‘Michchami Dukkadam’! Forgive Me If I Have Hurt You Knowingly Or Unknowingly!

Symbol of Ahimsa in Jainism.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023 is not just Ganesh Chaturthi. It is also a day to greet each other with ‘Michchami Dukkadam’ and ‘Uttam Kshama’ on the final day of the Jain Paryushan Parva, the ‘Samvatsari’.

Reminiscent of the Day of Atonement, Samvatsari is the day of forgiveness at the end of eight days of introspection, prayers, meditation, recitation and fasting for Jains.

Samvatsari is celebrated by first visiting the temple early in the morning, and then visiting friends and relatives asking for their forgiveness.

On this day, Jains ask forgiveness from all for any harm or hurt caused by action or words, knowingly or unknowingly. This helps discard our past karmas which bind us, according to Jain religion, and provides a thrust towards ‘moksha’ or ultimate liberation. Forgiveness is also considered a form of Ahimsa (non-violence).

All through Paryushan, Jains devote themselves to Samayika (observing calmness), Chatur Vimsati (paying respect to the Tirthankaras), Vandana (honoring the monks), Pratikraman (seeking forgiveness), Kayotsarga (meditation and prayer), and Pratyakhyana (controlling emotions).

Paryushan is also known for its eight-day fast ‘atthai’ when those who fast consume only  warm water. The staunch also fast on the Samvatsari day.

The Kalpa Sutra is read and recited during Paryushana, especially the part of Mahavira’s birth on the fifth day. Other scriptures read during Paryushana include the Antagada Sutra, a history of Jainism during the times of Neminatha and Mahavira describing those who had attained moksha. Jain scriptures are written in Prakrit or Magadhi (some in Ardhamagadhi) language.

Jainism is divided into two branches, Digambaras (whose monks wear no clothes) and Svetambaras (whose monks wear white). The annual festival is called Paryushana, and holds great significance for Svetambaras. The same festival, called Das Lakshana Dharma by the Digambaras, is celebrated for ten days. Both end with a day seeking forgiveness.

Svetambara Jains are mostly found in the state of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra’s coastal regions and have been reported to make up about four-fifths of all Jains in India. Followers of Swami Kanji who was a Digambara scholar are also found in Gujarat. The political, social and cultural history and the contributions of the Jains have been beautifully depicted in the famous trilogy by the acclaimed educationist and writer Kanaiyalal Munshi, of which ‘Gujarat No Naath’ is an important part.

Although considered to have extremist practices, elements of Jainism have influenced many. Gandhiji was also influenced greatly by the writings of Sri Rajchandra, which later led him to develop his theory of non-violence which greatly impacted the freedom movement in India.



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