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_MAHAVIR JANMA KALYANAK_, also known as _MAHAVIR JAYANTI_, is the most important religious festival for Jains . It celebrates the birth of Mahavira , twenty-fourth and the last _ Tirthankara _ (Teaching God) of _ Avasarpiṇī _ . On the Gregorian calendar , the holiday occurs either in March or April.

CONTENTS

* 1 Birth * 2 Birth legend

* 3 Celebrations

* 3.1 Ahimsa run and rallies

* 4 Greetings * 5 See also

* 6 References

* 6.1 Notes * 6.2 Citations * 6.3 Sources

* 7 External links

BIRTH

Most modern historians consider Vasokund as Mahavira 's birthplace. According to Jain texts, Mahavira was born on the thirteenth day of the bright half of the moon in the month of _ Chaitra _ in the year 599 BCE ( Chaitra Sud 13). Mahavira was born in a democratic kingdom (Ganarajya), Vajji, where the king was chosen by votes. Vaishali was its capital.

As a child, Mahavira was called with the name 'Vardhamana', which means "One who grows", because of the increased prosperity in the kingdom at the time of his birth. In Vasokund, Mahavira is much revered by the villagers. A place called _Ahalya bhumi_ has not been ploughed for hundreds of years by the family that owns it, as it is considered to be the birthplace of Mahavira.

BIRTH LEGEND

_ Sixteen auspicious dreams seen by the mother of all Tirthankara_

Mahavira was born into Ikshvaku dynasty as the son of King Siddhartha of Kundagrama and Queen Trishala . During her pregnancy, Trishala was believed to have had a number of auspicious dreams , all signifying the coming of a great soul. Digambara sect of Jainism holds that the mother saw 16 dreams which were interpreted by the King Siddhartha. According to the _Svetambaras _ the total number of auspicious dreams is fourteen. It is said that when Queen Trishala gave birth to Mahavira, Indra , the head of heavenly beings (_devas _) performed a ritual called _abhisheka_, this being the second of five auspicious events (_Panch Kalyanakas _), said to occur in the life of all _Tirthankaras_.

CELEBRATIONS

Ancient image of Mahavira at Thirakoil

The idol of Mahavira is carried out on a chariot, in a procession called _rath yatra_. On the way stavans (religious rhymes) are recited. Local statues of Mahavira are given a ceremonial bath called the _abhisheka_ . During the day, most members of the Jain community engage in some sort of charitable act. Many devotees visit temples dedicated to Mahavira to meditate and offer prayers. Lectures by monks and nuns are held in temples to preach the path