Paryushan Parva: Jain festival of self-introspection, self-enlightenment

Bhadrapad the sixth month of the Indian calendar,  better known as Bhado, is  important for several reasons, from cultivation to celebrations of important festivals across the country. The month of Bhado coincides with the rainy season. In 2013, the month of Bhadrapad began on 21 August and will end on 19 September. Among the several important festivals that are celebrated in Bhadrapad such as Krishna Janamasthmi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Rushi Panchami, Varah Jayanti and Anant Chaturdashi, Paryushan also known as Anant Chaudas, one of the two most important Jain festivals (the other being Diwali) is also observed.

Popularly known as ‘Paryushan Parva’, the festival is organised in the Shukla Paksha (second fortnight) between the fifth  and fourteenth day. The festival encourages Jains to observe the ten universal supreme virtues in daily life. Besides assuring a blissful existence in this world and the other world for every living being, it aims for attainment of salvation - the supreme ideal for mundane soul. Non-Jains also have the highest regard for this Jain festival.

All members of the Jain community - high and low, young and old and men and women participate with full vigour and zeal in the various religious rituals and cultural programmes. Sermons and discourses by saints and learned Jain scholars are organised  during the ten-day festival. In these celebrations lie dormant the seeds of well being, peace and happiness of the common man. During this festival all activities, which add to social discord or bitterness are declared taboo from the temple pulpits. These celebrations are the harbingers of social harmony and amity and preach the lofty Jain motto of  ‘Live and Let live’.

The Paryushan Parva, celebrated annually for self-purification and upliftment, is meant to adhere to the ten universal virtues in practical life and leads us on the right path far from the mad strife for material prosperity, which ultimately leads us to our true destination, salvation. This festival is also called Dash Lakshan Parva.

According to Sanskrit grammar the underlying idea of the festival and its interpretation is this, ‘Parismantadushayante dhante karmani yasimannasau paryushnm’ that is, the celebration through which the karmic matter attached to the soul is totally burnt or vanquished (both internally and externally) is known as Paryushan meaning self-purification.

Paryushan Parva gives expression to the perfectly purified trait of the soul, through which one gets rid of worldly discords and allurements and one gets fully absorbed in the eternal truth by experiencing and realising the true nature of the soul. In other words we can say that the natural realisation of the trio ‘the True, the Good and the Beautiful’ is fully possible only through Paryushan. In fact, the other name of Jainism, which is universal religion, is Paryushan. This festival is celebrated to put an end to all evils present in human beings; gives them the realisation of eternal bliss. Spiritualism comes alive through this festival.

Since time immemorial living beings have fallen prey to bewitching worldly allure. They are involved day and night in such a poisonous environment of lustful desires and sensuous pleasures that despite being cautioned time and again, they fail to rid themselves from the bondage of worldly illusions. Jain acaryas have, through their sermons and ideal moral code of conduct, inspired people to keep aloof from the blemishes of the world, which breed nothing but sorrow and misery for mankind. But people’s insatiable ambitions for sensuous pleasures, material comforts and a luxurious life have attracted them since antiquity. Consequently, human beings have failed to distinguish between self and non-self, and to understand the real nature of the soul.
This festival has its own age-old history, but nothing definite can be said about its origin and since when it has been celebrated.

The celebration of this festival is beyond the scope of known history. The truth is that spiritual matters like self-purification and renunciation cannot be measured in time.
When the auspicious month of Bhadrapad comes every year, the whole Jain community comes together to celebrate  this festival. The Digambaras and the Swaitamberas, both sects of Jain community, celebrate the self-uplifting festival with great enthusiasm.

The fifth day of the bright fortnight of the holy month of ‘Bhadrapad’ is auspicious for both. The Digambaras celebrate this festival annually for ten days, from the fifth day to the fourteenth day of the bright fortnight of the month. Whereas the Swaitamberas celebrate it only for eight days, and the fifth day is the main day of their celebrations held under the name of ‘Samvatsari Parva’.
Paryushan Parva is a grand Jain festival of self-introspection, self-enlightenment and self-achievement, which ultimately leads to the one and only final goal, liberation or salvation.
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