Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated as the anniversary of
Vardhman Mahavir, the founder of Jain religion.
Commemorating his birthday on this day, Mahavir was the
most revered religious leader in this century and was
perceived as a reformer who vehemently opposed the
ritualism and false beliefs. The twenty-fourth and last
Jain Tirthankara, Mahavir was born in 599 BC and lived
for 72 years. He was born of Sidhartha, the Raja of
Kundalpura, and Queen Trishala, who was also known by
the name Priyakarni.
His Divine Life
Prince Vardhamana became extremely penitent and resolved
to give up everything worldly. He gave up attachment to
his parents, friends and relatives. Distributing all his
wealth among the poor, he went to the forest and became
a monk. Mahavir practised rigorous austerities,
including fasts that lasted many days. He meditated on
the pure nature of the Soul. Mahavir lived a life of
absolute truthfulness, a life of perfect honesty and a
life of absolute chastity.
Mahavira taught that people can save their souls from
the contamination of matter by living a life of extreme
asceticism and by practising non-violence towards all
living creatures. This advocacy of non-violence
encouraged his followers - monastic and lay - to become
strong advocates of vegetarianism. Mahavira's followers
were aided in their quest for salvation by the five
mahavatars. Attributed to Mahavira, these great vows
were the renunciation of killing, of speaking untruths,
of greed, of sexual pleasure, and of all attachments to
living beings and non-living things.
The main sects now are the Digambaras and Shvetambaras,
with the latter again divided into Deravasis and
Sthanakvasis. While the Deravasis visit the temples and
worship the statue of Mahavir, the Sthanakvasis
emphasise the internalisation of the faith. Mahavir
himself was against idol worship.
On the day of Mahavir Jayanthi (Birth anniversary),
many members of the community make offerings of milk,
rice, fruit, incense, lamps and water to the tirthankar.
Some sections of the community even participate in a