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Most Jains fast during holy days and festivals; some Jains choose fasting
at other times in order to purify or to assist in their spiritual development.
This ritual can vary from giving up food and drink entirely to only
giving up favourite foods. Many Jains choose to fast when their death
is approaching so that they may purify their thoughts in the preceding
moments to their death.
- Mahavira Jayanti. Occurs around March/April. A
celebration of the birth of Mahavira (the founder of Jainism). Celebrations
include community worship, processions, and other devotional and spiritual
- Paryushana. Occurs in August/September. Considered
by some to be the most important festival in Jainism. All Jains are
required to fast and the spiritual preceptors read out and explain
in detail the Kalpasutra (sacred scripture). The first seven days
of the festival are days of attainment, and the eighth and finally
day is one of fulfilment and achievement.
- Diwali: Occurs in October/November. The whole
night of Diwali should be spent in the recitation of holy hymns and
mediation. Svetambara Jains believe that on the night of the day of
Diwali in 537 B.C.E., Mahavira achieved Nirvan, or deliverance and
attained to a state of absolute bliss. The day after Diwali marks
the beginning of the New Year in their calendar.
- Kartak Purnima. Occurs in October/November. Thousands
of Jains go on pilgrimages on this day to sacred Jain sites.
- Mauna Agyaras. Occurs around November/December.
This is the day on which Jains fast and observes total silence. It
is a day for meditation.