Article: Dīvālī

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Dīvālī – commonly spelled Diwali – or Dīpāvalī is the 'Festival of Lights'. It is a holy date falling in late September or October for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains alike but their understanding of it is totally different. For the Jains, this annual festival commemorates Mahāvīra's final liberation. It unfolds in various stages and corresponds to the beginning of the new year.

The Dīvālī festival celebrates two apparently contradictory features – the desirability of renouncing the world and of worldly values such as wealth and well-being. It is celebrated by Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras alike.

Festival date and key events

This statue of Mahāvīra is richly decorated for the festival of Dīvālī, which marks the turn of the year. For Jains, it also commemorates the liberation of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra.

A statue of Mahāvīra at Dīvālī
Image by  © Oshwal Association of the UK (OAUK)

The Dīvālī period is connected with two major events of the Jain tradition, which are both commemorated in the festival.

These are, firstly, Mahāvīra's final liberation and, secondly, Indrabhūti Gautama's enlightenment. The celebration of the emancipation of the 24th Jina takes place on the 15th day of the dark half of Āśvina, roughly September to October. Gautama's enlightenment is remembered on the first day of the bright half of Kārttika, roughly October to November. This day marks the New Year.

In early sources such as the Kalpa-sūtra, Mahāvīra's death and liberation are precisely located and dated. His emancipation from the cycle of rebirth took place in Pāvāpuri, in modern-day Bihar.

During this monsoon halt, in the fourth month of the rainy season, in the seventh fortnight, in the dark half of Kārttika, on the fifteenth day, that being his last, during the night, the Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra passed away, went off, quitted the world, cut asunder the ties of birth, old age, death, became perfected, enlightened and liberated, the maker of the end; he entered into liberation and ended all misery.

Translation by K. C. Lalwani, page 70

Following the liberation, various kings of the region began setting up lights, which they saw as substitutes for the spiritual illumination that the teacher embodied:

During the night when the Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra passed away […], during that night, the night of the new moon, nine Mallaki kings, and nine Licchavi kings, in all 18 confederate kings, from Kāśī and Kośala respectively, instituted a spiritual practice name[d] pārābhoga-poṣadha and said: 'As the light of intellect is gone out, so shall we light the light with material objects'.

Translation by K. C. Lalwan, page 72

The second event is described as well:

During the night when the Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra passed away […], during that night, his senior disciple-monk Indrabhūti, of the Gautama line, was freed from the tie of attachment [towards the Master], and attained the supreme knowledge and faith, kevala by name, unprecedented, unobstructed, unlimited, complete and full.

Translation by K. C. Lalwani, page 71

As is customary, the date of Mahāvīra’s final liberation is given in the lunar calendar, but what is more noteworthy is that the year is also mentioned. It corresponds to 527 to 528 BCE, which marks the beginning of the Jain era known as Vīra-saṃvat, according to the Jain Śvetāmbara tradition. The year according to the Digambaras corresponds to 510 BCE.

Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Dīvālī on the same date as the Jains, but with a totally different understanding. Discussions, which can be considered relevant or pointless, have taken place about which religious group was the first to use this date for a festival of lights (see Gode).

The 2500th anniversary of Mahāvīra’s liberation

A large rangoli with oil lamps ready to be lit for Dīvālī – the 'Festival of Lights'. A rangoli is a pattern on the ground symbolising welcome and auspiciousness, and may be quite simple or, as here, colourful and quite intricate. Traditionally made of co

Dīvālī rangoli at Palitana
Image by liketearsintherain – Tommy © CC BY-SA 2.0

Each year all Jains celebrate the liberation of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra. However, the commemoration of the 2500th anniversary, which took place on the 13th November 1974, was carried out with special pomp.

Jains actively carried it beyond being a community festival with the support of the Indian government. Presided over by the then Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, a national committee was formed of representative Jains and non-Jains. Committees were also formed in the various states of India. These committees had various educational and intellectual objectives, namely:

  • creation of a national park with arches and pillars inscribed with Mahāvīra’s teachings
  • creation of a Jain museum
  • creation of educational centres and libraries in the name of Mahāvīra
  • establishment of a commemorative monument at Mahāvīra’s birthplace, Kshatriyakund, modern-day Vaishali in Bihar

The general aim of the committees was to 'encourage people to think about the life and message of the great prophet' (Upadhye 1974).

