Why Do Jains Celebrate Diwali?: – Diwali has a very special significance in Jainism. It symbols the anniversary of the Nirvana and liberation of the Mahavlir’s soul, the twenty-fourth and last Jain Tirthankara of present cosmic age. It is also celebrated at the same moment as the Hindu festival of Deepawali.
Diwali symbols the start of the New Year and end of the current year for the Jains as well as it remembers the passing commemoration of their 24th Tirthankara Mahavir’s and his achievement of moksha.
Which festival is celebrated by Jains on Diwali night? Why do Jains celebrate Diwali? Why does Jain celebrate Deepavali festival? Let’s discuss this.
Why Do Jains Celebrate Diwali? Facts & A Jain Perspective on Diwali Festival
Diwali is probably the biggest and auspicious festival in India. People decorate their homes, shops, offices with lights and Diyas. Relatives distribute sweets with each other. People clean their houses, renovate them and decorate them. It is very popular among children due to the excitement of bursting firecrackers.
Jains even observe Deepawali, however, their reason for celebration is dissimilar from that of the Hindus. In Hinduism, there are many reasons for celebrating Diwali. Although it is celebrated in honor of the arrival of Lord Rama, spouse Sita, brother Laxman, and lord Hanuman to Ayodhya from exile of 14 years after Rama defeated Ravana. To light up their lane, villagers glow Diyas to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
Diwali in Jainism, however, is celebrated for a different reason. In Jainism, Diwali was mainly known as Dipalika and festival of lamps. On this very day, the twenty-fourth and last Jain Tirthankara of present cosmic age, Mahavir’s attain Nirvana or Moksha. Mahavir was regarded as the man who gave Jainism its present form.
On 15th October 527 BCE, Mahavir attained Moksha (liberation) at Pawapuri on Chaturdashi of Kartik. Also, it is believed that the chief disciple of Mahavir, Gautama Swami attained omniscience i.e. absolute or complete knowledge known as Keval Gyaan.
Moksha means liberation of the soul. Attaining Moksha should be the prime objective of every soul on this planet, according to Jainism. An enlightened soul is supposed to have attained its proper as well as the essential nature of endless happiness, never-ending knowledge, and immeasurable perception.
The main objective of all his teachings was how to be free from the continuous cycle of birth, life, and death and achieve a permanently blissful state. He also envisioned men and women to be on the equal footing in the matters of spiritual advancement.
Pawapuri or Pawa is a holy site for Jains located in the Nalanda district in the Bihar state of Eastern India. Mahavir attained Moksha at the dawn of the Amavasya (new moon). He was cremated at Pawapuri.
It is said that a lot of Gods show up there enlightening the night. But the following night was pitch black. So people illuminate their houses to symbolically keep the light of their master’s knowledge alive. This is why Jains celebrate Diwali / Deepawali. Pratipada i.e. the next of Diwali marks the Jain New Year.
By tradition, Jain people start their accounting year from ending of Diwali. Jain calendar is known as Vira Nirvana Sambat and their year 2546 started with Diwali of the year 2019. For that reason, people also wish everyone Happy New Year. On the morning of Deepawali, Nirvana Lord is offered after praying to Lord Mahavir in all Jain temples across the globe. Lots of devotees go to Mahavir’s temple on this day, to put forward their prayers to Mahavir.
Ahimsa or Ahinsa i.e. non-violence is the cardinal principle of Jainism. It should be practiced in all three ways, physically, mentally and verbally. Due to this principle, many Jains avoid firing crackers as first of all it creates pollution. Secondly, it leads to violence and killing of many very tiny and small living organisms and sometimes birds.
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It is celebrated in the atmosphere of austerity, simplicity, serenity, equity, calmness, charity, philanthropy and environment-consciousness. Jain temples, homes, offices, shops are decorated with lights and Diyas. The illumination is representative of knowledge and deletion of lack of knowledge.
Swetambar Jains observe three days of fasting during Diwali as a tribute to the penance and sacrifice of Mahavir and his valuable contributions to our understanding of life and beyond. Devotees chant prayers and mantras to pray to Mahavir. People get together in a huge crowd for prayer and they recite verses from the Uttaradhyayan Sutra which contains the last teachings of Mahavir.
In my friend’s house, Diwali is always celebrated as a mix of traditions. Her family not only remembers and honors Lord Mahavir’s salvation each year but also participates in Hindu traditions, such as praying to Laxmi, the Goddess of Prosperity, to bless us in the New Year and celebrating the return of Lord Rama after defeating the demon king Ravana.
She said that as a child, Diwali mainly meant new clothes, my mother’s delicious homemade sweets. Growing up as an Indian in Nepal had its benefits too.
As per the passing of time, the holiday has taken on a dissimilar meaning. Diwali is not only regarding delicious food along with new clothes; it is also regarding celebrating the win of good over evil in every capacity whether small or large.
Each year Diwali is a testament of Lord Mahavir’s teachings of pluralism and harmony in action. Diwali brings every citizen of different backgrounds, mixed faiths celebrating for their reasons and in unique manners. The festival is embraced by everyone, regardless of background.
In my own friend’s experience as she has been in Nepal for about 5 years and celebrates Deepawali in Bhagavan Mahavir Jain Niketan at Kathmandu. Diwali is both a reminder and a chance to practice Lord Mahavira’s teachings.
The lighting of the lamps denotes knowledge or the removal of ignorance. Whereas most of my elementary school classmates had never heard of and had no idea why I was so excited to celebrate Diwali, through the efforts of Nepalese Jains both awareness and acceptance of our traditions has increased and continues to do so with each year.
Whether by blending different faith traditions or mixing cultures to celebrate in a unique Indo-Western style, we can all find ways to apply Lord Mahavir’s teachings of respect, generosity, peace, and unity this Diwali. At last, I want to wish everyone a year of happiness.
Bu Saugat Thapa