Jain Acharyas have, through their sermons and ideal moral code of conduct inspired the mundane souls to keep aloof from the blemishes of the world, which breed nothing but sorrow and misery for the mankind. But the insatiable ambition of man for sensuous pleasures, material comforts and luxurious life has always allured him since antiquity. Consequently man has bitterly failed to make distinction between self and non-self, and to understand the real nature of soul.
This festival has its own age-old history, but nothing definite can be said about its origin and since when it is being celebrated. In fact, the celebration of this festival is beyond the scope of known history.
The truth is that spiritual matters like self-purification and renunciation cannot be measured by Time scale. When the auspicious month of Bhadrapad comes every year, the whole Jain community celebrates this festival unitedly without any difference of high and low, rich and poor.
The Digambaras and the Swaitamberas, both sects of Jain community celebrate the self-uplifting festival with great enthusiasm. The fifth day of the bright fortnight of the holy month of ‘Bhadrapad’ is auspicious for both.
The Digambaras celebrate this festival annually for ten days, from the fifth day to the fourteenth day of the bright half of the month. Whereas the Swaitamberas celebrate it only for eight days, and the fifth day is the main day of their celebrations held under the title ‘Samvatsari Parva’.
References about the celebrations of ‘Paryushan Parva’ or Dash Lakhan Parva are available here and there in ancient literary books as well; which show that it has been a popular festival since ages. The householders celebrate it jointly suspending all their business, agricultural and commercial activities for the time being. A fine description of the closing ceremony of this festival is available in the ‘Bhattarak’ era extending from 1350 AD to 1450 AD. In that age the house-holders got manuscript copies of the prominent holy books prepared by the scholars, and offered these to the ‘Bhattaraks’ and their disciples with due devotion at the end of ceremonies.
Even today ‘Dash Lakshan Parva’ is the most suitable occasion for giving donations and charities; and on the last day of the festival the house-holders observe full day fast and make every attempt to donate to religious and social institutions in cash or kind some thing within their capacity. Very often the Jain scholars’ viz. poets and writers get their literary works initiated during the festival days and thus pay their homage to this grand festival.
Similar to the modern age, the Dash Lakshan Parva was celebrated with great zeal and joy thousands of years ago as well; austerities viz. self-meditation, doing penance, fasting and study of Holy Scriptures were performed during that period. The householders purged their soul by keeping fast on the last day of the ceremonies and celebrated the closing ceremony with great pomp and show. When the ten day celebrations are over, this festival leaves behind deep impress on the mind and heart of every Jain - young and old.
All Jains - Digambers and Swaitambers will celebrate this sacred festival forever throughout India and abroad. The former appear to have the best pretensions to antiquity and cultural heritage and to have been most widely diffused; the later have only as yet been traced as far back as 5th century AD. The former are almost certainly the same as Nirgrantha, who are referred to in numerous passages of Buddhist Pal Pitakas and must therefore be as old as 6th century B.C. rather earlier.
The Swaitamberas’ idea of exclusiveness appears to be one of recent growth. In fact, Jainism is a prehistoric religion propounded by the first Tirthankara Lord Aadi Nath. Upon all these grounds we think that the celebration of Paryushan Parva is a holy tradition coming down from the ancient past to the present times.
To sum up, Paryushan Parva is a grand Jain festival of self-introspection, self-enlightenment and self-achievement, which ultimately leads to the one and only one final goal, i.e., liberation or salvation.