The Talking Point: Today, Thursday Sept 1, is Samvatsari, the last day of Paryushan for the Shwetambar sect of Jains. It aligns itself with Shukla Panchami each year in the Jain calendar month of Bhadrapada, somewhere between mid-August and mid-September in the Gregorian calendar.
What is the day’s significance: It is the last day of Paryushan (week-long observance of fasting and prayers), on which Jains forgive and seek forgiveness from all living beings.
What is Paryushan: For Jains, Paryushan is the most important annual holy event. The week-long observance (usually mid-August to mid-September time frame) is marked with fasting in varying degrees; some fast for eight days consuming only boiled water, while others abide by a single meal a day or no meals after sundown. In essence, it teaches perseverance and is meant to discipline the baser instincts. Jains increase their level of spiritual intensity often using fasting and prayer/meditation to help. The five main vows are emphasized during this time. There are no set rules and followers are encouraged to practice according to their ability and desires.
Normally, Digambaras refer it as Das Lakshana Dharma while Shwetambar refer to it as Paryushan (“abiding” or “coming together”). The duration of Paryushan is eight days for Shwetambars and 10 days for Digambars. It culminates in the celebration of Samvatsari or Kshamavani (forgiveness day).
Are Jains Hindus? Not really. Jains follow Mahavir, the 24th and last Tirthankara (great teacher) who preached about the one perfect Ideal. Buddhism and Jainism are not part of the Vedic Dharma. Since they arose in India, they are integral parts of Indian life, culture and philosophy. A Buddhist or Jain’s beliefs are embedded in Indian thought and culture, yet neither is a Hindu by faith. Both respect the Hindu deities as part of their tolerance for all creed. Jains might appear to worship the Tirthankaras. However, they don’t worship them as persons: what they worship is the ideal of perfection that the Tirthankaras have achieved.
What percentage of the Indian population do Jain constitute? Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have major Jain populations. In 2022, there were approximately 50 lakh Jains in India.
What do Jains do on Samvatsari? Much like other festivals, it is a day of community spirit and bonding. Traditional food is savoured while a visit to the temple is usually mandatory. On this day, Jains seek forgiveness for their unintentionally made mistakes. Devotees also organize Samvatsari Pratikramana during this day. Jains also greet one another saying Micchami Dukkadam, which translates to a “request to pardon their mistakes.”