Mahavir Jayanti commemorates the birth anniversary of Mahavir who was the founder of Jainism and the last and the twenty fourth tirthankara. He was born on the thirteenth day of the rising moon of the chaitra month and according to Gregorian calendar this day falls either in March or April.
History about Mahavir (Vardhaman)
Mahavir also known as Vardhaman was born in Kundalagrama, Bihar as the son of King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala. According to the Swetambaras, he was born in 599 BC but Digambar school of Jainism believe that Mahavir was born in 615 BC. There are also differences in the beliefs in the number of dreams the expectant mother of Mahavir got. According to Swetambara sect the expectant mother was believed to have seen 14 auspicious dreams. And according to Digambara sect it was 16 dreams. Regardless it is believed that the astrologers interpreted these dreams and claimed that he would be either an emperor or tirthankara. Even as a small boy he displayed several instances of absolute fearlessness and thus came to be called as Mahavir.
At the age of 30 he is believed to have renounced all the worldly possessions and undertook a life of intense and austere penance for twelve years and became a wandering aesthetic. He went without food for long periods and practised deep silence and meditation and finally became self-illuminate.
Mahavir preached non-violence toward all living things. He taught his followers to seek salvation through penance and abstinence. Mahavira's followers were aided in their quest for salvation by the five mahavatars. The five vows preached by him are Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (temperance in sexual pleasures) and Aparigraha (non-acquisition of property). He attained Nirvana in 527 B.C. at the age of 72.
Jainism preaches a very extreme form of ascetism and self-control. Jainism preaches that three-fold path of right conduct, right faith and right knowledge together will help attain the liberation of one's self.
How is Mahavir Jayanti Celebrated?
Throughout the country this day is celebrated with great devotion but the Jain community. However most celebrations are seen in Gujarat and Rajasthan as this places have highest population of Jainism followers. Important Jain shrines such as Sri Mahavirji in Rajasthan; Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat and Vaishali district in Bihar the place where Mahavir was born hold grand celebrations. On this day Mahavir statues are given the ceremonial bath or abhishek. Portraits of Mahavir are taken out in grand processions which usually include drummers, horses, elephants, singers and lamps. And the Jain temples and shrines are decorated with flags. Charity work like donation of food, money and clothing to the poor is done on this day.