Jains praying to Lord Mahavir's statue in the temple / Source: Shivam Tiwari | Pixabay
👉 Mahavir Jayanti 2023 is celebrated on April 4th, Tuesday.
The celebration of Mahavir Jayanti has long been steeped in history and tradition. Jains usually celebrate this day by visiting temples, offering silent prayers, and participating in various rituals. Some Jains fast on this day, while others engage in charitable activities and donate food to the needy. However, do you know the real reason why Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated?
👉 Here's everything you need to know about this spiritual festival and what you can look forward to during Mahavir Jayanti 2023.
What is Mahavir Jayanti?
Old Jain statue in India. Source: Tilak DP | Pixabay
On this festive day, Jains around the world will offer prayers, sing devotional songs, and visit Jain temples to seek the blessings of Lord Mahavir. The day is also marked by processions, with the anointment and cleansing of the statue. Devotees will perform the raht yatra, whereby the statue is carried on a decorated chariot and toured around the city. Some followers of Jain Dharma also observe a day-long fast and spend the day in meditation and contemplation.
Over the years, the significance of Mahavir Jayanti has extended beyond the Jain community. Lord Mahavir's teachings have had a deep impact on present-day Indian society and culture. His message of peace and harmony has influenced many people, including Mahatma Gandhi, who was greatly influenced by Jain's philosophy and incorporated its principles into his own approach to social and political change.
When is Mahavir Jayanti celebrated in 2023?
- Mahavir Jayanti 2023 date and day: April 4th, 2023 (Tuesday)
Who celebrates Mahavir Jayanti?
Followers of Jainism wearing masks to avoid swallowing insects in India. Source: Sanjeev Bothra | Unsplash
Jains in India are the people who primarily celebrate Mahavir Jayanti, the sacred festival that commemorates the birth of their last Tirthankara. however, you can still find followers of Jainism worldwide that celebrate the historic day. Some countries with high Jain populations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, also observe Mahavir Jayanti 2023 as a holiday.
Jainism is one of the world's oldest religions, with its roots dating back to more than 2,500 years ago in India. It is a religion that teaches a path of spiritual purity with the goal of liberation from the endless cycle of rebirth and achieving an all-knowing state of enlightenment called moksha. Jains believe you can achieve this state by living a non-violent life, or ahimsa, with as little or no negative impact on other life forms as possible.
The traditions and spiritual ideas of Jainism were largely carried forward by a succession of 24 Tirthankaras, most notably Lord Mahavir, who is believed to be a contemporary of Gautama Buddha. Both Mahavir and Buddha have given priority to self-discipline, meditation, and ascetic life, believing them to be the key to salvation.
Their teachings are completely opposite to those of Vedic priests at that time, who emphasized more on ritual practices and their vital role as intermediaries between humanity and the gods. Today, Jainism teachings have influenced many, with around four to five million practitioners worldwide.
Where does Mahavir Jayanti usually happen?
Jain temples made from white marble. Source: Trip.com
While Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated by followers of Jainism residing all over the world, the holiday is officially celebrated in India, which has the most prominent Jain population and is home to some of the most important Jain pilgrimage sites.
👉 To best experience the celebrations of Mahavir Jayanti 2023 in India, you must go to West India. You can find the magic in states including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh, where the Jain community celebrates the festival fervently.
👉 Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat are particularly known for their grand celebrations of Mahavir Jayanti, attracting pilgrims from all parts of the country to visit the ancient shrines for elaborate processions.
Mahavir Jayanti is a day of praying and fasting. Generally, you can see festival celebrations at Jain temples and centers worldwide through special prayer services, processions, and cultural programs. Jains will meditate and reflect on Lord Mahavir's teachings to better live their lives by his principles.
What are the origins of Mahavir Jayanti?
