Article: Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parvan

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parvan or Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parva is the Digambara counterpart of the festival of Paryuṣaṇ, which is celebrated only by the sect of the Śvetāmbaras. Although the two festivals are quite different, they share some features. These include the time of the year they are held, the prominent role played by a specific religious text and the centrality of the concept of forgiveness.

Date, name and meaning

A Jain temple-library holds sacred books, individually wrapped and labelled. The rice on the table in front is an offering left by worshippers. Jains consider their scriptures to be holy objects, with books often the focus of religious rituals.

Jain holy texts
Image by Malaiya © CC BY-SA 3.0

The annual festival of Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parvan starts one day after the Śvetāmbara festival of Paryuṣaṇ is completed – that is, on the fifth day of the bright half of Bhādrapada, equivalent to August to September. Thus it also falls in the rainy season, which is a period of retreat and increased religious observances for all Jains, whether mendicants or laity.

Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parvan takes place shortly before the turn of the year in the traditional calendar. The end of the year and the beginning of the new year is celebrated in the festival of Dīvālī, which occurs in the autumn.

Like many Jain festivals or religious occasions, Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parvan is associated with a specific number. Here it is ten. The festival lasts for ten days and its name means 'the festival of the ten virtues'. They are:

  1. patience – kṣamā
  2. gentleness – mārdava
  3. honesty – ārjava
  4. purity – śauca
  5. truthfulness – satya
  6. self-restraint – saṃyama
  7. asceticism – tapas
  8. detachment – tyāga
  9. lack of possessiveness – ākiṃcanya
  10. chastitybrahmacarya.

These virtues are components of the broader concept of dharma. They are listed in chapter 10, sūtra 6 of the Tattvārtha-sūtra. This sacred book has a central part in Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parvan, comparable to that of the Kalpa-sūtra in Paryuṣaṇ. Each of the ten chapters of the work is recited or read on successive days by mendicants to the congregation of local Digambara Jains. The mendicants also deliver sermons based on these chapters or talk in more detail about the ten virtuous qualities.

Religious observances

These ten days of Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parvan are a period of intense religiosity for the sect of Digambaras, who take on many religious restraints and thus come close to the mendicants' way of life. Each person decides what observances to follow and how strictly to keep them. The restraints are described as being extreme, average or low.

As in other Jain festivals, the main area of restraints is food. There are three possible forms:

  • dietary restrictions
  • partial fasting
  • complete fasting.

The first one is the lowest type of restraint and consists of not eating certain kinds of food for the period of the festival. The second kind is the average level and relates to the quantity of food. It usually means taking one meal a day instead of two or three. The final kind is at the extreme end of religious austerity. Only boiled water passes the lips of the devotees, who fast completely for a limited period of time. The water they drink must be boiled because only then can they be sure there is no life in it. It is therefore the only acceptable liquid from the religious point of view, since otherwise they may unknowingly commit violence.

Many Digambaras fast completely on the first and last days of Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parvan.

Key events

Image of the 14th Jina, Anantanātha or Lord Ananta, in a temple dedicated to him in Tamil Nadu. The bear, which is this Jina’s emblem in the Digambara tradition, is shown on the pedestal. Typically of a Digambara Jina, he is serene, naked with closed eyes

Statue of Ananta
Image by Ramesh Kumar © Jain Sites in Tamilnadu

The ten-day period of Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parvan ends in the day known as 'Endless Fourteenth' – Ananta-caturdaśī. The most sacred day of the year for Digambaras, it gives a prominent place to the 14th Jina, Ananta.

Most Digambaras fast on this day. As well as observing fasts, festival-goers perform worship rituals using 14 flowers.

On this day the festival ceremony of kṣamāpanā – 'asking for forgiveness' – takes place. All Jains are expected to take part in this ritual unless poor health prevents it. The members of the local community repent all lapses and offences during the past year in a lengthy public ceremony of group confession. Each festival-goer asks everyone with whom he or she has been in touch over the previous 12 months for forgiveness for any sin or mistake. In the evening the ritual of repentance – pratikramaṇa – completes the day.

The ritual of repentance involves repeating the Prakrit phrase Micchāmi Dukkaḍaṃ. Meaning 'May no harm come from my actions', this formula is offered aloud to all living beings and then to the other worshippers gathered there.

After the final ceremony, most Jains will make a point of saying Boli Cali Micchāmi Dukkaḍaṃ to others when they next meet. This means 'Let no harm come from anything that was said or done' and is related to the repentance ritual. Frequently, Jains will try to repeat this phrase to everyone they know over the following few days.

These annual rituals of confession and repentence are important in their timing, in the period before Dīvālī. Devout lay Jains can leave the old year with a clear conscience and enter the new with the best of intentions.

