Diwali has a special significance in Jainism and was first referred as Dipalika, or splendor of lamps in the Harivamsha Purana written by Archarya Jinasena. It is a celebration of Lord Mahavira’s teachings and his contributions, not only to the religion but to greater humanity. His teachings promote compassion and justice through ahimsa (non-violence), advocating the importance of all living beings as well as social, political, and economic equity. He emphasized aparigraha (non-possessiveness) in order to protect biodiversity from our greed. Most importantly, he taught the concept of anekantavada (multiplicity of views) and encouraged individuals to overcome superstition and blind faith and to pursue reason through their own efforts. Diwali, in Jainism, also marks the anniversary of nirvana, or the liberation of Lord Mahavira’s soul, the 24th and last Jain tirthankara of the present cosmic age. Jains offer prayers to Lord Mahavira and place lights to mark his passage to heaven and to keep his knowledge alive.
Dhanteras: It was known as Dhanya Teras in older days. Before His Moksha (liberation of the soul), Bhagwan Mahavira started giving his last sermons at Pavapuri, Bihar in India on October 15th 527 B.C. Thus, the day was known as Dhanya. Now it is called as Dhan as too much importance is attached to wealth.
Kali Chaudas: Lord Mahavira spoke continuously for 48 hours. His last sermons are recorded in one of the Aagams (religious sermons) called the Uttaradhyana Sutra on this day.
Diwali: Lord Mahavira left this world and attained Moksha (liberation of the soul) at Pavapuri. All light ceased and the whole world was enveloped in pitch darkness. Gods from heaven dispelled it with bright gems and humans lit earthen lamps. Lamps are lit to symbolize the dispelling of ignorance. Each year, Jains light lamps on Diwali to symbolize keeping the light of Lord Mahavira’s knowledge alive and sweets are distributed in celebration of his contributions. Many Jains celebrate Diwali by fasting, singing hymns, and chanting mantras to honor Him, while others participate in charity.
Bestu Varsh: According to tradition, the chief disciple of Lord Mahavira, Gandhara Gautam Swami also attained Keval Gyana (omniscience; absolute or complete knowledge) on this day. Diwali marks the Jain New Year celebrating new beginnings and members of the Jain community greet each other with “Saal Mubarak” or Happy New Year.
Bhai Beej: On Bhai Beej, after Lord Maharvira’s Moksha (liberation of the soul), His brother King Nandivardhan was inconsolable due to grief. His sister, Sudershana called King Nandivardhan to her house and comforted him by preaching religious knowledge. This celebrates the beautiful bond between brother and sister.