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Indian community celebrates Mahavir

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee sits in front of the Jain religious emblem 'Peace and Harmony'
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee sits in front of the Jain religious emblem 'Peace and Harmony'  

New Delhi, India (Reuters) -- People belonging to the Jain community of northern India celebrate their biggest festival, Mahavir Jayanti, marking the birth anniversary of their sect's founder.

India's Jain community celebrated the 2,601st birth anniversary of their founder Lord Mahavir on Thursday (April 25).

In capital New Delhi, Jain faithfuls visited temples and offered prayers to mark "Mahavir Jayanti", as the day is called.

Thousands of devotees participated in a procession that passed through the narrow lanes of old Delhi.

Colorful tableaux depicting the life and teachings of Lord Mahavir were the highlight of the procession.

Born in 599 BC as a prince in the eastern Bihar state, Mahavir renounced royal household, gave up his worldly possessions including clothing and carefully avoided harming all creatures including animals, birds and plants.

Unlike Buddha, Lord Mahavir is not regarded as the founder of Jainism in the strict terms. Mahavir, the 24th and last "Tirthankara" of Jain religion, is more of a reformer and propagator of an existing religious order.

All "Tirthankaras" were born as human beings but they attained enlightenment through meditation and self-realization.

Mahavir preached Jainism walking barefoot across India before he died in 527 BC at the age of 72.

Jainism preaches three-fold path of right belief, right knowledge and right conduct to attain liberation or "Nirvana" and absolute freedom or "Moksha". Jains believe in the control of senses through meditation and penance.

The Jains believe that Mahavir's teachings of tolerance, non-violence and brotherhood are even more relevant in the violence-ridden world of today than ever before.

Jains account for a little over five million of India's more than a billion population.




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