‘Mahavir Janma Kalyanak’, also known as ‘Mahavir Jayanti’, celebrates the birth of Lord Mahavira &is the most important religious festival for Jains. The festival falls in March or April. This year we celebrate it today.

About Lord Mahavira

Lord Mahavira was the twenty-fourth & last Jain Tirthankara. A Tirthankara in Jainism is an enlightened soul who is born as a human being & attains perfection through intense meditation.Tirthankara,also called ‘Jina’, is a saviour who has succeeded in crossing over life’s stream of rebirths & has made a path for others to follow.

Childhood

Lord Mahavira was born in 599 B.C. Prince Vardhamana to King Siddhartha & Queen Trishala of the Ikshvaku Dynasty. When Queen Trishala was pregnant with Vardhamana, she had the 14 dreams depicted in Jain scriptures indicating that her unborn child was destined to greatness. Being a prince he was brought up amidst much luxury yet nothing affected him. He led a very simple life.

Following his parent’s instructions, he married Princess Yashoda, at a very young age & the couple had a daughter, Priyadarshana. The Digambara sect of Jainism believes that Vardhamana refused to get married when his parents insisted.

Renunciation& Penance

When Vardhamana was 28, his parents passed away & his elder brother Nandivardhana succeeded their father. Vardhamana craved freedom from the worldly attachments & sought his brother’s permission to renounce his royal life. His brother tried to dissuade him from his resolve but Vardhamana was adamant, practicing fast & meditation at home. At 30 years of age, he finally abandoned his home & embraced the ascetic life of a monk on the tenth day of Margsirsa. He gave away his possessions, put on a single piece of cloth & uttered ‘NamoSiddhanam’ (I bow down to the liberated souls) &left all his worldly attachments behind.

For the next twelve-and-a-half years, he practiced severe meditation & penance. He discarded his clothes. He practiced a philosophy of non-violence against all living beings.

The 10 Dreams

After experiencing 12 years of hard penance, a tired Mahavira is said to have fallen asleep for a few moments when he experienced a series of 10 strange dreams. These dreams & their significance has been explained in Jain Scriptures as follows –

  • Defeating a Lion – Signifies destruction of ‘moha’ or worldly attachment.
  • A bird with white feathers following him – Signifies attainment of purity of mind.
  • A bird with multicolored feathers – Signifies attainment & propagationof multifaceted knowledge.
  • Two gem strings appear in front – Symbolizes preaching a dual religion, an amalgamation of principles from a monk’s life & duties of a common man.
  • A herd of white cows – Symbolizes a group of devoted followers who will serve.
  • A pond with open lotuses – Symbolizes presence of celestial spirits who will propagate the cause.
  • Crossed a waxy ocean swimming – Symbolizes freedom from the cycles of death & rebirths.
  • Sun rays spreading in all directions – Symbolizes attainment of Kevala Jnana (Omniscience).
  • Encircling the mountain with your bluish intestines – Symbolizes the universe will be privy to the knowledge.
  • Sitting on a throne placed on summit of the Mount Meru – Symbolizes people revering the knowledge being taught & placing Mahavira in a place of respect.

On the tenth day of the rising moon during the month of Vaisakh, 557 B.C., Mahavira sat under a Sal tree on the banks of river Rijuvaluka (modern day river Barakar), & attained the Kevala Jnana or omniscience. He finally experienced perfect perception, perfect knowledge, perfect conduct, unlimited energy, & unobstructed bliss. He became a Jina, the one who is victorious over attachment.

Nirvana

Mahavir devoted his life towards spreading his Keval Jnana among people &gave discourses in local languages as opposed to in elite Sanskrit. His final discourse was at Pavapuri which lasted for 48 hours. He attained moksha shortly after his final discourse, finally liberated from the cycle of life, death & rebirth during 527 B.C. at the age of 72.

Shri Mahavir Ji

It is a very famous pilgrimage site, &is situated in Hindaun Block in Karauli district in Rajasthan. The story behind the construction of the temple is a fascinating one –

Discovery of statue:

There was a Gurjar man who began to notice that one of his cows would come home in the evening with empty udders. In the quest to find out the truth about what was going on, one day, he decided to follow the cow. He saw that the cow went to ‘tila’(a small hill of sand) & emptied herself of all the milk on the top of that hill.

Puzzled by this scene, the man began to dig at that very spot &unearthed the statue of Lord Mahavira. The ‘Mulnayakpratima’ (main statue) thus discovered, was nearly 78 cm high & made of copper, & depicted Lord Mahavirasitting in padmasana posture.The statue was placed at that spot, & as time went by, more & more people began coming to the spot to pray as their wishes were being fulfilled. The Gurjar man was, however, unaware that the statue was of Lord Mahavira.

Princely Connection:

The ruler of Jaipur had decided to punish one of his ministers to death as he suspected the minister of being involved in some crime which remains unknown. He was to be blown to death by a cannon. The minister, however, was innocent.

Someone told the minister about the newly found Lord Mahavira statue & how people’s wishes were being fulfilled on praying to the statue. The minister went to the spot where the statue was discovered & prayed that if he was saved on the day of the death, he would construct a temple for the statue of one shikhar.

The day of his punishment came. The king ordered the fuse to be lit on the cannon, but due to some unexplainable problem, the cannon just wouldn’t fire. The king ordered the fuse to be re-lit. The minister again prayed &said that if he’s saved again, he would construct a temple of two shikhars. Miraculously, he was saved again.

The king, now fuming with anger, decided to lit the fuse himself. The minister prayed again & promised he would build a temple with three shikhars if he’s saved. He was, after all, innocent. But even the king failed to fire the cannon.

Finally, the king gave up, not understanding what was happening, & what ‘extraordinary’ power was saving the minister. The minister told him about the statue & his prayers. The king, fascinated by now, declared that he will build the temple. But the minister said that 0nly he would do that as he has promised the same.

And so, the statue of Lord Mahavira was to be transported in a cart to the designated place of construction, which was nearby. After loading the statue on the cart, people began pushing it. But it wouldn’t budge. Many tried, but to no avail. Finally, the Gurjar man, who had discovered the statue, pushed the cart, & to the surprise of all the cart began moving.

Today, at the spot where the statue was discovered, is a foot imprint of Lord Mahavira, just next to which is a beautiful temple that houses the statue. Even now, the descendants of that Gurjar take care of the shed where the imprint is kept, & whatever money people dedicate to the spot, is taken home by the Gurjar’s family.

Shri Mahavir ji is visited every year, especially on the occasion of Mahavir Jayanti, by thousands of pilgrims, many of whom don’t even follow Jainism.


Vinayak Jain

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