Jain rituals and festivals

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Jain rituals and festivals play a prominent part in Jainism. Rituals can take place daily or more often, while festivals occur on designated days of the year. Rituals include obligations followed by Jains and various forms of idol worships. Festivals are either related to life events of Tirthankara or they are performed with intention of purification of soul.


Jains rituals can be divided broadly in two parts: Karya (Obligations which are followed) and Kriya (Worships which are performed).[1]

Six essential duties[edit]

Both major sects defines duties for Jainism followers.[2][3]


There are six obligatory duties prescribed by Jain Svetambara canons to ascetics which are modified to suit non-ascetics. They are called Avashyaka.[3] These Six Avashyakas are:[2][3]

  1. Chaturvishnati-stava: praising Tirthankaras
  2. Kayotsarga: meditation
  3. Pratikramana: expiation of past sins
  4. Pratyakhyana (renunciation of anything)
  5. Samyika: practising serenity and meditation
  6. Vandan: respecting teachers and ascetics

Samayika was used as a word for all spiritual activity including icon worship during medieval times.[2]


Digambara monk Jinsena and Somdeva suggested following duties which are popular and secular:[2]

  1. Dana: charity
  2. Devapuja: worship of Tirthankaras
  3. Guru-upashti: respecting teachers and ascetics
  4. Sanyam: controlling self by following different rules
  5. Swadhyaya: studying spiritual texts
  6. Tapa: austerities

These duties became fundamental ritual activities of Jains. Such as spreading the grain for the birds in the morning, and filtering or boiling the water for the next few hours' use became ritual acts of charity and non-violence.[2]


Samayika is the practice of equanimity, translating to meditation. It is a ritual act undertaken early in the morning and perhaps also at noon and night. It lasts for forty-eight minutes (Two Ghadis) and usually involves not only quiet recollection but also usually the repetition of routine prayers. The ritual is chanting and praying about the good things.[2]


Pratikramana is performed in the morning for the repentance of violence committed during the night, and in the evening for the violence during the day and additionally on certain days of the year. During this, the Jain expresses remorse for the harm caused, or wrongdoing, or the duties left undone.[2][4]

Annual and lifetime obligations[edit]

There are eleven annual obligations for a year and some obligations for once in a life which should be completed by Jain lay person individually or in a group. They are prescribed by Shravak Pragyapti.[5]

11 annual obligations[edit]

They are following:[5]

  1. Deva dravya : Fundraising for temples
  2. Mahapuja : Elaborate ritual in which temples and icons decorated and sacred texts recited
  3. Ratri-jagarana : singing hymns and religious observance throughout night
  4. Sadharmik Bhakti: Deep respect to fellow follower of Jainism
  5. Sangha-puja: service to Sangha
  6. Shuddhi : confession of faults
  7. Snatra puja : a ritual related to Janma Kalyanaka
  8. Sutra-puja : veneration of scriptures
  9. Tirth prabhavana : promotion of Jainism by celebrating important occasion
  10. Udyapana : displaying objects of worship and participant at end of religious activities
  11. Yatratnika or Yatratrik : Participation in religious festivals and pilgrimage to three sites

Obligations performed at least once in a lifetime[edit]

They are the following:[5]

  1. Build a temple
  2. Celebrate renunciation of a family member
  3. Donate a Tirthankara icon to a temple
  4. Participate in Panch-kalyanak Pratishtha

Idol Worship[edit]

Devapuja means worship of tirthankaras. It is done in front of icons of any liberated souls such as Tirthankara, Siddha or Arihant. There are no reference of idol worship in canonical texts. Sthanakavasi there for opposed idol worship. They believe in meditation and silent prayers.[6]

Erecting Jain temples started around 300 BCE.[6]

Jain idols have no miraculous powers, daily rituals help the worshipper towards a reverent state of mind. They are seen as a personification of ideal state which one should attain.[6]

During medieval period, worship of some Yaksha and Yakshini, divine gods who are not liberated souls, started. They are believed to help a person by removing obstacles in life.[6]

Elaborate forms of ritual usually done in the temple. Jains wear clean three clothes for many rituals and enter temple with words related to respect for Tirthankara. He bows down to Tirthankara at main shrine and will circumambulate him three times.[6]

Main ritual can be divided in two parts:[7]

