Paryushan Festival
Jains visit a Temple while observing the Paryushan festival

The followers of the two most prominent sects of the Jain religion came together to celebrate the holy festival of Paryushan. The Shvetambar and Digambar Jains celebrated the 18-day festival together in Jaipur, India. These two classes celebrated the festival together for the first time in 2500 years.

The Paryushan festival is essentially a time for Jains to repent for their sins, seek forgiveness, and forgive those who have wronged them in the past.

The coming together of these two groups is newsworthy based on their long held disagreement on a woman’s spiritual status, the 24th Tirthankar Lord Mahavir’s life, debate over Monk clothing, among other issues.

Digambar monk Tarunsagarji maharajsaheb has been urging the two groups to come together for over 10 years, with the first instance being when he was in Bangalore. He’s asked the two groups to set aside the minute details of their beliefs and unite, saying “That would be the real honour to the Tirthankar (the liberated, omniscient ones).”

With nearly 200,000 people from both the sects attending the festival in Jaipur, it is quite evident that the followers of both sects have decided to forgo their different outlooks, at least for this event. This is a great milestone in the history of this ancient religion as the philosophical differences between the two sects are too deep rooted to be given up so easily. That is perhaps why rather than the celebrating the Paryushan for the usual duration of 8 or 10 days, this special event was organized for 18 days.

The special festival in Jaipur started on September 2, and ended just yesterday, September 19. On Sunday, September 22, a community gathering will be held in which the people of both sects will seek forgiveness as part of the closure of Paryushan in a “day of repentance of past sins.” On this day all the Jains in Jaipur will come together and repent for their past sins which they might have committed knowingly or unknowingly and will pray for forgiveness for the same.

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