Mahavir Jayanti, is the most important religious holiday for Jains also known as Mahavir Janma Kalyanak. It celebrates the birth of Lord Mahavira, twenty fourth and the last Tirthankara of the present time cycle.
Mahavira was born into royalty as the son of King Siddartha of Kundgraam and Queen Trishala. During her pregnancy, Trishala was believed to have had a number of auspicious dreams, all signifying the coming of a great soul. The exact number of dreams differs according to the school of Jainism; Svetambaras generally believe that the actual number is fourteen while Digambaras claim sixteen instead. Regardless, the astrologers who interpreted these dreams claimed that the child would become either a Chakravarti or a Tirthankara. It is said that when Queen Trishala gave birth to Mahavira, the god-king Indra bathed the newborn himself with celestial milk, a ritual essentially marking him as a Tirthankara.
The importance of the festival owes to the fact that Saint Mahavir was the founder of Jainism as a religion. It is a peaceful religion that cherishes simplicity. Their core values are such that they do not believe in killing even an insect. The mood of this festival is also without any kind of drama, just a quite celebration with respect to their saint. There are dominantly four types of Jains: Digambars and Svetambaras, Deravasis and Sthanakvasis. The worship rituals of Jains are not very elaborate or striking as their leader Mahavir was against idol worship in its ideal sense. Out of the four sects only Deravasis go to temples, while the others regard their ideal faith to be purest when internalized.
The festival is celebrated throughout the country among Jain communities. Although they believe in simplicity and avoid grandiosity, there are some significant ceremonies that they uphold. One of the most significant traditions of this day is the visit to various tirthankar statues and temples. There are processions with pictures and images of Mahavir. The temples have varied pujas to honor the statue of Mahavir by flowers, rice, fruits and abhishek it with milk. There are places of gathering or temples where the core values and message of Mahavira is preached. Some places his life history is also told. Some of the believers also observe a fast on this day. Kheer is prepared in most houses as a sweet dish.
Lord Mahavira, as it is believed in Jainism was born somewhere around the 5th century B.C. His birth date according to Lunar calendar is on the thirteenth day of the month of rising moon called Chaitr. According to the Gregorian calendar it falls somewhere in the month of April. The most important places of celebration of Mahavir Jayanti are Gujarat and Rajasthan. Gujarat is said to have to maximum number of Jain shrines. They are also the states where highest numbers of Jains reside. In India, Gujarat holds the biggest fair for this festival. Palitana and Girnar are some of the most significant places of worship of the state. Yet Vaishali, in Bihar, being the birth place of Mahavir, has its own importance and also celebrates this Jayanti significantly.
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