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MAHAVIR JAYANTI FESTIVALS

India has been a cradle for the origin of many a faith. Many great saints and spiritual leader took birth in this great country and enlightened whole of humanity. The days commemorating the birthdays and important incidents connected with such great spiritual leaders and prophets are celebrated as great festivals. The birthday of Lord Mahavir, the Jain Teerthankar, is observed by both the Digambara (Sky-clad) and Shwetambar (white-robes clad) Jains on 13th day of the bright half of the Chaitra month (March-April).

This birth anniversary is though celebrated throughout the Jain world in the country, it is celebrated with great style and fervour in Rajasthan and Gujarat where the Jains are relatively in great number. Jain pilgrims from all over the country congregate at the ancient Jain shrines at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat and at Mahavirji in Rajasthan. Pawapuri and Vaishali in Bihar are other such centres. Vaishali being Lord Mahavir's birth place, a grand festival is held there and it is known as Vaishali Mahotsava.

On this auspicious and holy day, grand chariot processions with the images of Mahavir are taken out, rich ceremonies in the temples are held and fast and charities are observed. On this day, the Jain scriptures are devotedly read and in some places grand fairs are also set up.

Mahavir, the great teacher and the 24th Teerthankar of Jain faith was almost coeval with Lord Buddha. His mother Trisala or Piyakarini had a series of miraculous dreams heralding the birth of Mahavir. Mahavir also called Vardhan achieved enlightenment under an Ashoka tree after two and half days of fasting and meditation.

Then he stripped himself of all his clothes and wore none thereafter. However, the Swetambar sect believes that Indra then presented him a white robe. After his enlightenment he gave away all his wealth and possessions and owned nothing. Mahavir underlined the importance of austerity and total non-violence as the essential means of spiritual evolution and salvation.