The origin story of Mahavir Jayanti is one shrouded in mystery, with legends passed down from generation to generation. Since we are celebrating Mahavir Jayanti 2023, the story is said to be traced back to over 2,500 years ago when Lord Mahavir, the 24th and last Tirthankar, whom many regards as the founder of Jainism, was born.
Lord Mahavir was born Vardhamana Mahavira in Vaishali, now known as the city of Bihar, on the 13th day of the Chaitra month of the Hindu solar calendar. His birth year, however, is often met with a debate between two different sects. Swetambar Jains believe he was born in 599 BC, while the Digambar Jains believe he was born in 615 BC.
He was born to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala, who named him Vardhamana (literally one who grows) because of the kingdom's prosperity at the time of his birth. Based on ancient Jain scriptures, his delivery has an interesting story attached to it.
When he first descended from heavens for his last birth as a human, Lord Mahavir was initially conceived by Devananda, the wife of Brahmin Rishabhdeva. His embryo was then miraculously transferred to the womb of Trisala, aligning with the belief that an arhat, a perfected person to achieve Nirvana, is to be born in a royal family.
As is common in the unusual births of all spiritual leaders, his arrival was foretold through many auspicious signals. Before Mahavir's birth, Trishala had 14 auspicious dreams, from elephants and bulls to a mountain of jewels and a burning flame, that many astrologers signified as the coming of a great soul. Indeed, the child was born to achieve greatness.
The Elephant in dreams represents a good omen and is associated with fortune. Source: Michael Baragwanath | Pixabay
At 30, Lord Mahavir left his kingdom and abandoned all worldly pleasures to seek greater truth and attain Nirvana. He followed the footsteps of his predecessor Teerthankara Parshvanatha and developed a five-fold path for all householders to follow.
Teachings of Lord Mahavir
- Ahimsa (non-violence): This is an essential principle of Jainism. Lord Mahavir believed in non-violence in thought, word, and deed towards all living beings.
- Satya (truthfulness): Lord Mahavir taught that one should always speak the truth and avoid falsehood in all circumstances.
- Asteya (non-stealing): Lord Mahavir emphasized the importance of not taking what is not rightfully ours.
- Brahmacharya (celibacy): Lord Mahavir believed that the path to greatness is one of self-restraint and avoiding sensual pleasures.
- Aparigraha (non-attachment): He taught that one should not be attached to material possessions and to live a simple and frugal life.
👉 When Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated on the 13th day of Chaitra, the festival is an opportunity for Jains to honor Lord Mahavir's life and his teachings of leading a virtual and ethical life to enable peace, love, and harmony in a society.
What are the rituals and customs of Mahavir Jayanti?
While Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm by Jains all over the world, there are many ways in which the festival is celebrated.
👉 For example, the Shwetambar Sthanakwasi sect does not believe in idol worship and often marks the day by fasting, meditation, and reading holy books. In comparison, the Murthipujak Shwetambars sect celebrates it through ritual processions.
Still, the Jain community has many common practices when it comes to the Mahavir Jayanti 2023 celebrations and rituals. Here is what you can expect:
Visiting Jain temples
Jains visit Jain temples early in the morning to offer prayers to Lord Mahavir. Pratikraman or silent prayers are offered to repent for any wrongdoings. Devotees also show reverence through offerings like sweets, flowers, fruits, and milk to honor the Tirthankars.
Statues and images of Lord Mahavir are also given an abhisheka, a ceremonial bath using water or milk for cleansing. Devotees will also sing devotional songs and hold programs like speeches or skits that champion and spread the teachings of Lord Mahavir.
Raht yatra refers to a journey of deities. Source: Trip.com
Some Jain sects will have a religious procession called raht yatra whereby Lord Mahavir's statue is placed on the top of a chariot and toured around the street, often accompanied by traditional music and dance performances.
Fasting will also be a part of the Mahavir Jayanti 2023 ritual for many Jains. It is believed that by fasting, Jains can purify their body and mind and focus on their spiritual development. Fasting is also seen as a way of showing respect and devotion to Lord Mahavir.
