Religious festivals all around the world are celebrated with vigour and zest and whether it is Diwali or Christmas or Eid, everyone worldwide knows what these festivals are. Mahavir Janma Kalyanak however, or the birth of the Lord Mahavir, is a festival very few people know about. Jainism itself is a religion whose existence is not known to many, despite its dating back thousands of years. Jains have numerous festivals that they celebrate, some overlapping with Hinduism, but Mahavir Janma Kalyanak is a special one that is going to be celebrated with extra importance this year. 

The holiday is a celebration of the birth of the Mahavir, who is Jainism’s 24th Tirthankar, someone who has attained enlightenment and become a pure soul. According to the lunar Jain calendar, the holiday occurs on the thirteenth day of the month of Chaitra (which is around March/April). Jains do not believe in God, but instead look to the teachings of the Tirthankars to guide them through life and as Lord Mahavir is often considered to be the most significant one, the anniversary of his birth is a very important festival for Jains.  

Mahavir Foundation (MF) is a London-based Jain organisation founded to bring the community together. Every year they host an event for Mahavir Janma Kalyanak, which features singing hymns, dancing and lots of food. It is a great opportunity to catch up with friends and family and celebrate the birth of one of the most important Jain figures.  

This year, MF is adding a special performance to the event to spread some knowledge about the festival in an entertaining way. The performance is a play, in Gujarati, that focuses on the story of the birth of Mahavir. Adults and children alike are taking part in the play, with the children from MF’s Jain school, some of who are as young as two, also involved. Preparations for the performance were not easy, with many lines needing to be learnt, many dances choreographed and lots of music organised. However, after many rehearsals, the performance is finally ready to grace the stage and is a widely anticipated and completely sold out event.  

Parishi Shah, who attends the Jain school and plays the role of the queen and Mahavir’s mother’s handmaiden, Priyamvada, in the play, said that the opportunity was very exciting for her. “I was given a very special role and although it was a big honour it meant that I had lots of lines to learn and also a solo in the dance which I was quite nervous about. Although some of the lines were a bit difficult, I had many people to go to for help and the dance was really fun to learn, so I can’t wait to perform it to everyone!”  

Due to the fact that few people in the world know about Jainism, especially in contrast to other religions such as Hinduism or Christianity, it is not surprising that people have not heard about Mahavir Janma Kalyanak or know why it is celebrated. Despite this, the Jains who celebrate it do so with full zest and the festival is always a very enjoyable time of year. With the special performance added in by MF this year as well, the event promises to be one that is remembered.  

Article written by Aashi Shah