Paryushana or Paryusan Parva is one of the two important festivals celebrated by Jains, the other festival being Diwali. The festival is known as Paryushana by Swetambaras sect, while the Digambaras celebrate the festival as Das Lakshana. The meaning of Paryushana is “abiding” or “coming together”.
When is the festival celebrated?
Paryushana is observed during the chaturya masa or a period of four months during monsoon when monks stay at one place due to rains. Paryushana festival is celebrated on Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi (Aug- Sep). Lord Mahavira used to start Paryushana on Bhadrapada Shukla Panchami, however after 150 years; the celebration was changed to Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi by Swetambara Deravasi sect. Thus for the last 2200 years, Jains belonging to both the sects celebrate the festival on Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi.
Paryushana is celebrated for eight or ten days. Digambaras observe the festival for ten days starting from Bhadrapada Shukla Panchami during which the Dashalakshana vrata* is observed. Swetambaras celebrate the festival for eight days that ends on Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi.
*Dashalakshna Vrata means virtues such as forgiveness, charity, simplicity, contentment, truthfulness, self-restraint, fasting, detachment, humility and celibacy is observed.
Rituals and Celebrations
During the eight day celebrations, portions from Kalpa Sutra, a sacred scripture of the Jains is recited along with portions on Lord Mahavira’s life i.e., the fourteen dreams his mother had before his birth, followed by the story of his birth, life and liberation.
Digambaras recite portions from Umaswamy’s Tatvratha sutra. On the tenth day, Sugandha Dashmi Vrata is observed. Ananta Chaturdasi is celebrated when special worship is undertaken. Some processions leading upto the temple also form part of the celebrations.
People usually fast during one of the eight days, while some Jains fast on all the eight days. Penance and fasting are the highlight of the Paryushana festival. Water is boiled and taken only during sunrise and sunset. There are some Jains who fast for the whole month, just surviving on water alone.
The original term for Paryushana is “Pajjo savana”. Paryushana is the time when the faith in Dharma is renewed by listening to the monks, meditating and doing Vratas. Monks recite the scriptures during the eight or ten days.
The last day of the festival is called as Samvatsari Pratikramana, meaning annual confession. Prati means “back” and “kramana” means “to go”. Thus Pratikramana means to go back, or review or confess the bad thoughts or deeds done during the previous year. Pratikramana is a period to review the thoughts or lapse or transgression from the vows undertaken. People also visit temples/ Derasar during the eight days to listen to the discourse and teachings of Kalpa Sutra. It is also the period when Jains reflect upon their spiritual progress or journey in the last year.
During the ten/eight days, Jains start their day at 5.45 am in the morning with morning prayers followed by meditation for universal peace.
Pratikramana is a combination of six essential rituals also called as Avshyakas which are as follows:
a) Samayika- is a state of total equanimity practiced by doing meditation for forty eight minutes, reciting Navkar Mantra, reading scriptures etc. During this phase, people make an attempt to turn inwards or Self realization.
b) Chauvisantho: refers to worship of twenty four Jinas, four Mangalas, and Five Supremes including the Dharma as prescribed in the scriptures.
c) Vandana refers to bowing to nuns and monks. Bowing to nuns and monks is to become humble, overcome ego, greed and anger.
d) Pratikramana: Pratikramana is reviewing the activities of the past year, asking for forgiveness for any wrong deeds. This will help in the purification of the soul. Pratikramana is done twice in the day, once in the morning – and again in the late evening. Those who cannot do daily Pratikramana do it fortnightly, or once in fifteen days. Those who cannot do it fortnightly, do it once in four months or chourmasi and those who cannot do chourmasi must do Samvatsari Pratikramana. The objective of doing Pratikramana is to repent for the sins committed in the past, thereby reduce the bondage of karma and also not to repeat those sins again, thus improving the spiritual progress.
e) Kayotsarga: “Kaya” means body and “ustarga” means to give up. Kayotsarga means to give up the material comforts and meditate on the soul which is not attached to any of the material objects. Kayotsarga is a form of meditation to gain control over mind, body and speech.
f) Pratyakhyan: This is renunciation of certain activities to reduce the Karma bondage. This includes making certain vows or resolutions to take the soul to a higher level.
On the last day of the festival, a unique custom is observed, where individuals seek forgiveness, or “Micchami Dukkadam” from everyone for the mistakes committed knowingly or unknowingly. Micchami means to be fruitless or forgiven and Dukkadam means bad deeds. Therefore Micchami Dukkadam means “may my bad deeds be fruitless or forgiven”. Swetambaras seek forgiveness on Paryusha day, i.e Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi and Digambaras seek forgiveness on Pratipada or the first day Ashwija Krishna. Seeking forgiveness also means being humble and overcoming one’s ego. Thus by seeking forgiveness, Jains make a new beginning on this day with the resolve that they would be working towards liberation or soul realization which is the ultimate goal of any human being.
During this festival, people ask for forgiveness by reciting the prayer
Khämemi Savve Jivä, Savve Jivä Khamantu Mi
Mitti Me Savva bhuesu, Veram majjham na Kenai.
The meaning is “I forgive all living beings, May all souls forgive me. I am on friendly terms with all, I have no animosity towards any soul, May all my faults be dissolved”.
This is a festival for self purification and upliftment. The idea behind the celebration of Paryushana Parva is ‘the celebration through which the karmic matter attached to the soul is totally burnt or vanquished (both internally and externally) is known as Paryushana i.e self purification.