People observe a fast during the period. They can also opt to fast for as long as 30 days. Some consume food or even water only once in a day. It is compulsory to consume water only if it is boiled and that too after sunrise and before sunset. People start their morning by meditation and can perform it again in the evening. They chant prayers with a selfless motive of attaining and promoting brotherhood and universal peace. They try to practice detachment. They also offer prayers to their master or deity. They try to reflect on their previous mistakes and correct them by performing good deeds. Making vows and controlling one’s mind and body are also part of the ritual.
The devotees not only seek forgiveness from the higher authority but also from each other. Jain community believes that harming anyone, either physically or emotionally, is a sin and if someone has committed it knowingly or unknowingly, he needs to ask for forgiveness. While doing so, they also say “Micchami Dukkadam” or “Uttam Kshama” which is a way of seeking forgiveness and saying sorry for causing any kind of offence through actions or words.
Ten Dharmas for Ten Days.
Each day of this ten day festival is significant and has a unique feature added to it. Each day is dedicated to one of the ten Dharmas followed by Jains. The first day is to seek forgiveness and is known as Uttam Kshama. The idea is to forgive and to seek forgiveness, not only to human beings but to all living beings. By forgiving one can harbor harmony and live in peace, keeping resentment at bay. On the second day, one needs to learns to be modest, Uttam Mardav. There should be no feeling of superiority or pride because of materialistic gains. Everyone is equal. The third day teaches straightforwardness, known as Uttam Aarjav. Only a deceitful person has to make a web of words and create deception. A person who is true will always be honest and straightforward in his words as well as in actions.
On the fourth day one learns contentment and purity, called Uttam Shauch. Hoarding is not a good practice and one needs to be content with what one has. Accumulation will only take away happiness and imbibe misery.
On the fifth day is dedicated to teach the value of truth, Uttam Satya. One should use as minimum words as possible to communicate. Be precise as words are fabricated only to lie. Practice only to speak truth.
On the sixth day one learns about self-restrain, Uttam Sanyam. One should restrain from hurting others so to protect life in all living beings. They should self-restraint from desires that cause misery. One should never hurt one own self, physically or emotionally and all the emotions should be eradicated to be more peaceful.
On the seventh day, Uttam Tap, i.e., penance is taught. People should not go on eating the whole day. They should have a restricted diet so to gain energy for daily routines. Excessive energy is not required and can result in indulgence of evil activities. Tasty food, spicy food etc., should be completely avoided. One should also fast every once in a while. Meditation is also a must as it helps in calming of heart, mind and soul. It helps in finding happiness within oneself.
The eighth day is dedicated for teaching renunciation, also known as Uttam Tyaag. People are taught to renounce not only materialistic things but also emotions as they cause misery and greed. One who renounces riches is the richest person and leads a life of contentment and happiness.
Non-attachment, also known as Uttam Akinchan is taught on the ninth day. A person should neither be attached with external possessions like gold, property, family etc., nor should he be attached with internal feelings of lust, pride, greed, anger etc. Only through detachment from worldly affairs, one can lead to the path of purification. On the last day, Supreme celibacy is taught. It is also known as Uttam Brahmacharya. It means that one should only gain pleasure from one’s soul and not from one’s body. Sexual intercourse should be avoided with anyone except one’s spouse and that to reproduce only. Any sense of happiness received through the five sense, especially though the sense of touch is illusionary and should be condemned. When a person enjoys happiness from external factors, his soul becomes a slave.