In fact, a Bhagavān Mahāvīra 2500th Nirvāṇa Mahotsava Samiti – the Association for the Great Celebration of the 2500th Anniversary of Lord Mahāvīra’s Emancipation – had been established as early as 1968. Intended to publish Jain books, the institution was set up at the initiative of the Mumbai Jain community. Indeed, various institutions published numerous books on this occasion, of various kinds and for different types of reader. See the section 'Further reading' for some examples.

Main features of Dīvālī

Models of lotus flowers in Trafalgar Square. Marking the new year in the Indian calendar, the festival of Dīvālī is celebrated by the Jain, Hindu and Sikh religions. Every year a large free Dīvālī event takes place in Trafalgar Square in London.

Dīvālī in London
Image by everheardofaspacebar © CC BY 2.0

In all Jain festivals, believers practise religious observances in the form of fasts and this is an important element of Dīvālī too.

Like the Śvetāmbara festival of Paryuṣaṇ or its Digambara counterpart, Daśa-lakṣaṇa-parvan, Dīvālī is:

  • crucial to Jain identity and is thus observed everywhere, whether in India or in countries where Jains have settled
  • lasts for several days and includes different events.

But, in practice, the festivals are somewhat different, although there is great local variation. For example, during Paryuṣaṇ the focus is on religious observances and austerities whereas in Dīvālī there is more emphasis on social gatherings, rejoicing and festive meals.

Taking place over several days, Dīvālī can be thought of as a 'cluster of festivals' (Cort 2001, page 164). It begins on the 13th day of the dark half of Āśvina and lasts till the first day of the bright half of Kārttika.

Worship of wealth

Lakṣmī-pūjā or worship rite to Lakṣmī or Śrī, goddess of beauty, wisdom, fertility and wealth. At the start of the year Mūrti-pūjak Jains make offerings to the deity and inscribe new account books in the hope of gaining wealth in the months ahead

Offerings to Lakṣmī
Image by Bansri Mehta © Bansri Mehta

The opening ceremony of Dīvālī is known as Lakṣmī-pūjā or 'Wealth 13th'. This rite of worshipping affluence is performed on the 13th day of the dark half of Āśvina, which is known as Dhanya-trayodaśī in Sanskrit or Dhanteras in Gujarati.

This ceremony varies immensely among different communities of Jains. The main feature is worship of the goddess Lakṣmī who is wealth incarnate and thus of great importance for Jain business communities. Some communities worship silver coins with materials normally used for religious images, such as incense or scented powder, and buy silverware and account books for the new year on this day (Cort 2001, page 164). Worship of the goddess is usually elaborate. Auspicious diagrams of coloured powder – rangolis – are drawn on the ground or walls, and temporary shrines made of leaves are erected in houses (Laidlaw 1995, pages 370 to 371). In some cases, 'religious objects are all put together in what looks like a flagrantly syncretistic way' (Laidlaw, page 372), but they used separately in the worship ceremonies.

Account books

As Dīvālī marks the end of the year and the beginning of a new one, Jain businessmen and women open new account books. Among Jain merchants, these account books are objects with religious significance.

The account books start with an invocation to Mahāvīra and Indrabhūti Gautama, who is called Gautam Swami in modern parlance. These two are the key individuals in Dīvālī celebrations. In many respects, Gautam Swami is equated with the Hindu god Gaṇeśa, who has the same place in Hindu account books (see Laidlaw for more details).

The first page of the account books contains a list of virtues believed to be auspicious, each of them illustrated by a character known from the story literature. These lists vary, but six virtues are often mentioned (Laidlaw 1995, page 380 onwards):

All these virtues are those that an ideal businessman or merchant should possess.

On this day shops are decorated, lights are lit everywhere in the streets and savoury food is prepared in abundance.

Fourteenth day

Marking the turning of the year at Dīvālī – the festival of lights – involves lighting small lamps. The central event of Dīvālī for Jains is the liberation of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra. One of the biggest Jain festivals, Dīvālī is also celebrated in other I

Dīvālī lights
Image by Anil Wadghule © CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The 14th day of the dark half of Āśvina is considered an intermediate day, because it comes between the start of Dīvālī and the new year. It is known and celebrated in contrasting ways depending on the community.