  • Dravya puja (worship with materials)
  • Bhava puja (Psychic worship, no need of materials)

Dravya Puja[edit]

Dravya puja(worship with materials) includes Ashtaprakari Puja(means eight worships) which is done by paying homage with following eight things in prescribed way. It is also called archna:[7][8]

Puja Material used Ritual For attainment of
Akshata Uncooked rice Immortality
Chandana Sandalwood Sandalwood paste used applied to an icon Purity
Deepak Lamp Omniscience
Dhupa Incense stick Placed in front of an icon in specific manner Great Fame
Fala Fruits Liberation (Moksha)
Jala Water Abhisheka of icon of Tirthankara performed by mix of milk, ghee, yogurt, sandal and water followed by only water Cleanliness
Naivedhya Sweets Contentment
Pushpa Flowers Placed on icon Freedom from passions

After that some Jains also use Chamara (Whisk), Darpana (Mirror) and a Pankho (Hand fan) also for worship.[7]

Bhava Puja[edit]

An aarti plate.

Bhava puja(means Psychic worship) is done by ritual called Chaitya Vandana. It includes number of prayers and rituals done in prescribed manner and positions.[9]

Aarti and Mangal Deevo[edit]

Aarti and Mangal Deevo is a lamp rituls waving it in rotational manner in front of icons same as Hindu traditions. Lamps represent knowledge. It is performed everynight at all Jain temples.[10]

Other forms[edit]

Many other forms of worships are mainly performed on special occasions.[11] Some forms of worships have close relationship with these five auspicious life events of Tirthankara called Panch Kalyanaka.[8]

  1. Anjana Shalaka: It is a ceremony to install new Tirthankara icon. An Acharya recite mantras related to Panch Kalyanaka followed by applying special paste to eyes of Tirthankara icon. After this an icon becomes object of worship.
  2. Panch Kalyanak Pratishtha Mahotsava: When a new Jain Temple is erected, these Five Auspicious Life Events are celebrated known as Panch Kalyanak Pratishtha Mahotsava. After these an icons of Tirthankara gets a status of real Tirthankara which can be worshipped by Jains.[8]
  3. Panch Kalyanak Puja:This ritual solemnizes all five Kalyanaka. It was narrated by Pandit Virvijay.[8]
  4. Snatra Puja: Snatra Puja is a ritual related to birth of Tirthankara are bathed symbolising Indra doing Abhisheka on Tirthankara on Mount Meru after birth of Tirthankara. It performed before many other rituals and before starting of new enterprises, birthdays.[8]

Others are:[11]

  1. Adhara Abhisheka(18 Abhisheka: It is temple purification ceremony. 18 urns of different pure water, herbs etc. used to clean all icons for purification. It is performed periodically.
  2. Antaraya Karma Puja: It comprises a series of prayers to remove those karmas which obstruct the spiritual uplifting power of the soul.
  3. Arihanta Mahapujan: paying respect to the arihants.
  4. Aththai Mahotsava: It is religious celebration in which various religious activities are performed including some pujans for eight days.
  5. Shanti Snatra Puja: It is performed in intention of universal peace. It is related to Tirthankara Shantinath.
  6. Siddha-chakra Puja:It is a ritual focused on the Siddha-chakra, a lotus-shaped disc bearing representations of the arhat, the liberated soul, religious teacher, religious leader and the monk (the five praiseworthy beings), as well as the four qualities namely perception, knowledge, conduct and austerity to uplift the soul.


There are many religious festivals in Jainism. Some of them are associated with five auspicious life events of Tirthankara known as Panch Kalyanaka.[12]

Paryushana Parva[edit]

Main article: Paryushana
Trishala, mother of Mahavira has 14 auspicious dreams. Folio 4 from Kalpa sutra.

Paryushana Parva is one of the most important festival for Jains. Paryusana is formed by two words meaning ‘a year’ and ‘a coming back’. This festival comes in the months of Shravana and Bhadra (August or September). Svetambara Jains are celebrating it for eight-days while Digambara Jains celebrate it for ten days. So it is also known as Das Lakshana Parva. It is a festival of repentance and forgiveness. Many Jains fast and carry out different religious activities. Jain monks stop walking during chaturmas and reside at one place where they lecture on various religious subjects during paryushana. This festival is believed to remove accumulated karma of the previous year and develop control over new accumulating new karma, by following Jain austerities and other rituals. There are regular rituals at the temple. Discourses of Kalpa Sutra are given by monks. Kalpa Sutradescribes life of Mahavira and other Tirthankaras. On the third day, procession of Kalpa Sutra is carried out. On the fifth day, auspicious dreams of Trishala, mother of Mahavira are demonstrated and after that birth of Mahavira is celebrated. On the final day, Jains ask for forgiveness from everybody for any acts during the previous year which may had hurt them.

