Mahavira, lived between 599 BCE- 527 BCE. He was the twenty fourth and the last tirthankara of Jainism. Born into a royal family on the 13th day of the rising moon of Chaitra in Vaishali (Bihar), he is known to be the founder and also the reformer of Jainism.
Why is Mahavir Jayanti Celebrated?
As a prince he was named Vardhaman by his parents.It is believed that that when his mother was expecting him, she had 14 dreams. When the astrologers interpreted these dreams, it was predicted that the child would either become an emperor or a Tirthankar (a person who achieves spiritual enlightenment). Later the prophecies turned true and he became the 24th Tirthankar.
He developed a deep interest in the beliefs of Jainism from an early age and started meditating. It was at the age of 30, he renounced the throne and his family to seek spiritual truth. He chose an extremely ascetic life spending most of his time meditating and preaching non-violence. He devoted the rest of his life preaching his beliefs on spiritual freedom and truth. His exemplary action and courage with total control over his senses earned him the name Mahavira.
For the Jain community, Mahavir Jayanti is one of the most important religious festivals. It is celebrated with a lot of zeal and fervour in India and all over the world. This occasion commemorates the birth and philosophy of Lord Mahavira.
How is Mahavir Jayanti celebrated?
Temples are beautifully decorated with flags to mark the birth anniversary of Lord Mahavir. Sermons are also held in various temples and shrines to preach the philosophies related to spiritual freedom and virtue. Important chapters are read from the life of Mahavira to the devotees. This also contains the biographies of other Jain Tirthankars.
Followers throng the temples and offer ceremonial bath to Mahavir’s idol known as ‘abhishek’. One can also witness majestic chariot processions carrying his images followed by devotees while chanting prayers throughout. Alms are offered to the poor and traditional dishes are prepared. On this day most members and followers of Jainsim engage themselves in some sort of charitable act.