The 'Black Fourteenth' or Kālī Caudaś is often thought to be a day of inauspiciousness, which has to be counteracted. Reporting on how it was celebrated by the Jains in Patan in 1985, Cort tells how the day was dedicated to the cult of the heroic male deity Ghaṇṭākarṇ Mahāvīr. He is worshipped as a figure who can help Jains in worldly matters (2001, pages 164 to 166).

An opposing view takes this day as 'Beauty Fourteenth' or Rūp Caudaś, also known as Little Diwali (Laidlaw 1995, page 365). Then decoration of the person and of houses, buying new clothes and jewellery are the highlights of the day.

Fifteenth day – Dīvālī proper

All Jains celebrate the 'Festival of Lights' – Dīvālī. The annual festival underscores the worldly values of wealth and well-being as well as the desirability of renouncing the world. This festival also celebrates the liberation of the 24th Jina Mahāvīra.

Floating candles on Dīvālī day
Image by siddhu2020 © CC BY 2.0

The 15th day of the dark half of Āśvina is considered to be Dīvālī proper. However, even on this day the balance between religious practice proper and worldly celebrations greatly varies among different Jain communities.

Devout Jains may undertake a 24-hour fast and stay awake the night before. This helps them concentrate on the key event of Mahāvīra's liberation. This practice is believed to gain a great deal of merit. They may spend this night in a temple dedicated to this Jina. Digambaras may light lamps in front of the statue (Jaini 1986, page 251). The ritual ends with the recitation of hymns dedicated to all liberated beings – siddha – or by singing specific hymns celebrating Mahāvīra's and Gautama's final liberation, known as Nirvāṇa-stavana.

As with any day of a Jain festival, lay Jains spend it listening to sermons delivered by the mendicants and recalling the key events that have inspired the festival. There are several accounts of the origin of the Jain Dīvālī – called Dīpālikākalpas. Written over the centuries in all the languages used by the Jains, they serve as the basis for preaching and reading on this day.

Otherwise the laity is occupied on this day by two types of worship:

  • worship of the goddess of wealth – Lakṣmī-pūjā – can take place again.
  • worship of the goddess of learning and knowledge – Sarasvatī-pūjā – which takes the form of book worship in the temples (Cort 2001, page 168).

The celebration of Dīvālī is often associated with the use of fireworks. Jains sometimes say that this practice should be banned or at least limited, as fireworks may hurt many tiny creatures (see Hynson).

Mendicants observe Dīvālī through paying homage to Mahāvīra and Indrabhūti Gautama during the night or just before dawn. These are the precise moments when these religious events took place.

Beginning of the new year

The new year starts with sunrise on the first day of the bright half of Kārttika. Lay Jains mark the turn of the year with visits to the temple, where they listen to mendicants reciting holy verses or poems dedicated to Indrabhūti Gautama.

Images

  • A statue of Mahāvīra at Dīvālī This statue of Mahāvīra is richly decorated for the festival of Dīvālī, which marks the turn of the year. For Jains, it also commemorates the liberation of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra.. Image by © Oshwal Association of the UK (OAUK)
  • Dīvālī rangoli at Palitana A large rangoli with oil lamps ready to be lit for Dīvālī – the 'Festival of Lights'. A rangoli is a pattern on the ground symbolising welcome and auspiciousness, and may be quite simple or, as here, colourful and quite intricate. Traditionally made of coloured rice or powder, rangoli are frequently found at the doors to houses and temples. During the festival of Dīvālī Jains commemorate the final liberation of the 24th Jina Mahāvīra. A small town at the foot of the great temple-city of Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat, Palitana also hosts numerous temples.. Image by liketearsintherain – Tommy © CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Dīvālī in London Models of lotus flowers in Trafalgar Square. Marking the new year in the traditional Indian calendar, the festival of Dīvālī is celebrated by members of the Jain, Hindu and Sikh religions wherever they are. Every year a large free Dīvālī event takes place in Trafalgar Square in London to which anyone can go. Lotus flowers symbolise spiritual purity and enlightenment.. Image by everheardofaspacebar © CC BY 2.0
  • Offerings to Lakṣmī Lakṣmī-pūjā or worship rite to Lakṣmī or Śrī, goddess of beauty, wisdom, fertility and wealth. At the start of the year Mūrti-pūjak Jains make offerings to the deity and inscribe new account books in the hope that they will gain wealth in the coming months.. Image by Bansri Mehta © Bansri Mehta
  • Dīvālī lights Marking the turning of the year at Dīvālī – the festival of lights – involves lighting small lamps. The central event of Dīvālī for Jains is the liberation of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra. One of the biggest Jain festivals, Dīvālī is also celebrated in other Indian religions, though they have very different understandings of the festival.. Image by Anil Wadghule © CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
  • Floating candles on Dīvālī day All Jains celebrate the 'Festival of Lights' – Dīvālī. The annual festival underscores the worldly values of wealth and well-being as well as the desirability of renouncing the world. This festival also celebrates the liberation of the 24th Jina Mahāvīra.. Image by siddhu2020 © CC BY 2.0

