All About The Festival Of Paryushana

The festival known as Paryushana (also called Daslakshana) is a Jain religious observance and is one of the most important holy events for Jains no matter where they live. Typically celebrated in August or September according to the Jain calendar, the festival lasts between 8 and 10 days, though the exact date and length is based on different interpretations of Jain scripture used by different Jain sects. During this festival, believers emphasize the five main vows of Jainism, and while there are no set rules that absolutely must be adhered to, Jain are encouraged to practice the five vows according to their ability and desires.

Recitation of the Tattvartha Sutra is a regular ritual during Paryushana, while other sects have other, more personalized ritual as well. The recitation of the Tattvartha Sutra happens across each day of the festival. Faithful Jains are encouraged to fast during the festival if they can manage to do so. However there is little stigma for a person who has a great deal of reason to not fast, traditionally pregnant women and young children. As medical science advances, other reasons have emerged, such as regaining weight after cancer treatments or during treatments to try and increase a dangerously low weight.

The purpose of Daslakshana is so that the lay people in Jainism, ordinary believers who do not hold a position as a religious cleric of some kind, known as the Sravakas, can ritually increase their spiritual intensity. In addition to fasting and recitation of scripture, Jain also work towards prayer and meditation intended to help them strengthen their spirits against karmic taint that can afflict all souls through wrong deeds.

The festival is focused heavily on the concept of forgiveness and the last day of any Paryushana festival is known as Kshamavani, which roughly translates to “forgiveness day”. Though as with most translations of different langauges across very different cultures, nuances are often lost in translation. During Kshamavani, believers speak the words “Micchami Dukkadam” a Jain phrase that is long and complex, but at its simplest is asking one’s neighbors for forgiveness for any offense committed during the previous year, whether it was known at the time or not.

In India, the birthplace of Jainism, a number of slaughter houses are shut down during the festival in recognition of the holy period. Official closures of slaughter houses by law were recently ruled to be legal in the Supreme Court of India.