How often have you thought of saying sorry to your neighbour, your child, your spouse or a friend for an unknowing action of yours that might have upset or hurt them? Well, for the people in the Jain community, Paryushan is a festival that offers them an opportunity to seek pardon from one and all.
Giving a break to the drab routine life, in terms of social parties and creamy meals, Paryushan, unlike other celebrations, is a festival where the Jains observe fast for eight days to restore old relationships while praying to the almighty. The fast ends by saying — Michhami Dukaddam (sorry if I have hurt you by any word or deed) to each other, irrespective of age or relation.
"Paryushan is the time for tapasya, where one may observe fasting, which may be for as long as a month or even more. However, three to eight days of fasting is considered good. During the fast we only drink boiled water. And after the sunset we don't eat or drink anything," says 68-year-old Jaravi Shantilal Bhandari, who observes Ekasana (Fasting with one meal during daytime) during Paryushan. "Today, on the fifth day of Paryushan, we celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Mahavira. Our holy guru recites Mahavir's Janam Vanchana (birth story), and on the eighth day we have mass praying," adds Bhandari. "We also distribute pencils and notebooks to the underprivileged children," she says.
The Mahavir Jayanti witnesses a lot of celebrations and religious activities amongst the community. Today, a palna (the cradle) is put for Lord Mahavira and prayers are offered before it. Sanjeevani Jain, a housewife, says, "This is a soul cleansing festival. We believe that observing helps us clean our soul and body. Pratikraman (prayer for forgiveness) is observed every evening, and on the eighth day The Savantsari Pratikraman follows the ritual where everybody seeks for pardon from one another. During the Mahavir Janam Vanchana, our monks discuss the birth of the 24 Jain Thirthankaras, of which Lord Mahavir is the 24th Thirthankara and his birth celebrations come in with a lot of rituals and celebration," says Jain, adding, "There is also a scientific reason behind the idea of fasting. As tapasya cleanses the soul, fasting helps to cleanse and detoxify the body as well." Rituals with Jain and Gujaratis are also very similar to the Marwaris. Varsha Shah, a housewife says, "We don't eat green vegetables during eight days of Paryushan. It's mostly pulses and flour that we feast on. Talking about the special food items that are prepared during the festival, Shah says, "We make kheer, chane ki sabzi and puri along with other dishes that are made from milk. The family, along with other relatives dines together on the final day. This encourages harmony."