During Mahavir Jayanti, Jains observe a day-long fast, where they abstain from consuming food and water for the entire day. In contrast, some Jains will do a partial fast, where they will only eat one meal in the day or eat only boiled or raw food.
The fast is seen as a way to practice self-discipline and self-control, which are central teachings of Lord Mahavir. It is also believed that fasting can help Jains achieve inner peace, which is essential for religious growth and enlightenment.
Meditation and self-reflection
Meditation on Mahavir Jayanti to deepen the spiritual connection to Jainism. Source: Kraig Seder | Pixabay
Meditation is another practice you will see during Mahavir Jayanti 2023, as the day is a time for introspection and reflection on the teachings of Lord Mahavir. Through meditating, Jains seek to cultivate inner peace, focus, and clarity, which can help them better understand the nature of the self and the universe.
There are many ways to meditate on Mahavir Jayanti. Some Jains practice silent meditation, sitting quietly and focusing on their breath, a mantra, or prayer. Others may engage in guided meditation, where a teacher or spiritual leader leads them through visualizations or affirmations designed to promote relaxation and inner peace.
Meditation on Mahavir Jayanti is seen as a way to deepen one's understanding of Jainism and to connect with the spiritual essence of Lord Mahavir's teachings. It is also a way to cultivate a sense of inner stillness and tranquility, to carry them into their daily life to promote greater peace, harmony, and well-being.
Donation to charity
Poor old man on the streets of India. Source: Billy Cedeno | Pixabay
Many Jains donate to organizations that contribute to the welfare of society, such as those that provide healthcare, education, or basic needs like food and shelter. On this festival, Jain organizations will organize Jal Seva to deliver free drinking water to those in need.
Donating to charity is seen as a way of expressing gratitude for the blessings one has received in life. Jains believe that every act of charity and kindness helps one move closer to achieving Nirvana, the ultimate state of liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Feasting with family and friends
Jain family and friends come together for a feat. Source: Rajesh Balouria | Pixabay
Any festival or celebration is incomplete without a delicious feast. On Mahavir Jayanti, Jains prepare unique vegetarian dishes and sweets and share them with friends and family.
Jains typically follow a strict vegetarian diet and avoid root vegetables as they believe digging them up can harm the organisms in the soil. Jains prepare and eat simple vegetarian food, typically without onions and garlic.
One of the most popular dishes prepared during Mahavir Jayanti is Pachkuta, a mixture of five sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and tangy ingredients. It is believed that this mixture helps to balance the body's five elements and promotes good health.
For dessert on Mahavir Jayanti 2023, you can also expect a special sweet dish called Panjiri. It is made from wheat flour, sugar, and ghee. This dish is commonly served as it is believed to help purify the body and soul.
What is the meaning behind Mahavir Jayanti?
Mahavir Jayanti symbolizes the importance of the Jain philosophy, which centers around the practice of non-violence, truth, and compassion towards all living beings. It reminds people of the value of living a simple and ethical life focused on helping humanity and all living beings with compassion and kindness.
Lord Mahavir's teachings revolve around the concept of ahimsa, or non-violence, which is the core principle of Jainism. Jains believe that only practicing non-violence can attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Essentially, Mahavir Jayanti is a time to pay homage to Lord Mahavir, seek his blessings, and renew our commitment to leading a life of selfless service and non-violence. The festival also promotes unity among people of different faiths, as people of all religions and backgrounds in India will come together to celebrate it.
What Jain temples should you visit during Mahavir Jayanti?
Mahavir Jayanti 2023 is just around the corner. If you plan to travel to India around this time, do not miss the opportunity to visit these historic Jain temples.
It is a sight to withhold as the Jain temples will be decorated with flags, flower offerings, and devotees flocking to celebrate Lord Mahavir's birth. You will experience the divinity of this religious festival in India firsthand.
The celebration is especially grand in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Here are some of the most famous Jain temples you should visit.
