Paryushan Parva - As the name suggests, celebrated annually for self-purification and uplift is meant to adhere to the ten universal virtues in practical life; and leads us on the right path, far from the mad strife for material prosperity, which ultimately leads us to our true destination i.e., salvation. The non-Jains also express high reverence for this Jain festival. All members of Jain community- high and low, young and old, and males and females, participate with full vigor and zeal in the various religious rituals and cultural programs. They listen with rapt attention to the holy sermons of the saints and learned Jain scholars arranged during the ten-day festival. In these celebrations lie dormant the seeds of the well being, peace and happiness of the common man. On the eve of this festival all activities, which add to social discord or bitterness are declared taboo from the temple pulpits.
These celebrations harbinger social harmony and amity and preach the lofty Jain motto ‘Live and Let live’.
There are different aspects of this sacred festival ... It includes, fasting, offering prayers, worshipping Mahavir Bhagwan (Lord Mahavir) and further, at the last day seeking forgiveness through a particular ceremony called - Pratikaman ...
Fasting ... In Jainisim, fasting is considered as a spiritual activity, that purify our souls, improve morality, spiritual power, increase knowledge and strengthen relationships. The purpose is to purify our souls by staying closer to our own souls, looking at our faults and asking for forgiveness for the mistakes and taking vows to minimize our faults. Also a time when Jains will review their action towards their animals, environment and every kind of soul. Strict fasting where one has to completely abstain from food and even water is observed for a week or more. Depending upon one's capability, complete fasting spans between 8-31 days. People also have to follow the ritual of not eating after sunset.
I still remember during my school and college days back in India, that I used to get excited for the festival of Paryushan altogether for a very different reason... It was during this week long festival that I used to get a treat of all the specially made sweets amongst which the best being the Moti Chur Laddoo and Magas Ladoo...Also to add a spicy snack how can we forget the munchy Fulvadis... Also this whole week, I used to get a new kind of dish made out of different tpyes of pulses (Kathols) every day... I never used to know back in my childhood days, that we can also have a vegetable made out of Papad ... Yummy...all this dishes and my stomach is already growling in hunger ...
I still wonder how people who do Atthais (Fasting for 8 consectuive days), can survive... People doing more than 8 days are simply un believable, but for 8 days no food, and water also has to be boiled and that too cant be drank after sunset ... I really am not sure if my body system can survive this but I always DO think about doing that year after year ...lol but so far have never done that ...
Offering Prayers... The Namokar Mantra, is such an integral part of my life, that Paryushan or no Paryushan, i still dont remember any single day that I might not have chanted the namokar mantra 20-30 times ... Ofcourse back in school, I just used to say it 2 times a day, but for the past 3-5 years, this few lines have become such a binding force in my life, that no matter what, at each and every step of my life, I just have to recite this at the back of my mind ... Follwing is the real meaning of each of the lines ...
Namo Arihantânam I bow to the Arihantâs (Prophets).
Namo Siddhânam I bow to the Siddhâs (Liberated Souls).
Namo Âyariyânam I bow to the Âchâryas (Preceptors or Spiritual Leaders).
Namo Uvajjhâyanam I bow to the Upadhyâya (Teachers).
Namo Loe Savva Sahûnam I bow to all the Sadhûs (Saints).
Eso Panch Namokkaro, Savva This fivefold bow (mantra) destroys all sins Pâvappanâsano and obstacles
Mangalanam Cha Savvesim and of all auspicious mantras,is the first
Padhamam Havai Mangalam and foremost one.
Mahavir Janam (Birth of Lord Mahavir) This is considered to be the biggest day for all Jains and no matter what, each Jain would surely try and make it a point to go and worship Lord Mahavir, and especially honor the birth of Lord Mahavir... The belief is, that Queen Trishala, mother of Lord Mahavir at midnight saw fourteen following dreams after conception:
4. Goddess Laxmi
5. Garland of Flowers
6. Full Moon
8. Large Flag
9. Silver Urn
12. Celestial Air-plane
13. Heap of Gems
14. Smokeless Fire
After having such fourteen wonderful dreams, Queen Trishala woke up. Her dreams filled her with wonder. She never had such dreams before. She narrated her dreams to King Siddharth. After nine months and fourteen days, Queen Trishala delivered a baby boy - Lord Mahavir.
These 14 dreams are termed as "Supans", and each one is worshipped before the birth of Lord Mahavir, during this day long ceremony. People actually bid to get the honor of touching the 14 Supans and thus letting others worship it while you are holding them.
I still remember, that the temple back in my city where I used to go daily, they have the same ceremony and people are really happy to bid as much as they can in order to get the honor of being the first one to worship the Supan. My dad used to do the same for me, but he always used to do it in the name of his dad, my Grandfather... My dad, would bid for atleast 2-3 Supans each year after year, and I still remember, being a child, I used to get so shy, because if you are the highest bidder, then the temple saints make you stand in the middle of the hall, in front of everyone, where you have to hold that particular Supan which you bidded for, and go round in showing it to everyone in the hall, and people shower blessings, and rice and holy water on you ... But it was really an honor to get that feeling and you feel blessed to hold that Supan in your hands...
It is considered very holy and sacred to have the first touch at the swing in which Lord Mahavir is placed as soon as he is born...
Pratikaman... This is one of the process of remembering all the sins done by us throughout the year and confessing in front of Guruji and asking for forgiveness. Also during pratikaman we ask forgivessness from all our fellow mates incase we have hurt them by any means...it is said "maan vachan n kaya thi" - by thoughts, speech or action, intentionally or unintionally.
Ideally pratikaman has to be done everyday to wash our daily sins but it is said that even if you cannot do it everyday it should be done atleast once a year - on Samvatsari, which is today. There is a 2-3 hours ritual, where we read and go through the different types of sins a person can commit, and we ask for the forgiveness of those, and also in a way offer praises to God, so that we can cultivate the great qualities of God within us...
Its been almost over a decade now, since I started going for Pratikaman, and year after year, I learn a lot of new things... Last year it was a nice experience with friends here in the US, and we read the whole book and did the Pratikaman almost to perfection, which again we would try and do today ...
Michami Dukdam... The meaning of Michami Dukdam is to ask for forgiveness for any sins I have done ... Normally people wish Michami Dukdam to the near and dear ones, before going for Pratikaman where they wash away all the sins through prayers...
As for the fasting, I have done a whole day long Upvast, which means, no food at all, only boiled water, and that too after sunset, I can drink only 3 times...
Well I am at job, and so far its been good with the upvast stint, and in fact I have not even drank a single glass of water yet, but will do so before leaving job and heading to the temple for Pratikaman. The real test is after the Pratikaman, once I reach home, it will be tough to spend 2-3 hours before sleep, but nevertheless, its just one day, and I think we have that much strength to do this ...
So wishing you all - MICHAMI DUKDAM - Please forgive me if knowingly or unknowingly, I have caused any pain, hurt you or said or done anything to you, I hereby fold my hands and seek your forgiveness ...