Life, Ahimsa, reflection and forgiveness

For over 2,000 years, the religion of Jainism has attracted millions of followers in India and across the rest of the world. September marks one of the most important festivals of their calendar, the festival of Paryushan. From August 18 – 25, Jains take the time to reflect on their inner being , and engage in fasting to help give them a deeper sense of inner peace.

The festival itself is rooted in India’s agricultural practices centuries ago. After the Indian monsoon season, there was little for the country’s farmers to do during this time and there was also a great number of insects brought by the rains. The rains made traveling by road difficult and Jainism teaches that it is wrong to kill any living creature. People therefore tended to stay in their own villages, and from this the practice of Paryushan emerged.

During the 8-10 day period, Jains will fast in order to completely focus their minds on soul searching. Jainism is known for its strict rules and moral code, which are extremely difficult to live on a daily basis. During Paryusham, Jains will therefore reflect on their conduct over the past year, ask for forgiveness, and clear their spirit for the future. Materialism is put aside, and Jains instead remember that the attainment of Nirvana is what they should be concentrating on.

Paryushan is also a time for people to come together and celebrate. Over the course of these holy weeks, wealth and social status are put aside, and Jains come together as one. Jains believe that “All life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence.” During this time, all Jains will focus particularly on upholding the welfare of all living things, and feeling a deeper bond with both their fellow human beings and nature in general.


Many Jains will fast for eight days during Paryushan. Others will only fast for three days, representing the Three Jewels of Jainism, right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct. However, most Jains will try to avoid eating after sunset, where more insects may be present but cannot be easily spotted on food. They also avoid root vegetables, since harvesting these destroys the entire plant.

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