1. Palitana Jain Temple, Gujarat
Palitani Jain Temple on top of Shatrunjaya Hills. Source: 710beppo | Pixabay
With one of the most spectacular views, the Palitana Jain temple is known to have the largest cluster of Jain temples, with a total of 863 unique shrines sitting atop the Shatrunjaya Hills in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat. Each temple has its distinctive architecture and design, with the main temple dedicated to Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara of Jainism.
The first temple's construction started in the 11th century, and the temples have since span an area of almost 3.5km. To reach the temple complex, pilgrims must climb over 3,500 steps to the top of the Shatrunjaya hill. However, a ropeway system is also available as an option. This is an important pilgrimage site for Jains, as Lord Mahavir is believed to have meditated here.
2. Ranakpur Jain Temple, Rajasthan
Ranakpur Jain Temple with over 1,400 pillars. Source: Ramakant Sharda| Pixabay
Ranakpur Jain Temple is a beautiful and historic temple in the Ranakpur village of Rajasthan. The temple was built in the 15th century under the patronage of Rana Kumbha, a ruler of Mewar, and is famous for its white marble construction.
The temple has more than 1,400 intricately carved pillars, each of which is unique in design. The main prayer hall of the temple is supported by these beautifully crafted pillars and features a stunning domed ceiling adorned with intricate carvings and designs.
One of the best features of Ranakpur Jain Temple is in the day when the sunlight filters through the intricately carved marble screens and creates beautiful patterns of light and shadow. This creates a mesmerizing effect that adds to the temple's overall beauty and spiritual significance.
3. Shri Mahavirji Temple, Rajasthan
Shri Mahavirji Temple with the largest worship space for Jains. Source: Paurav Shah | Unsplash
Shri Mahavirji Temple is a famous Jain temple located in the town of Mahavirji in Rajasthan. The temple is dedicated to Lord Mahavir, who is worshipped as the principal deity of the temple. It is believed that Lord Mahavir's footprints are preserved in the temple, making it one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Jains this upcoming Mahavir Jayanti 2023.
Additionally, the architecture of the Shri Mahavirji Temple is a fusion of Hindu and Jain styles. The temple complex is spread over a vast area and comprises several shrines dedicated to various Jain deities.
Another unique feature of the Shri Mahavirji Temple is the water tank within the temple complex. The water is considered sacred and believed to have curative properties. Many devotees from all over India often visit to take a dip in the tank and offer prayers to Lord Mahavir as a part of their pilgrimage.
Naturally, these are just a few of the many Jain temples you can visit during Mahavir Jayanti 2023. Each of these temples has its significance and history, and visiting them can give you a deep insight into the Jain religion and its culture.
FAQs about Mahavir Jayanti 2023
1. When is Mahavir Jayanti 2023 date?
Mahavir Jayanti 2023 falls on April 4th, Tuesday. It is an important day for Jains worldwide as they commemorate the 2621st birth anniversary of Lord Mahavir.
2. Is Mahavir Jayanti 2023 a public holiday in India?
Yes, Mahavir Jayanti 2023 is a public holiday in India. It is observed on the 13th day of the Chaitra month according to the Hindu calendar and is celebrated nationally.
3. Is Mahavir Jayanti and Ambedkar Jayanti the same?
No, they are not the same. Mahavir Jayanti commemorates the birth of Lord Mahavir, while Ambedkar Jayanti marks the birth of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of India's constitution.
4. What is the significance of Mahavir Jayanti?
Mahavir Jayanti marks the birth of Lord Mahavir, whose teachings of non-violence, truthfulness, and compassion have profoundly impacted the Jain community and their way of living.
5. How do you greet someone on Mahavir Jayanti?
To greet someone on Mahavir Jayanti 2023, you can say "Happy Mahavir Jayanti" or "Jai Jinendra," a traditional Jain greeting that means victory to the conqueror.