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Lecturers from Tapovan School based in Ahmedabad, India addressing the huge London Jain community

Women doing puja at the Jain temple in Kenton, Harrow.


Every year, the Jains celebrate their most important festival - Paryushan, all over Britain and the world. It is a spiritual festival, whose aim is to repent, forgive and renew, and lasts eight days. Today, 4th September 2010, is the first day, and this year, by coincidence, the last day is 11th September, the Universal Day of Forgiveness coinciding with the New York Twin Towers disaster. As Jains are one of the oldest cultures of the world, this is one of the world's oldest festivals. It is a miracle that in London, so far from the homeland in India, this festival is celebrated, and practiced authentically by thousands of people.

I have decided to write a daily blog, to share my personal journey with the wider world. During the eight days, we have lectures in the morning and evening, prayers, rituals and fasting. The depth and extent of fasting varies, but the most auspicious is a total fast for eight days, without any food, only consuming water in the daylight hours. Today is the first day and I am feeling fine - my stomach is celebrating a well-deserved holiday and I am not having any difficulties, apart from a slight headache - my intention is to fast for the entire eight days, and you can follow the fast by following this blog. The sessions I am attending are organised by the Oshwal Association of UK in North West London at the Harrow Leisure Centre. I am staying with my parents and helping them to attend the festivities. I am hoping that this will prepare me very well for my upcoming Masala Tour of Britain in November 2010.

This morning I attended a puja ceremony at the small Jain temple in Kenton in Harrow. The temple was alive with activity and there were a lot of people there - many seemed recent migrants from India, who knew all the rituals and practiced them with deep faith and confidence. I saw a mother teaching her young child how to do the puja, but everyone was excited about the start of this big festival.

The lecture in the morning given by an eminent businessman from Mumbai who is also a lay preacher, Mr. Yogesh Shah, was awesome. He explained the spirit of Paryushan, by saying that it is a time to get rid of all the junk we have accumulated over the year, all the pain and hurt we have caused others, and burn it in a bonfire, with the last day being the finale. It is a time of deep reflection and introspection, of personal growth and learning, and humility and forgiveness.

Festivals are a handbrake on life, very necessary in our modern rush to live and profit, and I find this Paryushan festival my personal favourite. The community organises and coordinates it so well, and everyone comes with the spirt of humility and learning. There is a collective silence in the hall when the lecture is being presented, and it feels as if we are all trying to rise together, and cross the ocean of samsara.

As it is an intense festival, it is a busy time - so I am now preparing for the evening prayers, and once again there will be a lecture, this time in English by a young Jain from Ahmedabad, Jinay. There should be a young crowd eager to learn about their faith and how it can help them in daily life.

You can follow me daily by visiting this website, and you are welcome to forward this blog to friends.


Dr. Atul K. Shah, Director, Diverse Ethics

Article added on 4th September 2010 at 1:53pm
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