This article was written by Chandraprakash Shah. I have found it really informative. It is a fuller explanation than I have received to date, explaining why Jain celebrate Diwali.
There are about eight days during the Dipavalee celebration in Jainism. It begins on Dhan Terash and ends on Gyan Pancham or Labh Pancham or Shrut Panchami. There are last three days of Ashwin month and first five days of Kartik month.
There are five Kalyanak celebrations of each Tirthankara. They are:
1. Chyavan (Entering womb of mother)
2. Janma (Birth)
3. Diksha (Initiation)
4. Kevalgyan (Omniscience)
5. Nirvan (Emancipation)
All are very auspicious occasions and are celebrated with the presence of heavenly gods. Except the last, Kalyanak. This is when the Tirthankara attains emancipation. The people and gods are very happy in the company of Tirthankara as they obtain purest form of knowledge. They can remove their doubts, realize their past, present and future happenings. When Tirthankara emancipates practically all glamour and happiness vanishes.
Bhagwan Mahavir knowing his emancipation very near approached Pavapuri alias Apapa town. The heavenly gods created Samosaran (beautiful dome). Bhagwan Mahavir sat on golden throne inside Samosaran. There were twelve beautiful qualities surrounded him. It was Kali Chaudash. His principal eleven disciples were present including Gautamswami. Heavenly gods and goddesses, other people too were present.
He had royal patronage too. Rich financiers and merchants, kings, queens and princes and their ministers were followers of Mahavir. Some of them were present to witness the last moments and last discourses of Mahavir. One of them was king Punyapal. He had received eight dreams the night before. Punyapal told Mahavir that he had become scared after having these dreams. He narrated them before Mahavir and requested Mahavir to forecast its results. We shall deal each dream separately in detail later on. But the mention of eight dreams is of important and hence I provide the names of them.
7. beej (Seed)
8. Kumbha (Pot)
These dreams seem to be beautiful but the forecast was horrible and it related to entire Jain four fold organizations and universe.
Mahavir gave discourses for 16 Praharas continuously i.e. two days and two nights without any break. In these 16 praharas he spoke on 55 chapters of Punya (merits) and 55 chapters of Paap (demerits). These are well-known as Uttaradhyayan Sutra in Jainism. Mahavir also forecasted the horrible future of fifth and sixth Aras of present Avasarpini.
As soon as the time for emancipation reached nearer Mahavir asked Gautam to go to a farmer named Devsharma and enlighten his soul with knowledge. This was the day of Amavasya in the month called Ashwin.
At midnight on that day Mahavir attained emancipation and relinquished this universe forever. He sat on the seat of salvation. He will never return from there. His emancipation caused extinguishes of Bhav Deepak and turned the atmosphere into darkness and hence those who were present at that time lighted Dravya Deepak. Dipavalee festival since then commenced for Jains. It is celebration of NIRVANA KALYANAK and not enjoyment of worldly pleasures. Why? Because we wish to have NIRVANA as early as possible.
Later on Gautamswami returned after meeting Devsharma. He learnt about emancipation of Mahavir and began crying. He then went into deep thinking and converted these thoughts into meditation and concentration of non-attachments. At the dawn of first day of the new month i.e. Kartik he achieved luminous and brilliant kevalgyan (Omniscience). Heavenly gods celebrated his kevalgyan with all gaiety and pleasures.
Jains participate in a gorgeous procession on the second day of new month of Kartik every year. In British rule, in Kolkatta, the procession of Bhagwan Mahavir was the scene of gaiety and pleasures for all communities. It was moved through the entire town and halting at Shitalnath Temple.
Now let us observe how Jains celebrate Dipavalee:
· On Dhan Terash: Jain Merchants carry out Puja of Dhan (Money) and their books of accounts. They prefer to close down their shutters after this Puja and Pujan for eight days.
· On Kali Chaudash: Most of the Jains start observing fast for two consecutive days, preferably women. They sit in Jaap means counting rosary at night. Some go to listen Diwaleekalp. Some enter in to Paushadh (behave like a nun) for two days.
· On Amavasya Day: People go to the derasar to worship and meet each other. They distribute clothes, give donations and again at night, they sit in Jaap. The Jaap mantra is MAHAVIRSWAMI PARGATAY NAMAH
· On New Years day people greet each other and express best wishes for the forthcoming New Year. As midnight passes those doing Jaap start chanting “GAUTAMSWAMI KEVAL GNYAYA NAMAH”
· On the second day of New Year there is a procession of an idol of Mahavir. This is called Bhai Beej.
· On the third day of New Year, the derasars (Jain temples) and jina idols are decorated with flowers.
· On the fourth day of New Year people visit the derasar and pray.
· On the fifth day of New Year it is Gyan Panchami or Shrut Panchmi. On this day Jains worship “Gyan” with different materials, sweets and fruits. They also count rosary to gain pure knowledge.
Therefore Dipavalee for Jains is quite different to the way others celebrate it.
Jains do not explode crackers.
They do not believe in extravagant spending on Dipavalee festival.
They believe in making donations to charity.
It is also called accounts squaring or balancing merits and demerits.
Jains avoid colossal violence
They observe fast
They worship the Tirthanakaras’ images,
They decorate the Jina temples,
They observe Jaaps,
And businessmen keep their shutters closed.
Author : Chandraprakash Shah
Minister of Religion
Chandraprakash.Shah@gmail.com & firstname.lastname@example.org