Mahavira Jayanthi is the birth anniversary of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. This is one of the main Jain festivals celebrated by the Jains in India. According to the Digambar school of Jainism, Lord Mahavira was born in the year 615 BC, but the Swetambaras believe the year to be 599 BC. Nevertheless, both the sects agree that he was the son of Siddhartha and Trisala.
According to the legend, he was born to Devananda, wife of a Brahmin named Rishabhdeva. The gods, deftly, transferred the embryo to the womb of Trisala. It is said that the expectant mother had sixteen auspicious dreams before the child was born (14 according to the Swetambaras). The astrologers predicted that the child would either be an emperor or a Teerthankar.
This religious event is largely observed by the Jains, by visiting sacred sites and worshipping the Teerthankars. The event holds special significance in Gujarat and Rajasthan, due to the ancient shrines at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat. Mahavir Jayanti is also celebrated at Parasnath temple in Calcutta and at Pawapuri in Bihar.
This festival is observed in the honour of Jain deities; Lord Mahavira’s final liberation from life (the 24th Teertahankar). He died on this day at the age of 72, at Pawapuri in Bihar.On this day, Mahavira is worshipped at midnight and the next morning. Sacred scriptures are recited and houses are magnificently illuminated. The festival is celebrated with a great deal of enthusiasm in Girnar, in Gujarat. Devotees from all parts of the country come together at Pawapuri and sweets are distributed.