Sunday, September 5, 2010

UK Jains Prepare To Celebrate Traditional Festival

UK Jains Prepare To Celebrate Traditional Festival
By Emma Foster, Community Newswire

Jains across the UK are preparing to celebrate their most important festival, Paryushan and Daslakshana.
It is a festival of forgiveness and repentance celebrated by two Jain sects at different times.

The Shvetambara Jains call the festival Paryushan, and they will begin their celebrations on Saturday. It lasts for eight days, ending on September 11 with the Universal Day of Forgiveness.

The Digambara Jains will celebrate the Daslakshana festival from September 12 to 21.

The theme of the festival is reflection and it is supposed to be a time to take stock of actions and repent for any misdeeds or violence. Fasting is common, with many Jains not eating for the entire eight days.

Tushar Shah, president of the Oshwal Association of the UK (OAUK), a Jain community organisation, said: "During Paryushan, people all over the UK make an effort to do something at least to connect to their heritage.
"At our branches in London, the energy is of deep introspection and reflection, and we can literally see a transformation happening among our members during this period.

"Fasting for eight days without any food whatsoever is not easy, yet more than 100 accomplish this every year. This shows their discipline and determination."

There are approximately 35,000 Jains living in Britain, and there are temples and community centres all over the UK in London, Leicester, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Where the community does not have a base, they often hire a local school or community hall to celebrate.
Every day during the festival there will be prayers and lectures from learned people, many of whom come from India especially for this occasion.

Dr Peter Flugel, director of the Centre for Jaina Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, said: "It is extraordinary that this living tradition is so alive and vibrant in the UK, despite being so far from its homeland in India. Jains are very committed to keeping their culture alive."

Lord Dholakia said: "The Jains are an important national barometer for peace in Britain and their presence in the country is critical to our diverse culture."

Jainism is an ancient religion from India that teaches that the way to liberation and bliss is to live a life of harmlessness and renunciation. The Oshwal Association of the UK is a Jain charity with about 25,000 members. For more information visit www.oshwal.org.

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