they happen to be on that day for the next four months. During these four months. The Jains have to follow a strict diet and undertake religious ceremonies.
The Jain parva (meaning festival) of Paryushana (meaning to stay closer) originates from the practice adopted by itinerant monks of staying in one place during the Indian monsoon. The festival is taken symbolically as a period for re-establishing a connection with the soul.
There is a colourful ritual which tells the story of the conception of Lord Mahavira, the man who shaped the Jain religion over 2,600 years ago.
The Jain scriptures tell how Mahavira's mother had a series of dreams at the time of his conception. These dreams predicted various qualities which the future leader would display. On this feast day, silver figures representing these dreams and symbolic of virtues such as strength, courage and wisdom are paraded through the congregation and up to the altar. Rich families bid for the privilege of carrying these symbols, and the money is used to support the community. The rituals are also used to teach the story to the children.
At the end of the ceremony a silver coconut is placed in a swing to represent the appearance of Mahavira in the womb. Each member of the congregation then rocks the swing, symbolic of nurturing the new life to come.
This is the holiest time of the year for Jains. There are 8 to 10 days (depending on the sect the member belongs to) of meditation, fasting and prayer. During these days the spiritual leaders read out the Kalpasutra, the most sacred scripture of the Jain. The feast ends with a ceremony of atonement which prepares the follower for emergence into the world in a state of spiritual and moral refinement.
Jains belong to one of two major sects. The first sect is Digambara (dig means sky, and ambar means clothes. Therefore they are sky-clad or naked). Digambara Jains are more austere, and aim for freedom from all material trappings and social inhibitions. The hold the festival over 10 days. The second sect is Shvetambara (white-clad). They wear a simple white cloth and hold the festival over 8 days.