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Paryushana (or Paryusan) is one of the two most important festivals for the Jains, the other being Diwali. Normally Svetambara Jains refer it as Paryushana, while Digambara Jains refer it as Das Lakshana. Paryushan means, literally, "abiding" or "coming together". It is believed that all the devas do Ashtprakari Puja of Tirthankara and it takes them 8 days to do this ashtaprakari puja. This is called Ashtanhika Mahotsav, so at the very same time Jains celebrate it as Paryushan. It is also a time when the laity take on vows of study and fasting with a spiritual intensity similar to temporary monasticism. The duration of Paryusana is for 8 or 10 days and comes at the time when the wandering monks take up temporary residence for four months of monsoon. In popular terminology, this stay is termed chaturmasa because the rainy season is about four months. For this minimum duration, Paryushana must be initiated by Panchami (fifth day) of the Shukla Paksha phase of the Bhadrapada month. In the scriptures it is described that Lord Mahavira used to start Paryushana on Bhadrapada pak sha panchami. After 150 year's of Mahavir's Nirvan, Jain Samvatsari was shifted to Chaturthi (4th day of Bhadrapada of Shukla phase) by Shwetambar Deravasi sect. The Shwetambar Sthanakvasi sect retains the practise of following it on Panchmi.
The date for the Paryushana festival is thus Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi. Because of computational and other differences, there can be some minor differences among various subsects. Recently there has been an attempt to standardize the date. Because at this time the monks have settled in the town for a longer duration, it is time for the householders to have an annual renewal of the faith by listening to the statement of the Dharma and by meditation and vratas (self-control). In the Digambaras, it is done by starting a 10-day period from Paryushana (Bhadrapada Shukla panchami) during which the dashalakshana vrata is undertaken. In the Shvetambaras an 8-day festival is celebrated that ends with Bhadrapada Shukla chaturthi. The last day is called Samvatsari, short for Samvatsari Pratikramana.
During the 8-day festival, the Kalpa Sutra is recited in the Swetmbara Deravasi sect, that includes a recitation of the section on birth of Lord Mahavira on the fifth day. Few Shwetambar Sthanakvasi sect recites Antahgadh Sutra, which details the life of great men and women who attained moksha during the Neminath and Mahavir era. In the Digambara sect the Tatvartha-sutra of Umaswati is recited. On the dashami, the sugandha-dashami vrata occurs. The Digambaras celebrate Ananta-chaturdashi on the chaturdashi, special worship is done on this day. Many towns have a procession leading to the main temple.
Most of the Jains observe fast and Ekasan (meal/boiled water once in a day) and soak themselves in the rituals associated with the event and try to ready themselves for a virtuous life. The span of the fast could be anything between a day and 30 days or even more. In the Digambar sect, Shravakas do not take food and/or water (boiled) more than once in a day when observing fasts, while those of the Swetambar sect observing a fast survive on boiled water, which is consumed only between sunrise and sunset.
Jainism discourages fasting in diabetics, pregnant women, other patients taking medications. Please consult your doctor before any fasting, as fasting can interfere with health in aforementioned cases.
On all the eight/ten days, Jains begin their day with ‘pratikraman’ at 5.45 in the morning, followed by prayers for promoting universal peace and brotherhood. Pratikramana means turning back. It is a form of meditation, called Samayika where one reflects on his spiritual journey and renews his faith. For both Swetambaras and Digambaras, it takes the form of periodic meditation. The period can be twice daily (morning and evening), once every lunar phase, every four months, or every year. The annual Pratikramana in some form is the minimum for a Sravaka.
Pratikramana includes six avasyakas or essentials:
The detailed recommended procedure can be found in the handbooks. Detailed Pratikramana takes about 3 hours, however all essentials can be done in a much shorter time if needed.
By tradition certain postures are recommended for Pratikramana.
At the conclusion of the festival, the Sravakas request each other for forgiveness for all offenses committed during the last year. This occurs on the Paryusha day for the Swetambara and on Pratipada (first) of Ashwin Krashna for the Digambara. Forgiveness is asked by telling "Micchami Dukkadam" or "Uttam Kshama" to each other. It means "If I have caused you offence in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought word or deed, then I seek your forgiveness".
These are the ten Lakshan of Dharma: Uttam Kshama (forbearance), Uttam Mardava (gentleness), Uttam Aarjava (uprightness), Uttam Satya (truth), Uttam Shauch (purity), Uttam Sanyam (restraint), Uttam Tap (austerity), Uttam Tyaga (renunciation), Uttam Aakinchanya (lack of possession) and Uttam Brahmcharya (chastity), as described by Umaswati in Tattvartha Sutra.
In the full form, it is a 10 day vrata that comes every year. It may be undertaken during Shukla Panchami to Chaturdashi of Bhadrapada, Magh or Chaitra months. However it is common to do it during Bhadrapada.