Among the Jain festivals, Diwali is one of the most important one. For on this occasion we celebrate the Nirvana of Lord Mahavira who established the dharma as we follow it.
Lord Mahavira was born as Vardhamana on Chaitra Shukla 13 in the Nata clan at Khattiya-kundapura, near Vaishali. He obtained Kevala Gyana on Vishakha Shukla 10 at the Jambhraka village on the banks of Rijukula river at the age of 42. He initiated his shaashan (Jaina-shashana) on Shravana KrashNa 1 at his first assembly at Rajgrah. After having preached the dharma for 30 years, he attained Nirvana at Pava, at the age of 71 years and 6 and half months.
The day of his Nirvana is is mentioned by many ancient authors. TiloyapaNNatti mentions:
kattiya-kiNhe chaudasipachchuse saadiNaamanakkhatte|
pavaae Nayariye ekko viresaro siddho ||
kraShNa-kaartika-pakshasya chartudashyam nishaatyaye|
Thus during the krashNa of kartika month, during the svati nakshatra, on the night of the 14th (dawn of the amavasya), lord Mahavira became a Siddha.
Titthogali Painnaya gives the following gatha:
pancha ya maasaa pancha ya vaasa chhachcheva honti vaasasayaa|
pariNivvuassa-arihito to uppanno sago raya ||
The first line of it was quoted in Dhavalaa by Virasenacharya. Thus the NirvaaNa of the lord occurred 605 years and 5 moths before the Shaka king.
Kalpasutra mentions that the King Chetaka of Vaishali with several confederate kings, had a great lightning of lights, since they said:
``since the light of intelligence (Vardhamana Mahavira) is gone,
let us make an illumination of the material matter''
The oldest use of the word "Diwali/Dipavali" occurs in "Harivamsha-Purana"
written by Acharya Jinasena, composed in Shaka Samvat 705.
tatastuh lokah prativarsham-aadarat
prasiddha-deepalikaya-aatra bharate |
samudyatah poojayitum jineshvaram
jinendra-nirvana vibhuti-bhaktibhak ||
Thus people in Bharata every year celebrate famous "Dipalikaya", to reverently worship the Jinendra on the occasion of his nirvana.
Diwali is not mentioned in Valmiki's Ramayana, Mahabharata, brahmanical Puranas or in Tulsidas's Ram-charit-manas.
The Vira-Nirvana era originated on Oct. 15, 527 BCE. In 1997 the Vira-Nirvana Year 2524 will begin on Diwali. The Vikrama Samvat in Gujarat starts from Diwali.
Yashwant K. Malaiya
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Diwali, Jain Year & Vikram Samvat