Mahavir Jayanti[edit]

Main article: Mahavir Jayanti
Om Hrim Siddhi Chakra used by Jains in dravya puja

Mahavira was born on the thirteenth day of the bright half of the Jain calendar month of Chaitra, probably 599 BCE. It falls in March or April. This festival marks birth of Mahavira. Procession is carried out and lectures on message of Mahavira is presented. The idols of Mahavira is ceremonially bathed and rocked in a cradle. Events related to birth are also recited from sacred texts by monks.[12]


Main article: Diwali (Jainism)

Divali is one of the most important festival in India. Mahavir attained nirvana followed by moksha on this day in 527 BCE. It falls on the last day of Ashvina month of Jain calendar. It is also the last day of Indian calendar. It comes during October or November. It is believed that the eighteen kings of northern India, followers of Mahavira, decided to light lamps (known as dipa) symbolizing knowledge of Mahavira. So it is known as Deepavali or Diwali. Jains are forbidden to burst crackers.[13]

New Year[edit]

After celebrating Divali at the end of Ashwina, Jains celebrate new year on the first day of the following month of Kartika. Ritual of Snatra Puja is performed at the temple. Mahavira's chief disciple Gautama Swami attained keval gyan on this day.[14]

Gyana Panchami[edit]

The fifth day of Kartika is known as Gyana Panchami. It is considered knowledge day. On this day holy scriptures are displayed and worshipped.

Pausha Dashmi[edit]

It is celebrated on 10th day of dark half of Pausha (Pushya) month of Hindu calendar(December/January). It marks Janma Kalyanaka (Birth) of 23rd Tirthankara, Parshvanath. Three days fast known as Attham is observed by many Jains.

Gommateshvara Bahubali, Mahamastakabhisheka festival, 2006

Varshi Tapa or Akshay Tritiya Tapa[edit]

It is believed that the first Jain Tirthankara Rishabhdev completed of an austerity on 3rd day of the bright fortnight of Vaishakh month of Jain calendar after fasting for 13 months and 13 days continuously. People who performed austerity known as Varshi tapa regarding these event complete the austerity on this day by taking sugar-cane juice.[12]


Maun Agiyaras or Ekadashi marks Kalyanaka of many Tirthankaras. It is celebrated on 11th day of Magshar month of Jain calendar(October/November). On this day, complete silence is observed and fasting is kept. Meditation is also performed.

Navapad Oli[edit]

The nine-day Oli is a period of semi-fasting. During these period Jains take only one meal a day of very plain food. It comes twice a year during March/April and September/October.


Main article: Mahamastakabhisheka

Mahamastakabhisheka is a festival held once every twelve years in the town of Shravanabelagola, Karnataka. It is held in veneration of an immense 18 meter high statue of Bahubali. The last anointing took place in February 2006, and the next ceremony will occur in 2018.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shah 1998, pp. 169
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Jaini 1998, pp. 188–191
  3. ^ a b c Shah 1998, pp. 171–173
  4. ^ Shah 1998, pp. 174
  5. ^ a b c Shah 1998, pp. 173–175
  6. ^ a b c d e Jaini 1998, pp. 191–196
  7. ^ a b c Shah 1998, pp. 177–179
  8. ^ a b c d e Jaini 1998, pp. 196–203
  9. ^ Shah 1998, p. 179
  10. ^ Shah 1998, p. 181
  11. ^ a b Shah 1998, pp. 181–185
  12. ^ a b c Shah 1998, pp. 203–205
  13. ^ Shah 1998, pp. 209–210
  14. ^ J. Gordon Melton (2011). "New Year's Day (Jain)". Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. p. 635. ISBN 9781598842067 
  15. ^ Correspondent, TNN (February 8, 2006). "Mahamastakabhisheka of Bahubali begins today". The Times of India. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 


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