Further Reading

Organizing Jainism in India and England
Marcus Banks
Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology series; volume 3
Clarendon Press; Oxford, UK; 1992

Full details

Śrī parvakathādi vividha viṣaya saṃgraha
Muni Bhuvanavijaya
Bhinmal, Rajasthan, India; 1980

Full details

‘Fistfights in the Monastery: Calendars, Conflict and Karma among the Jains’
John E. Cort
Approaches to Jaina Studies: Philosophy, Logic, Ritual and Symbols
edited by N. K. Wagle and Olle Qvarnström
Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Toronto; Toronto, Canada; 1999

Full details

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

‘Studies in the History of Indian Festivals: the Divali Festival ’
Parshuram Krishna Gode
Studies in Indian Cultural History
Vishveshvaranand Indological series; volume 9: 2
Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute; Hoshiarpur, Punjab, India; 1961

Full details

Discover Jainism
Colin Hynson
Institute of Jainology; London, UK; 2007

Full details

'The Kalpa Sûtra of Bhadrabâhu'
Bhadrabāhu
translated and edited by Hermann Jacobi
Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes
Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft series; series editor Otto Loth; volume VII: 1
F. A. Brockhaus; Leipzig, Saxony, Germany; 1879

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 Iconography
Jyotindra Jain
and Eberhard Fischer
Iconography of Religions – Indian Religions series; volume 13: 12 and 13
Institute of Religious Iconography, State University of Groningen; E. J. Brill; Leiden, Netherlands; 1978

Full details

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

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
Hemacandra
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad's Oriental series; volume 6
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1962

Full details

Riches and Renunciation: Religion, Economy and Society among the Jains
James Laidlaw
Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology series
Oxford University Press; Oxford, UK; 1995

Full details

Kalpa Sūtra of Bhadrabāhu Svāmī
Bhadrabāhu
translated by Kastur Chand Lalwani
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 1979

Full details

Śrī Jainavrata-kathāsaṃgraha: 40 vrata-kathāoṃ kā saṃgraha
Dīpacandajī Varṇī
Surat, Gujarat, India; 1975

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

Jainism
Colette Caillat
, A. N. Upadhye and Bal Patil
Macmillan; Bombay, Maharashtra, India; 1974

Full details

Mahāvīra and His Teachings
A. N. Upadhye, Bal Patil and Dalsukh Malvania
volume VII: 1
Bhagavān Mahāvīra 2500th Nirvāna Mahotsava Samiti; Bombay, Maharashtra, India; 1977

Full details

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

Full details

Glossary

Ascetic

Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land.

Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.

Auspicious

Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 

Bharata

One of the Lands of Action or Karma-bhūmi in the first continent, Jambū-dvīpa, in the Middle World where humans live. Bharata is also the name of the eldest son of the first Jina, Ṛṣabha, who succeeded his father as king.

Bright fortnight

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

Cakravartin

Sanskrit for 'universal monarch'. There are 12 in the continent of Bharata in each progressive and regressive half-cyle of time. They have 9 treasures and 14 jewels they can use to conquer their enemies and become 'universal monarchs'. The cakravartin form one of the five groups of '63 illustrious men' in Jain mythology.

