The word Paryushan is derived from two words: par, which means all kinds, and ushan, which means to burn. Hence, during the auspicious time of Paryushan, the Jains shed all types of karmas and involve in meditation and donation. Paryushan Parva is an annual festival of repentance and forgiveness for self-purification, to remove accumulated karma of the previous year and develop control over new accumulating karma, by following Jain austerities and other rituals. During Paryushan, Jains practise penances, vows, fasts, scriptural studies and Pratikarman, to have the mind and body focus more on inner qualities and virtues of the soul and cleanse the body.
Followers are free to practise according to their ability and desires. The five fundamental ethics emphasised are ahimsa, non-violence; satya, truth; asteya, non-stealing; brahmacharya, chastity; and aparigraha, non-possession. The main aim of Paryushan is to purify the soul and achieve self-uplift.
Fasting is an important part of Paryushan as it helps in purifying mind and body and helps one to reflect and introspect. Jains believe that Ratnatray, the three jewels of Jainism, namely, right knowledge, right faith and right conduct, are important facets of their faith. To achieve these, they are encouraged to be non-violent, truthful, non-stealing, and celibate and renounce all attachments. Fasting during Paryushan is a chance to eliminate bad karma. It helps one develop discipline, self-control and patience.
Forgiveness and repentance are important aspects of Paryushan. Each day of the Paryushan festival focuses on eliminating various impurities like anger, pride, deceit, greed and in building good virtues.
All Jains perform Atthai Tap – fasting for eight days at a time. During these days, spiritual preceptors read out and explain the Kalpasutra, the most sacred scripture of the Jains.
The eight-day festival inspires Jains worldwide to remember the roots and philosophies of Jainism. Celebrating Paryushan also brings social purpose. Each of the eight days has its own specific dedication. The first day followers focus on clearing their minds of daily worldly thoughts. The second inspires people to donate to places of worship or to causes. The third day focuses on connecting mind to soul by practising meditation for enlightenment. On the fourth day, Jains believe they receive well wishes and protection from Goddess Lakshmi. The fifth day is also known as ‘The Day of the Kalpasutra’ when people celebrate the Tirthankara Mahavir’s birth.
The sixth and seventh days are days of tolerance and endurance.
The eighth and final day is titled, Samvatsari which translates to the ‘Gateway of Salvation’. It is the holiest day of the entire Jain calendar and also International Forgiveness Day. On this day Jains utter the words ‘Micchami Dukkadam’. On Samvatsari, Shwetamber Jains also practice Pratikarman in the evening. They honour the tirthankaras and their gurus.
‘Micchami’ means to be fruitless (forgiven) and ‘Dukkadam’ means bad deeds. So, the concept behind saying to someone Micchami Dukkadam is that if I have done any harm to you then those bad deeds may please be forgiven.
In short, one can avoid influx of bad karma and stay in peace while living in worldly life by developing a friendship towards all living beings, admiring their success, holding their hands when they are in distress.