Diwali, the luminous festival of lights, is celebrated with immense fervor and joy across India and in several parts of the world. While it is widely recognized as a Hindu festival, its significance in Jainism holds a profound and deeply spiritual meaning, marking a pivotal event in Jain history – the Nirvana of Lord Mahavira, the last Tirthankara.
The Spiritual Essence of Diwali in Jainism
In the heart of Jain tradition, Diwali is observed not just as a cultural festival but as a sacred commemoration of the moment when Lord Mahavira attained Moksha or liberation. This event occurred in 527 BCE at Pavapuri, Bihar. The night when Lord Mahavira achieved Nirvana was one of amavasya (new moon), yet it is said that the darkness was dispelled as celestial beings illuminated the skies in honor of this great event. This divine illumination is symbolically recreated by Jains every year through the lighting of lamps, signifying the victory of knowledge over ignorance and light over darkness.
Lord Mahavira: The Embodiment of Jain Teachings
Lord Mahavira, the 24th and last Tirthankara of Jainism, is revered for his teachings on non-violence (Ahimsa), truth (Satya), and asceticism. He spent 30 years preaching the eternal truths of Jainism, emphasizing the importance of self-restraint, penance, and the pursuit of spiritual awakening. His teachings form the core tenets of Jain philosophy and guide millions of followers around the world.
The Nirvana of Lord Mahavira
The event of Mahavira’s Nirvana is not just a historical moment but a deeply spiritual milestone in Jainism. It represents the ultimate goal of every Jain – the liberation of the soul from the cycles of birth and death. Diwali, therefore, is a time for Jains to reflect on the teachings of Lord Mahavira and to reaffirm their commitment to the path of virtue, renunciation, and self-realization.
Celebrations and Rituals
In Jain households, Diwali is observed with rituals that are imbued with spirituality and reverence. Temples are adorned with lights, and devotees offer prayers and recite verses from the sacred Jain texts. The lighting of lamps is a significant ritual, symbolizing the light of knowledge dispelling the darkness of ignorance. Additionally, many Jains observe a fast and engage in charitable activities, aligning with the principles of compassion and non-violence advocated by Lord Mahavira.
Diwali and the Jain New Year
Interestingly, the day following Diwali marks the beginning of the Jain New Year. This day is a time for new beginnings, reflecting on the past year’s deeds, and setting spiritual goals for the year ahead. It is a reminder that each day offers a fresh opportunity for spiritual growth and ethical living.
For Jains, Diwali is much more than a festival of lights; it is a profound celebration of enlightenment, liberation, and the eternal teachings of Lord Mahavira. It’s a time for introspection, spiritual renewal, and recommitment to the path of righteousness. In the glow of the Diwali lamps, Jains across the world find a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper connection to their spiritual heritage, illuminating the path towards ultimate liberation.
In essence, Diwali in Jainism is not just a commemoration of an ancient event but a living tradition that continues to inspire and guide followers on the path laid down by Lord Mahavira, towards peace, enlightenment, and liberation.