Yesterday Jains celebrated Janma Kalyanak – one of the most important Jain festivals. A festival to celebrate the birth of Mahavir. Mahavir was the 24th and last Tirthankara of the present Avasarpini. Mahavir was born of the thirteenth day of the bright half of the moon in the month of Chaitra in the year 599 BCE. His birthplace is in modern day Bihar and the field to be thought of as his birthplace has not been ploughed for hundreds of years. He was known as Vardhaman – ‘one who grows’.
Mahavir was born into the Ikshyaku Dynasty and was the son of King Siddhartha of Kiundagrama and Queen Trishala and while pregnant the Queen had numerous auspicious dreams signifying the coming of a great soul. Digambara Jains believe that the Queen had 16 dreams that were interpreted by the King.
Celebrations include carrying an idol of Lord Mahavir on a chariot in a procession called rath yatra. Stavans – religious rhymes are recited and statues of Mahavir are given a ceremonial anointment called abhisheka. Most Jains will engage in some charitable work, prayers, pujas and vratas and temples are visited.