Paryushana is an eight day Jain festival of reflection and seeking forgiveness for one’s sins. Jainism has two main sects, Svetambara and Digambara. Svetambaras refer the festival as Paryushana which is celebrated for eight days while Digambaras refer it as Daslakshana celebrated for ten days. The festival concludes with the celebration of Kshamavani i.e. forgiveness day. In 2017, the annual festival begins on August 18 and concludes on August 25.
There are no rules on the rituals and customs followers are free to practice according to their ability and desires. The five fundamental ethics – Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (chastity) and Aparigraha (non-possession) – of Jainism are emphasized during the festival. The main aim of Paryushana is to purify the soul and achieve self-upliftment. Devotees fast throughout the day and consume only boiled water. It is believed that it helps devotees to attain good health.
The Digambara Jains celebrate the festival by reciting ten chapters of Tattvartha Sutra, a sacred Jain text and also several procession are organised. At the end of the festival, devotees request forgiveness for any offenses committed during the year by saying ‘Micchami Dukkadam’ or ‘Uttam Kshama’ meaning “If I have offended you in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or deed, then I seek your forgiveness.”
Svetambaras celebrate the festival by reciting Kalpa Sutra, a Jain text comprising biographies of Jain Tirthankaras, or Antagada Sutra, a text that gives details of people who attained moksha during Neminatha and Mahavira eras.
Digambara Jains observe the fast by not taking any food or water more than once in a day. Svetambaras Jains observe the fast by consuming only boiled water between sunrise and sunset. The span of the fast can last for a day to 30 days.