Diwali is probably the biggest and auspicious festival in India. People decorate their homes, shops, offices with lights and diyas. Relatives distribute sweets with each other. People clean their houses, renovate them and decorate them. It is very popular among children due to the excitement of bursting firecrackers.
Jains also celebrate Diwali but their reason for celebration is different from that of the Hindus. In Hinduism, there are many reasons for celebrating Diwali.
But mainly it is celebrated in honour of the return of Lord Rama, wife Sita, brother Laxman and Lord Hanuman to Ayodhya from exile of 14 years after Rama defeated Ravana. To illuminate their path, villagers light diyas to triumph good over evil.
Pawapuri or Pawa is a holy site for Jains located in the Nalanda district in the Bihar state of Eastern India. Mahavira attained Moksha at the dawn of the Amavasya (new moon). He was cremated at Pawapuri.
It is believed that many Gods were present there illuminating the darkness. But the following night was pitch black. So people illuminate their houses in order to symbolically keep the light of their master’s knowledge alive. This is why Jains celebrate Diwali / Deepavali.
Also, it is believed that the chief disciple of Mahavira, Gautama Swami attained omniscience i.e. absolute or complete knowledge (Kevala jñāna or Keval Gyaan).
Happy New Year in Jainism & Diwali celebration:
Pratipada i.e. the next of Diwali marks the Jain New Year. Traditionally Jain business people start their accounting year from Diwali.
Jain calendar is known as Vira Nirvana Samvat and their year 2539 started with Diwali of the year 2012. Therefore people also wish each other Happy New Year.
Mostly Jains avoid firing crackers…
Ahimsa or Ahinsa i.e. non-violence is the cardinal principle of Jainism. It should be practised in all three ways, physically, mentally and verbally.
Due to this principle, many Jains avoid firing crackers as first of all it creates pollution. Secondly, it leads to violence and killing of many very tiny and small living organisms and sometimes birds.
It is celebrated in the atmosphere of austerity, simplicity, serenity, equity, calmness, charity, philanthropy and environment-consciousness. Jain temples, homes, offices, shops are decorated with lights and diyas. The lights are symbolic of knowledge or removal of ignorance.
Swetambar Jains observe three days of fasting during Diwali as a tribute to the penance and sacrifice of Mahavira and his valuable contributions to our understanding of life and beyond.
Devotees chants prayers and mantras to pray to Mahavira. They gather in a large crowd for samaik or prayer. They recite verses from the Uttaradhyayan Sutra which contains the last teachings of Mahavira.