Deep Diwali has a very special significance in Jainism. It marks the anniversary of Nirvana (final release) or liberation of Mahavira's soul, the twenty-fourth and last Jain Tirthankara of present cosmic age. It is celebrated at the same time as the Hindu festival of Diwali.
Deep Diwali takes place in October/November. This festival is observed in the honor of Jain deities and the final liberation of Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, from the cycle of life.
On this day, Mahavira is worshipped at midnight and early the next morning. Sacred scriptures are recited and houses are grandly illuminated. The festival is celebrated with much zest in Girnar, in Gujarat. Devotees from all parts of the country congregate at Pawapuri and sweets are distributed.
Significance of Diwali in Jain Dharma
1. Deep Diwali is one of the most popular and colorful festivals in India. Better known as Deepavali or the festival of lights, Deep Diwali is a nocturnal celebration embraced by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains across the country. It unifies every religion, every home, and every heart, and India transcends into a land of myriad lamps.
2. The mode and significance of Deep Diwali celebration are multi-faceted, varying according to mythology and scriptures. In Jain Dharma, Deep Diwali festival is a celebration of the glory and achievement of Lord Mahavira. Diwali is the jubilation to commemorate the salvation or Moksha attained by Lord Mahavira.
3. On The fifteenth day of the dark half of the month of Kartik,527 BCE, Mahavir was observing a two days fast. He sat in the Samavasaran and gave his last discourse which became famous as Uttaradhyayan Sutra, Vipak Sutra, etc. Just before the hour of midnight he shed all his remaining Karmas and attained 'Nirvana'(Moksha). For a few moments, the whole world was enveloped in darkness. Gods dispelled the darkness with the help of gems and humans lit earthen lamps to have the last glimpse of their savior.
4. In memory of that day people celebrate the festival of lights or Dipawali. Gods and human beings celebrated jointly the events of attainment of Nirvana by Mahavir and omniscience by Ganadhar Gautam. He could conquer his desires and be beyond humanity. Jain scriptures also mention that one of the ardent disciples of Mahavira, Gandhara Gautam Swami attained complete knowledge on this day. Diwali marks the beginning of the year for the Jain community.
5. In Jainism, Diwali was first referred in Harivamsha Purana (Holy Book of Jains) written by Acharya Jinasena as dipalika (splendour of lamps). In his words, The gods illuminated Pavanagari by lamps to mark the occasion. Since that time, the people celebrate the famous festival of Diwali to worship the Jinendra (i.e. Lord Mahavira) on the occasion of his nirvana.
6. Diwali is the occasion to pay tribute to the ardent sacrifice of Mahavira. The Swetambara faction of Jains observes fasting during the three days of Diwali. The festival usually falls in the month of Kartik (October-November). The devotees sing and chant hymns in praise. They recite phrases from the Uttaradhyayan Sutra which contains the last preaching's of Lord Mahavira.
7. A unique way of celebration: Jains as a religion gives more stress on austerity and simplicity. Unlike other religions, practices, who celebrate Diwali with lots of firecrackers, noise, songs, and dances, Jainism follows a different form of celebration altogether. To Jains, physical triumph and pomp are just worldly emotions of joy and gratification. So they practice penance during the period. The temples are decorated during this period and there is a distribution of sweets among the devotees. Jains from India and all over the world visit Pavapuri, the home town of Mahavira.