Commentary: Jain Paryushana Festival: A Time to Ask For Forgiveness

Jain temple in Ranakpur, Gujarat, India.
Photocredit — Ingo Mehling,

It is once again time to be greeted with a Michchami Dukkadam, and respond with Michchami Dukkadam or Uttam Kshama to friends, neighbors or co-workers. Many may remember Shravakas clad in white walking barefeet to the temples in the morning and returning with a saffron and sandalwood mark on their foreheads. Many may remember singing along with Jain friends the famous song by Bollywood singer Mukesh Maitri Bhav Nu Pavitra Zaranu.

Vasai Jain Temple at Bhadreshwar, Kutch, Gujarat, India.
Photocredit — Nizil Shah,

The Jain Paryushana Vrat has begun on August 24th this year. Every year, the Jain spiritual festival of universal brotherhood falls in the first half of Bhadrapad, the month after Shravan. The greeting Michchami Dukkadam is exchanged at the end of the festival and means I ask for your forgiveness if I have caused you pain or harm.

Paryushana falls during the monsoon times, a time when the monks who walk miles each day barefeet, are confined to the monasteries, reading and reciting scriptures. Common people observe these days of spiritual intensity with prayer and meditation, reciting of scriptures, and introspection of what they have done wrong and where they are going.

Paryushana, for Svetambara Jains is an eight day festival during which many fast, consuming only boiled water for the entire atthai, which ends on the day of Samvatsari. The festival, called Das Lakshana Dharma by Digambara Jains, is observed for ten days ending in Kshamavani.

Austerity is part of the Jain religion and the festival is dedicated to austerity. These are days of intense spiritual purification through fasting and introspection. Most who can not fast, abstain from eating leafy and green vegetables. Jains regularly do not eat onions, or garlic or potatoes and root vegetables grown underground.

The avoidance of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, coriander etc in monsoon seems to have a scientific base, and as such may have been prescribed in religions. Hindus also do not eat leafy greens and green vegetables during the four months of monsoon, the Chaturmaas. With rains come many diseases and germs, more prevalent in the leafy greens.

Digambaras devote these days to reading and reciting the ten chapters of the sacred Jain text, Tattvartha Sutra and fasting. They celebrate the sixth day of the festival as Sugandh Dashami. On the tenth day, Ananta Chaturdashi, a Ratha Yatra, a chariot procession of the Book of Scriptures walks around the streets of towns in India.

Svetambaras recite the Kalpa Sūtra, especially the section on the birth of Bhagwan Mahavira and his teachings. Many Svetambaras also recite the Antagada Sutra about lives of those who attained Nirvana during the times of the Tirthankaras.

The festival for both the Svetambaras and Digambaras ends with asking forgiveness of all including all living beings in nature.

The great contribution of the Jains to the common life in India and to the trade and economic development of the state of modern Gujarat, has been neglected by educators and historians. However, the great architecture of Jain temples is much appreciated by the world. The temples of Palitana, Delvada-Abu, Ranakpur, Karnataka, Jabalpur, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh have been proof of the great talents of Indian artists, and are visited by people of many countries.

Gujarati political and social activist and great writer Kanaiyalal Munshi has captured the history and the contributions of the Jains after much research typical of him in his set of three novels, Gujarat No Nath, Patan Ni Prabhuta, and RajaDhiraj. These novels make us familiar with the Jain philosophy and ethos in Gujarat. These novels have given us Munshi’s great characters, Kaak, Manjhri, and Munjal. It may be time to read those and rejoice in the history of the thriving state Jains have helped create.

Jain rituals are known for stretching to the extremes, with many fasting for a month or more. It may be more appropriate in today’s times if the ten virtues of the highest order prescribed in the scriptures are followed not just during Paryushana, but always. These are the much coveted virtues on the path to Nirvana by anyone: Kshama or forbearance, Mardava or supreme modesty, Aarjava or straightforwardness, Shoch or purity, Satya or truth, Sanyam or restraint, Tap or austerity, Tyaga or renunciation, Aakinchanya or non-attachment and Brahmcharya or celibacy.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here