called Swami Vatsalya or Navkarshi in the spoken language,

Apart from this. other religious activities such as worship and undertaking of spiritual activities are done or arranged. Of course, the responsibility of organizing activities during all festivals is undertaken by pure minded and devout Shravaks. The Sadhus provide only the necessary guidance for these activities.

In all the Jain festivals, prayers are offered for the peace, felicity and prosperity (spiritual) of oneself, of society, nation and the whole universe. The following activities are given special importance: giving charity to the poor and the needy; rendering help; giving fodder and water to animals; giving grain to birds; giving free medicines to the sick and the disabled patients because in the Jain Dharma, benevolence is given the first place.





GUIDENCES OF JAINISM By Bhadrabahu Vijayji Maharaj, Translated by: Shri K. Ramappa, M.A., B.Ed

[1] Karman particles (non-living, very subtle substance) are attracted to the soul because of  false belief (Mithyättva), vowlessness (non-abstinence) (Avirati), negligence (Pramäda), passions (Kashäya) and Activities (Yogäs). These Karman particles that are attached to the soul are called karma. Karma is the hindrance (obstacle) that does not allow us to realize the true qualities of ätmä


[2] Svädhyäya is one of the six internal tapas and one of the six daily activities of the householder. Svädhyäya is consisted of five elements. (i) vächanä- reading of the Jain canonical books; (ii) pruchhanä- asking the guru questions about them; (iii) parivartanä- repetition of what was learned previously so one does not forget; (iv) anuprekshä- deep contemplation of what was learned (with the meaning); (v) dharma-kathä- inspiring others about Jainism and listening to the exposition of religious parables. Great Ächärya Amitgati says, one cannot get rid off the darkness of his/her ignorance without the brightness of svädhyäya. Another great Ächärya Vamadeva says, svädhyäya is one of the four anuyogas propounded by the Jina. Ächärya Asadhara recommends the construction of svädhyäya-shäläs (schools) where there is no frequent visits by Jain monks and scholars.

[3] The message of Jina, Lord Mahdvira the last Tirthankara, is carried by  Ächäryas, our spiritual leaders. They have 36 attributes, (see the meaning of Panchindiya Sutra, Lesson 2 of Sämäyik). The responsibility of the spiritual welfare of the entire Jain Sangh (community) rests on the shoulders of Ächäryas. Before reaching this state, one has to do an in-depth study and have a thorough mastery of the Jain Ägams.  In addition to acquiring a high level of spiritual excellence, they also have the ability to lead the monastic communion. They should also know the various languages of the country and have acquired a sound knowledge of other philosophies, ideologies, and religions of the region and the world.


[4] Svetämbar means white [cotton]-clad; name of Jain sect whose mendicants wear white garments


[5] Digambar means sky-clad; name of the Jain sect whose mendicants practice ascetic nudity