SATURDAY, APRIL 16: Jains revel in the simple and enlightening nature of their 24th and final Tirthankara today, on their most important holiday: the birthday of Mahavira, or Mahavir Jayanti. The day recalls the figure who is credited with setting the core of the Jain tradition to this day.
Jain temples bear flags and abundant decorations, and devotees ceremonially bathe statues of Mahavira; they offer fruit, milk, rice and water to the poor; the faithful join enormous processions around cities; and many meditate and pray. (TajOnline has more.) Today, Jains gather in temples to hear lectures on Mahavira’s virtuous path, although monks following Mahavira’s order focus on conveying Mahavira’s “Unity of Life” every day throughout each year.
Jain sects dispute Mahavira’s birth year as 599 BCE or 615 BCE, but all agree he was conceived in one woman and ingeniously transferred to another. Legend accounts that Mahavira’s birth mother had between 14-16 dreams that foretold her child’s future—as either an emperor or a Tirthankara, a human who achieves enlightenment. When Mahavira’s wealthy upbringing didn’t phase his desire for a simple life, he sought solitude in nature as an adult, and went on to inspire others after achieving enlightenment. (Wikipedia has details.)
The abundance of Indian holidays this month have led to an upsurge in short vacations in the country. The Hindustan Times reports on this busy holiday season.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.