Clergy

Formally recognised leaders within a religion. The clergy often perform rituals, lead worship and instruct believers in religious principles. Lay men and women usually complete formal study before being initiated into the clergy. Clerics are active among lay believers, often living in society. They may have specific roles or ranks and may progress through a hierarchy to become top leaders of the religious organisation.

Cult

Religious activity centred around a deity or saintly figure. Religious rituals are performed regularly to the god or goddess, who may be represented in images or relics or found in natural features such as springs and trees. Shrines and temples are frequently built at the site of a cult and pilgrims arrive to worship the deity.

Dark fortnight

The half of the lunar month in the traditional Indian calendar in which the moon is at its smallest. It is so dark it is almost invisible.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

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. 

Gaṇeśa

The elephant-headed Hindu god, who is popular among believers in many Indian religions. He is known as the remover of obstacles, a god of new beginnings and patron of arts and sciences, intellect and wisdom. He is commonly invoked by Jain authors and scribes.

Gujarati

The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.

Hindu

Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.

Hymn

The terms stavan, stavana, stava, stotra and stuti are all used for a prayer, song, chant or hymn to a Jina, a god or any other holy figure. Religious songs are always hymns of praise in Jainism. These devotional songs may be performed during daily rites or on special occasions, such as completion of a fast or a wedding. The hymns may be performed:

  • solo or in groups
  • as a form of meditation
  • as a rite offered as part of worship.

Idol

An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.

Indrabhūti Gautama

Chief disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. From a brahmin family, he was the first of Mahāvīra's 11 chief disciples. He became enlightened on the day Mahāvīra was liberated. He achieved liberation himself 12 years later.

Invocation

A formula or prayer calling upon a deity or authority to bring blessings and protection. Invocations are frequently found at the beginning of Jain texts.

Jain

Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

Kevala-jñāna

Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge, where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.

Mahāvīra

The 24th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is yellow and his emblem the lion. Mahāvīra or 'the great hero' is his title. His birth name was Vardhamāna, meaning 'ever increasing'. His existence is historically documented but the two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slight differences in their accounts of his life.

Mokṣa

The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.

Mumbaī

The capital of the state of Mahārāṣṭra, the city of Mumbai is the biggest and richest in India. Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is the centre of Indian film-making and commercial activities.

Patan

A small town in Gujarat that was a capital city in medieval times, a Jain centre of learning and art with beautiful temples. Some of these and remains of other structures can be seen today. Old name: Aṇahilla Paṭṭaṇa.

Preach

To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:

  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.

Pūjā

Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:

  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.

Puṇya

Sanskrit for a 'right or good action'. Similar to a merit in Buddhism, it helps to reduce karma.

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.

Rangoli

Intricate pattern of coloured powders or rice believed to bring good luck. Flowers, petals and other materials may also be used. Created to celebrate a festival, wedding or other event, rangolis are made on the ground or floor by a gate or door, usually by women.

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.

Sanskrit

A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.

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.

Shrine

A small structure holding an image or relics, which may be within a temple or building designed for worship. A shrine may be a portable object. Worshippers pray and make offerings at a shrine, which is often considered sacred because of associations with a deity or event in the life of a holy person.

Siddha

An omniscient soul that has achieved mokṣa. All liberated souls live in the siddha-śilā, at the top of the universe, in perpetual bliss.

Sikh

Follower of the Sikh religion. Important Sikh beliefs include:

  • non-belief in any caste, group or distinctions that divide human beings
  • longstanding devotion may overcome the 'Five Evils' – influences of ego, anger, greed, attachment and lust, which beset everyone.

Baptised Sikhs traditionally sport the Five Ks or articles of faith, which have practical and symbolic purposes:

  • uncut hair, which Sikh men conventionally keep clean by twisting into their turbans
  • small comb
  • circular iron bracelet
  • dagger
  • special undergarment.

Śreyāṃsa

The 11th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the rhinoceros. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

Śrī

Hindu goddess of wealth, Śrī is the personification of spiritual energy and is closely associated with the lotus. Also a name for Lakṣmī, Hindu goddess of beauty, wisdom, fertility and wealth.

Śvetāmbara

'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. 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.

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.

Temple

A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.

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