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Jainism was founded on the teaching of 24 Tirthankaras (liberated and enlightened persons) of whom Vardhamana Mahavira was the last.  The religion has its roots in the Indian sub-continent.  Jain philosophy provides a way of life for adherents.  Shweetamber and Digamber are the two divisions of Jainism.  These two sects differ in some of their religious beliefs, interpretations of scripture and daily and ascetic practices.

Jains believe in:

  • Jiva (eternal soul)
  • Ahimsa (non-violence)
  • Veganism
  • Aparigraha (non-acquisition)
  • Karma (cause and effect action)
  • Samsar (cycle of transmigration, birth and death)
  • Anekantvada (multiplicity of views)
  • Moksha (liberation from cycle of birth)

Jains fast regularly during the course of a year and also during many festivals and holy days.  Jains follow the Vir Nirvan Smavat calendar with its roots in the Hindu calendar. 

Anant Chaturdashi
"Festival of Ten Virtues" is the holiest day of Dashalakshani-parva for the Digambara sect.

Daslakshan Parva begins (lasts 10 days)
The Digambara sect celebrates Dashalakshani-parva for ten days by fasting, worship, meditation, confession, and by dedicating each day to a virtue:  forgiveness, humility, honesty, purity, truthfullness, self-restraint, asceticism, study, detachment, and celibacy.

Dev Diwali
Dev Diwali is celebrated on the full moon day in the first month of the Hindu/Jain calendar.  Followers resolve to give up negative traits such as anger and greed in pursuit of spirituality.  Jains remember their spiritual leaders on this day.
Diwali/Lord Mahavir Nirvana
Also known as “the Festival of Light,” this date marks the day when Lord Mahavir attained salvation.  It is celebrated with worship in the morning and illumination at night.  
Gnan Panchami
This day is celebrated on the fifth day after Diwali and is the most important of all Jain festivals.  The purpose of the festival is to gain more wisdom, and honours knowledge and holy books.  Temples are lit up, and rituals are performed involving books and writing instruments.  The day may also include fasting, recitation and meditation.

Guru Purnima
This day is celebrated around the world by disciples to revere and honour their Gurus (spiritual masters).  It is also celebrated by Hindus. 

Kshamavani/Daslakshan Parva ends
On Kshamavani, Jains ask for forgiveness of others for wrongs committed during the previous year, and likewise forgive those who caused them suffering.

Maun Agiyaras
Maun Agiyaras falls on the 11th day of the fortnight of the waxing moon in the 2nd calendar month.  Jains observe total silence, fast, meditate and worship God on this day.

Mahavir Jayanti (Birthday)
This date marks the 24th Jina’s birthday and is celebrated with prayer and worship in temples.  There are also public functions held to spread the teachings of Mahavir on this day.

New Year/Enlightenment day of Guatamswami
Jains begin the New Year with a glorification of Lord Guatamswami. Jains visit temple in the morning and offer prayers.  Some devotees of Jainism fast for 3 days, including the New Year day.  Traditions include visiting friends, family and neighbours, feasts, offering gifts, fireworks, and lighting up the home.  

Paryushan Parva
Paryushan Parva is the holiest period of the year for the ascetic Shvetambara sect.  Celebrated for eight days concluding on Samvatsari, it is a time for dedication to Jain ideals through fasting, worship of the Jina, and reading the life story of Lord Mahavira from the Kalpasutra. 
Samvatsari/Paryushan Parva ends
"Day of Forgiveness", the last day of Paryushan.  The Shvetembara sect observes by introspection, confession and penance.