Images

  • Jain holy texts A Jain temple-library holds sacred books, individually wrapped and labelled. The rice on the table in front is an offering left by worshippers. Jains consider their scriptures to be holy objects, with books often the focus of religious rituals. The Digambara sect of Tāraṇ Svāmī Panth worships books instead of images of Jinas.. Image by Malaiya © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Statue of Ananta Image of the 14th Jina, Anantanātha or Lord Ananta, in the temple dedicated to him at Anandapuram, Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. The bear, which is this Jina’s emblem in the Digambara tradition, is shown on the pedestal. Typically of a Digambara figure of a Jina, he sits serene and naked with closed eyes.. Image by Ramesh Kumar © Jain Sites in Tamilnadu

Further Reading

Jain Vrata-tap
Saryu Vinod Doshi
Rajkot, Gujarat, India; 2002

Full details

The Jains
Paul Dundas
Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices series; series editor John Hinnels and Ninian Smart; volume 14
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2002

Full details

‘Festivals’
Jyoti Prasad Jain
Religion and Culture of the Jains
Jñānapīṭha Mūrtidevī granthamālā: English series; volume 6
Bhāratīya Jñānapītha; New Delhi, India; 1975

Full details

‘Jaina Festivals’
Padmanabh S. Jaini
Collected Papers on Jaina Studies
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India ; 2000

Full details

Historical Dictionary of Jainism
Kristi L. Wiley
Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements series; series editor Jon Woronoff; volume 53
Scarecrow Press; Maryland, USA; 2004

Full details

Glossary

Bright fortnight

The half of the lunar month in the traditional Indian calendar in which the moon is at its fullest.

Chastity

Either avoiding sexual activity outside marriage or being totally celibate. Chaste can also mean a pure state of mind or innocent, modest action. 

Confession

Acknowledgement or declaration of the truth of a statement. In religious terms, it usually refers to admitting sin or wrongdoing to at least one other person in a ritual. It is normally a necessary step before absolution, which is formal release from guilt or consequences of wrongdoing.

Congregation

A gathering of believers that has come together to perform group acts of worship.

Devotee

An enthusiastic follower of a religion. Can also describe a keen enthusiast of an individual, concept or activity.

Dharma

Duty, religious codes or principles, the religious law. Jains think in terms of dharma or underlying order in the universe.

Related to this, the term is also used for the true nature of an object or living entity. For example, the dharma of:

  • fire is to burn
  • water is to produce a cooling effect.

The 15th Jina of the present age is called Dharmanātha or Lord Dharma. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the vajra – diamond thunderbolt. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

Digambara

'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Fast

Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:

  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.

Festival

A public commemoration of a religious ritual. Often a celebration that involves holding a religious ceremony to mark an important event in a religion's history. 

Laity

Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.

Paryuṣaṇ

An eight-day festival in August / September, which is the most important event of the religious calendar for Śvetāmbara lay Jains. They fast, read, spend time with monks and meditate. The last day is the occasion for public repentance. Reading the Kalpa-sūtra and sponsoring new manuscripts or editions of this canonical book are associated with this festival.

Penance

A voluntary action undertaken to make up for a sin or breach of a religious principle, frequently an act of self-punishment or physical hardship.

Prākrit

A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.

Pratikramaṇa

'Introspection’ in Sanskrit. The elaborate ritual of confession and repentance that involves reciting liturgical texts and performing set gestures at dawn and dusk. It is one of an ascetic's six daily duties – āvaśyaka. For many lay people, pratikramaṇa is the essence of Jainism.

Rainy season

The annual four-month rainy period in India, lasting roughly from June / July to October / November. Heavy rain, strong storms and gale-force winds are very common during this period. Mendicants cannot travel around and must stay in one place to avoid breaking their vow of non-violence and because the monsoon makes travelling on foot difficult and dangerous. It is known as cāturmāsa in Sanskrit, comāsa in Hindi and comāsu in Gujarati.

Rite

A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.

Sāgāra

Sanskrit term meaning 'with a home’ – that is, a ‘householder’ or lay Jain. A synonym for a lay person, emphasising that he or she is a member of a household, with responsibilities to the family, community and society that a Jain mendicant does not have.

Satya

Reality or truth. This is very important to Jains and the satya-vrata is the second of the mendicant's Five Great Vows and the lay person's Five Lesser Vows.

Sect

An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.

Sermon

A speech on a religious topic, usually delivered by a member of the clergy. Frequently a sermon has a moral lesson or is based on a sacred text.

Sin

Breaking a religious or moral principle, especially if this is done deliberately. Sinners commit sins or may sin by not doing something they are supposed to do.

Sūtra

In common use it refers to any sacred text. However, strictly speaking, it means an extremely concise style of writing, as illustrated in the Tattvārtha-sūtra, or a verse.

Tapas

Austerity or asceticism in general. A tapas is an act of austerity or self-discipline that produces bodily heat – tapas – that burns up karma. Austerities may be internal – mental – or external – physical. Both lay and mendicant Jains practise austerities. Fasting is the most common external austerity for lay people these days.

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