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Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated by the Jain community commemorating the birth of Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. It is the most important festival for Jains .Mahavir Jayanti is the main Jain festival. Mahavirswami is the twenty-fourth Tirthankar. He was born in 599 BC at Kshatriyakund near modern Patna in Bihar. His father, King Siddhartha, and his mother, Queen Trishla, were very religious people and followers of Lord Parshwanath, the twenty-third Tirthankar. When Queen Trishla was expecting the baby she had 14 beautiful dreams (some believe sixteen dreams). When the learned scholars were asked about the dreams they said she was going to have an extraordinary child., one who will show the path to true happiness to humanity.
Mahavir Jayanti is a sacred festival for Jains and followers across the world celebrate it in a grand way by taking out processions that might include chariot, horses, elephants, drummers and chanters. Silent prayers are also offered and his preaching is recapitulated in the form of sermons to the followers on this day. Traditional Mahavir Jayanti recipes are also prepared in order to celebrate the festival.
Jains celebrate Mahavir Jayanti in a colourful way by decorating the Jain temples with flags and offering alms to the poor people. Donations are collected to save animals from slaughter. In India, the birth anniversary of Mahavir is more ardently observed in Gujarat and Rajasthan compared to other parts, as a higher number of Jains reside in these states. In the early morning, followers give a ceremonial bath to the statue of Lord Mahavira called ‘abhishek'. The statue is then placed in a beautifully decorated cradle and carried out in a procession.
The day ends at the shrine, temple or communal area where people meditate and pray. Mahavir Jayanti is also observed with festivities on the 8 day holy period of "Paryushana".
Mahavir is the last and the greatest Tirthankar of the Jain religion, and Mahavir Jayanti is the birth anniversary of Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara. Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated in the first day of Bhadrapad, when there is a grand cradle procession, and a general celebration of the auspicious day.
The two sects of Jainism, Svetambaras and Digambaras, however, do not come to a consensus on the date of His birth. According to the Digambara sect, his birth took place in 615 BC, whereas the Svetembaras claim that it occurred in 599 BC.
About Mahavira, his Birth and enlightenment:
According to the Jain mythology, Mahavir had acquired all the necessary qualities to become a Tirthankara in His previous life. Six months prior to his birth, the supreme powers created an atmosphere congenial and conductive to Mahavir's birth, who was a great being. Gods and Goddesses came down to bestow their blessings on the Tirthankara's expecting mother, and to cater to her needs. Wealth was showered from the heavens, relieving everyone from poverty and extending the superior ambience.
Just before Mahavir was born , His mother had sixteen dreams. Mahavir was born at four in the morning, which is considered very auspicious in Jainism and Hinduism.
Her sixteen dreams were:
A white elephant
Goddess Lakshmi with two elephants at her side showering flowers
The moon lighting the universe with silvery beams
A pair of jumping fish
The radiant sun, a golden pitcher
A lake full of lotus flowers
A calm ocean of milk
A celestial palace
A throne of rubies and diamonds
A celestial king ruling the earth
A white bull
A fragrant Mandara flowers
and a vase as tall as Mount Meru, filled with gems.
And immediately after this, she felt a white elephant enter her through her mouth. She also didn't feel any pain associated with childbirth.
It is believed that at the exact moment of his birth, the life forms in all the three worlds were cheerful and content. Several gods and goddesses descended from the heavens to pay homage to the Tirthankara. They bathed him ceremonially and named him Vardhaman, Vir, Mahavira, Ativira and Samvati. The child was of exceptional beauty and developed great physical and spiritual strength. At the age of thirty, Mahavir renounced the material world, and sat for meditation. After 12 years of meditation under an Ashoke tree, also called Jonesia Ashoka, he attained the ultimate enlightenment. The divine Gods witnessed this great event, and carried him in a palanquin to a park where he was put on a five-tiered throne and acknowledged as Mahavira. Here he stripped himself of all his clothes. Instead of shaving his head, he tore his hair out from the roots, for he was above pain. According to the Digambaras, Mahavir wore no clothes thereafter, but the Svetambaras believe that Indra presented him with a white robe.
Mahavir preached non-violence and prohibited any kind of killing. He also believed that the most virtuous life is spent sitting still and fasting, as then a man does not run the risk of injuring life even involuntarily, by swallowing or treading upon insects. On his birth anniversary, every Jain resolves to follow his teachings
Mahavir Jayanti (April) which is celebrated with great pomp on Parasnath hill in Bihar, a holy land for the Jains. In Rajasthan (Jaipur) after special Puja, a procession is taken out.
Annual Lakhi Mela is held at Mahavir Pilgrimage in Sehstravid (on the bank of river Gambhira) railway station, Mahavirji, 140 Km from Jaipur, on 13 Chetr shukl to 2 Baisakh Ditya, for five days. Million of pilgrims visit this place to pay their reverence to Digambar Jain Sri Mahavirji, the 24th Jain Tirthankar. On the last day of the fair, rath yatra (procession on a chariot) is taken out from huge, magnificent, profusely decorated with oil paintings and architectural beautiful temple. Meena tribal men and women, in colourful dresses, form the main part of the procession and proceed in front of the chariot, singing, dancing, jumping and enjoying. The fair is attended by people from all over the country irrespective of caste or creed.
Mahavir Jayanti, a day of gazetted holiday, is observed all over India in all Jain temples by Jain devotees.