THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27: Jains began Diwali celebrations yesterday, but today is even more auspicious: It’s New Year’s Day! On the night of the first day of Diwali, Jains believe that Lord Mahavir attained moksha, thereby releasing all karmas from his existence and breaking the cycle of reincarnation. (Learn more about Jain holidays at Wikipedia.) Jains honor Mahavira’s accomplishment with a night spent in prayer, repetitions of sacred hymns and meditation. The following morning dawns a new day, and Jains wish one another a “Saal Mubarak”—Happy New Year! (Get a Jain perspective from the Huffington Post.)
Lord Mahavir was the 24th and last Tirthankar in Jainism, and his teachings make up a great portion of the religion today. This Tirthankar preached compassion, justice through nonviolence and the importance of all living beings; non-possessiveness, political equity and pluralism. By lighting their lamps on Diwali, Jains take on the concept of “light over darkness” by remembering the light that filled the earth and the heavens upon Lord Mahavir’s enlightenment, according to Jain tradition. The lamps remind Jains to keep Lord Mahavir’s knowledge and lessons alive.