From Mahavir Jayanti to Diwali: Exploring Jain Festivals in the Indian Subcontinent

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Jainism, one of the ancient religions of India, has its own unique festivals and observances, deeply rooted in the principles of non-violence (ahimsa), truth (satya), and asceticism. Jain festivals often focus on self-discipline, fasting, and meditation. Here are some of the key Jain religious festivals celebrated in India:

Mahavir Jayanti

  • Description: The most important Jain festival, it celebrates the birth of Mahavira, the 24th and last Tirthankara (spiritual teacher) of the present time cycle. Mahavira, also known as Vardhamana, played a significant role in shaping the core philosophy of Jainism.
  • Observances: Prayers, religious processions, visits to Jain temples, and offerings to the needy.


  • Description: The most significant festival for the Svetambara sect of Jainism, lasting eight days. It’s a time for intensive reflection, prayer, and purification. Digambaras observe a similar festival called Daslakshana, lasting ten days.
  • Observances: Fasting, meditation, reading of Jain scriptures, and seeking forgiveness from all beings. The festival concludes with Samvatsari, the day of forgiveness.


  • Description: While Diwali is widely celebrated across India by various communities, in Jainism, it marks the anniversary of Mahavira’s attainment of Moksha (liberation) and his final nirvana in 527 BCE at Pavapuri.
  • Observances: Lighting of lamps, prayers, and recitations of Jain scriptures. It signifies the victory of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance.


  • Description: A grand and holy event celebrated every 12 years at the Jain pilgrimage center of Shravanabelagola in Karnataka. It honors the colossal statue of Lord Bahubali (Gommateshwara) with anointing and various offerings.
  • Observances: The statue is bathed and anointed with milk, saffron, turmeric, and other items, followed by offerings of flowers, coins, and precious stones.

Akshaya Tritiya

  • Description: Celebrated on the third Tithi (lunar day) of Bright Half (Shukla Paksha) of the Indian month of Vaishakha. It is believed to bring good luck and success. For Jains, it commemorates the end of one-year fast by Tirthankara Rishabhanatha.
  • Observances: Charitable acts, pujas, and some Jains start a year-long fast on this day.

Kshamavani (Forgiveness Day)

  • Description: A day dedicated to seeking forgiveness from all living beings for any harm done, knowingly or unknowingly. It reinforces the Jain values of forgiveness and harmony.
  • Observances: Jains greet each other saying “Micchami Dukkadam” or “Uttam Kshama,” which means “May all the evil that has been done be fruitless.”

Navapad Oli

  • Description: Observed twice a year, during the bright halves of the months of Ashvin and Chaitra. It is a time of semi-annual fasting, worship, and meditation dedicated to the nine supreme postulates (Navapad) in Jainism.
  • Observances: Fasting, meditation, and the worship of the nine supreme postulates (Navapad), including Arihant (perfect beings), Siddha (liberated souls), and Acharya (spiritual leaders), among others.

These festivals and observances not only mark the spiritual calendar for Jains but also offer a time for introspection, purification, and renewal of faith.

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

By Mala Chandrashekhar

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