Place of Worship

Jains visit Sthanaks or Derasars, as their places of worship. They congregate for prayers and religious discourses. Before one can worship, he or she must be shudh (pure). Thus, one has to have a bath, wear clean clothes and rinse the mouth with water before entering the place of worship.

No footwear, food or drinks are allowed in the prayer halls, while smoking and consuming alcohol or any non-vegetarian food (including root vegetables) are forbidden in the premises.

Worship

Jains believe that souls are under the influence of their karmas (actions), both past and present. By observing certain rules and methods mentioned in the Agams (holy books of Jainism), bad karmas can be extinguished. The ultimate goal of Jains is to rid the soul of all karmas and attain liberation.

Jains believe that every soul is capable of achieving moksha (ultimate liberation) and thus they worship the 24 Tirthankars (liberated souls), who show the path of purification (liberation) to their followers.

Prayers are made in the form of reciting scriptures, chanting and singing holy songs. These prayers can be performed at home or at Jain places of worship. There is no fixed time when prayers can be done.

Festivals

The festival of Mahavir Jayanto marks the birth of Lord Mahavir (599-527BC), the 24th Tirthankar and founder of modern Jainism. On this day, religious programmes such as songs, dances and dramas are held. It falls on the 13th day of the 6th month Chaitra of the Jain calendar, which is usually in March or April.

Ayambil Oli is a religious period in the 6th and 12th month of the Jain Calendar, where abstinence and simplicity in food consumption is observed. Volunteers prepare lunch for all who wish to observe the nine days. Devotees take one meal a day at noon, refraining from consuming oil, dairy products, vegetable spices, and drinks (except boiled water) for up to nine days during this festival.

Paryushan is the most religious eight days of the year in the Jain calendar. It is a period of fasting, abstinence and introspection. During this period, which is usually around September or October, Jain principles are reviewed, and prayers are recited to seek forgiveness from all living beings. Leading speakers and saints are invited to give daily discourses during this period.

Devotees can choose to fast in whichever way and for however long they wish to. On the Savantsari (8th day), Jains take part in a detailed, three-hour ceremony of spiritual review and forgiveness from other living beings. The fast is broken jointly on Samu-Parna, which is held the day after Paryushan ends.

Diwali (Festival of Lights) marks the day when Lord Mahavir attained complete liberation, and the day after Diwali is Bestu-Varas (New Year). Jains gather on this day for prayers and to celebrate the start of the New Year.

Diet

Jains are strict vegetarians. Any type of non-vegetarian food is not permitted. On auspicious religious days, Jains also abstain from the consumption of roots of plants. The consumption of alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes are also forbidden. The basis of such a diet is the strong belief of Jains in Ahimsa or non-violence.