The eight holy days of Paryushan are extremely important for Jains. These eight days are a break from daily life and individuals are supposed to introspect on past sins in order to cleanse their soul
Paryushan is the most important festival of Jain religion. It lasts for 8 days. It means opening the lock of the heart and cleaning of the dirt (karma) which is collected on the soul. During this festival, people are supposed to suppress their passions. I am sure you have all heard Jains fast during this period. Jains believe that while fasting their spiritual intensity increases. By fasting for 8 days they are supposed to have self-discipline and purify their souls.
Fasting is a good way of developing self-control. Health permitting, everyone should try and fast occasionally. During Paryushan, Some Jains observe eight day fast (Athaai), drinking only boiled water, whilst others fast for a day, or a partial fast (Ekaashana – eating once a day or Besana – eating twice a day).When Jains fast, no solid or liquid food is consumed and only boiled water is consumed from sunrise to sunset. Fasting, helps to remind a person that life’s goal is not in running behind material things (money,clothes, looks,etc.). It is about attaining Nirvana and escaping reincarnation. Paryushan is a time for self-analysis. It gives people a break from their daily routine to think about their past behavior. During this time they have to think whether their behaviours are right according to the teachings of Jainism. This is very important as it will make sure people lead a pure life in the future.
During Paryushan Jains have to practise nonviolence (Ahimsa) to a greater extent than during the past year. They are supposed to have self-discipline (Sanyam) by performing penance (Tapasyah) such as study of scriptures (Swadhyaya), partial or complete fasting, introspection (Pratikraman) and repentance (Prayaschitta). There are some very important do’s and don’ts that must be followed by all Jains during Paryushan. Jains must visit temples and do puja, read religious books or discuss religion for 15 min, Fast, or eat once or twice a day, observe silence, learn a prayer, Help others in need - Seva activities, Meditate for minimum 5 mins, Donate toys, clothes, etc.They must not buy new clothes, not cut plants/pluck flowers/walk on grass, not have sex, not eat after sunset, they can’t eat food from outside or in Restaurants. They are not supposed to get into fights or get into arguments etc.
Pratikraman is a very important aspect of Paryushan. It is the process of asking forgiveness from all the wrong we have done through personal actions, words and thoughts. When we see ourselves in a mirror we see our external self. During Pratikraman, we see ourselves, internally, the way we really are. The aim is to minimize the impact of our mistakes on our lives and to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated. Thus pratikraman is not only a religious ritual but a way to control the mind and become a better human being.The last day of Paryushan is the Samvatsari. It is the most important of all. On this day, most Jains try to observe a fast and collectively perform the Samvatsari Pratikraman. This is also the day of ‘Forgive and Forget’ - Tass Michami Dukkaram. We ask for forgiveness from family and friends for any hurts which we may have committed towards them in the previous year. In life we must not keep ill feelings in our mind for more than a year. This is why every year we must ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness.
The Paryushan Days every year gives us an opportunity to step back from our daily lives. Let us welcome Paryushan by changing ourselves first, before trying to change others. Be yourself without depending on others. Try to become flowers instead of being a thorn and help others instead of getting help from others.