Paryushan, the monarch of all Jain festivals, is an annual festival considered as a call for spiritual cleansing. The word “Pari” means “from all possible directions” and “Ushan” means “to dissipate or burn away”, while in another context Paryushan, means “abiding and coming together”. This festival is observed by the 2 sects of Jainism. The Svetambaras observe it over a period of 8 days while the Digambaras observe it over a period of 10 days and call it Das Lakshana.

The Jains celebrate this festival by observing fasts and by taking part in several sessions of meditation. The Digambara Jains organize several processions and recite the ten chapters of Tattvartha Sutra (an ancient Jain text) while the Svetambaras celebrate the festival by reciting the Kalpa Sutra, a Jain text comprising the biographies of the Jain Tirthankaras (special Siddhas who have attained enlightenment). They also recite the Antagada Sutra, a text that gives details of those who have attained moksha during the Neminatha and Mahavira eras. There are no strict rules regarding the fasts; the followers are free to practice depending on their ability and desire. However, the Jain community generally reflect, introspect and immerse themselves in penance of various kinds as a means to purify their mind, body and emotions and of all negativity.

An important highlight of this festival is the Samvatsari for the Svetambaras or Kshamavani for the Digambaras, which is an important day of forgiving and the seeking of forgiveness, the very reason why the Paryushan festival is also called the festival of forgiveness. The Samvatsari day is the last day of the Paryushan festival, which usually falls on a Chaturthi (4th day) of the waxing moon in the holy month of Bhadra coinciding with Ganesh Chaturthi (the birthday of Lord Ganesh), a Hindu Festival.

“Micchami Dukkadam” is the phrase used to ask for forgiveness, which is a Prakrit (language relating to Sanskrit) phrase meaning, “May all the evil that has been done be fruitless”. Hence on this auspicious day, every member of the Jain community approaches everyone, irrespective of their religion and begs for their forgiveness for having offended them in thought, word or deed either knowingly or unknowingly.

Therefore the main goal of Paryushan is to remind and to emphasis strictly on the five fundamental ethics – Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (chastity) and Aparigraha (non-possession) for the whole span of the festival and aims at uplifting the human being internally and externally.