Mahavir Jayanti marks the birth anniversary of Lord Mahavir, the founder of Jainism. He was the 24th and the last Tirthankara of the Jains. A significant day for the Jain community, Mahavir Jayanti will be observed on April 17 this year. Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the month Chaitra.
Vardhaman was born in 599 BC (as claimed by the Shwetambara sect) or 615BC (as claimed by Digambara sect) in the palace of Vaishali to King Siddhartha and Queen Trisala. Lord Mahavir took over the kingdom when he came of age.
Mahavir spent his childhood as a prince surrounded by luxuries. It is said that before his birth, astrologers had predicted that Mahavir will grow up to be either be a great king or a Tirthankara. During his formative years, Mahavir developed a great interest in Jainism. At the age of 30, he renounced the throne and left his family in search of enlightenment.
He spent the next 12 years as a monk and devoted the rest of his life preaching the spiritual truth to his followers. He was the 24th and the last Tirthankara of Jainism and preached the principles of truth, love and non-violence, which form the core of Jain philosophy.
Lord Mahavir practised and promoted non-violence and preached love and respect of all living beings. On these values, he later found a new religion – Jainism. Jains steer clear of all non-vegetarians dishes and follow the path of non-violence or ahimsa. Mahavir Jayanti is a reminder of these virtues.
Jains typically celebrate the festival by offering prayers to Lord Mahavir and by visiting temples that are festooned with flowers and flags. Idols of Lord Mahavir are carried on a chariot by devotees after the ‘abhishek’ ritual. The Jain community also engages in charity work on this day.