The most important festival of Jainism is
held at Pajjusana, the solemn season which closes the Jain year. For
eight days or longer, during the wet monsoon period, usually in August,
devout Jains fast and attend special services. All householders are urged
to live a monk�s life for at least twenty-four hours, living in a
monastery, meditating and fasting. On the closing day of the festival,
every Jain abstains from food and water. At the close of the temple
gathering, he performs an act of penitence in which he asks forgiveness of
his neighbors for any inadvertent offense and determines to carry no
grudge or quarrel over into the next year.
The second most important festival is Divali,
the great Hindu festival in honor of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, which
Jains have adapted in honor of Mahavira�s liberation.
Jains also observe fasts at full moon, and
great excitement is found in going on pilgrimages to Jain holy places.
Jainism is a religion of austerities. Its
detachment�, is reached only through the
most severe and
disciplined of life-styles, culminating
ideally in death by
voluntary self-starvation. And the aim is
to achieve it solely
by self-effort, without the help of God or
Yet self-imposed austerities often benefit
others. And Jains have long been active in promoting public welfare.
They are known especially for their endowment of schools, also of
hospitals�for both people and animals.
The great statues of south India best convey
the Jain ideal. This is a description of the sixty- foot-high stone
replica of the hero Gomatesvara at Sravarna Belgola:
`[He rises] huge, stony and naked. So rigid
is his stance, so austere his stillness, that creepers are growing up his
legs. On his lips is an expression of total impassivity. His nudity of
course symbolizes possessionlessness. It is a sign of indifference to the
good things of his world. It is not even a matter of laying up treasures
The Jain saint should be indifferent even to
those. Any sort of treasure binds us to this world, and even the heavenly
world should be transcended. Karma which weighs us down, like weights
which depress balloons, must be got rid of, destroyed. This is a
supremely hard task. The saint is the culmination of a struggle which has
continued over many, many lives. He gazes, unseeing, over the dry south
Indian landscape, a spiritual Gulliver among dark- skinned Lilliputians.
Every twelve years, the Jain faithful have a
great festival in
which innumerable pots of milk and curds and
sandal paste are
poured over the head of the stone hero,
The faith celebrates those who have through
heroism and insight gained liberation and thus shown the path to others.