The importance of Samvatsari
Samvatsari or Samvatsari Parva is a festival celebrated by the Jain community. It is believed to be one of the holiest and most important days in the Jain Calendar. The festival is celebrated by the Shwetambar sect of Jainism followers. Samvatsari is a Sanskrit word that translates to Annual day or Forgiveness day. It is more popularly known as Forgiveness day throughout the world. It is celebrated on the last day of the Paryushan festival. Generally, it falls on the Shukla Panchami in the month of Bhadrapada each year according to the Jain Calendar. And this is somewhere between the middle of August and September according to the Gregorian calendar.
The Paryushan festival is celebrated for 8 days in the month of August and on the very last day, the followers of the Shwetambar sect of Jainism celebrate Samvatsari. Paryushan, which means abiding or coming together, is the most important holy event of Jains in which they increase their spiritual intensity by fasting and reciting prayers and meditation. There are no set rules and the followers are encouraged to do as much according to their ability and desire. During this 8-day festival, the Kalpa Sutra is recited including a section on the birth of Lord Mahavira on the fifth day. There are mainly five vows which are emphasized during this time.
Significance of The Festival
It is the last day of the holiest event of the Jain which is known as Samvatsari. All the lay followers who practice spirituality and take part in the celebration during the Paryushan, ask for forgiveness for all offenses committed during the last year. They seek forgiveness from all living beings by saying Micchami Dukkadam or Uttam Kshama to each other. It means “If I have caused you offense in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, words, or deed, I seek your forgiveness”. That’s the reason why it is also called Forgiveness day or Pardon day. Micchami Dukkadam is a Prakrit phrase that roughly translates to “May all ye evil that has been done be fruitless”. People also share gifts with each other to express their apologies and gratitude.
Uttam Kshama is one of the ten righteous virtues, which is also known as Das-Dharma, mentioned in the Jain text. The day is observed as the adherence to the basic tenets of the Jain text. It signifies how much they adhere to and resonates with the philosophy of Das-Dharma. The lay followers are believed to perform a penitential retreat called Samvatsari Pratikraman, which means introspection. Thus, it is a day to introspect and realize whether you have been following the virtues correctly. This day marks the adherence to one of the most integral virtues of Jainism which is forgiveness. Mahavira said that we should forgive our own soul first and to forgive others is a practical application of this supreme forgiveness.
Are Kshamavani and Samvatsari the same?
Many times you might have heard another term called Kshamavani when talking about Samvatsari. Many people use them interchangeably. But they aren’t the same. Jainism has two main sects one is called Shwetambar and the other is called Digambara. Kshamavani is the name of the forgiveness day of followers of the Digambara sect of Jainism. Just like Shwetambar, they too celebrate forgiveness day but they do it on the first day of Ashvin Krishna month of the lunar-based Jain calendar. Apart from the day on which they respectively observed among a few other things, there are no major differences between Samvatsari and Kshamavani. Both are observed to follow the basic teaching and philosophy of Mahavir in the form of Forgiveness day.