India has produced many great saints and spiritual leaders. The days commemorating the birthdays or the incidents in the lives of these great sons of the soil, are considered especially holy. The birthday of Lord Mahavira is observed by both the Digambra (Sky-clad) and Svetambra (White-clad) Jains on the 13th day of the bright half of the Chaitra month (March-April).
This birth anniversary is celebrated throughout the Jain world in the country, but it is celebrated with special charms in Rajasthan and Gujarat, where the Jains are relatively in greater number than in the other states. Jaina Shrines at Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat and at Mahavirji in Rajasthan. Pawapuri and Vaishali Bihar are the other such centres. Vaishali being his birth place, a grand festival is held there, and it is known as Vaishali Mahotsava.
On this auspicious day grand chariot processions with the images of Mahavira are taken out, rich ceremonies in the temples are held, fasts and charities are observed, Jaina scriptures are read and a some places grand fairs are set up.
Mahavira, the great teacher and the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism was contemporary of Lord Buddha. His mother Trisala or Priyakarini had a series of miraculous dreams heralding the birth of Mahavira. Vardhama achieved enlightenment under an Ashoka tree after two and a half days fasting and meditation. Then he stripped himself of all his clothes and wore none thereafter, but Svetambras believe that Indra then Presented him a white robe. After his enlightenment he gave away all his wealth and possessions and owned nothing. Mahavira underlined the importance of austerity and complete non-violence as the essential means of spiritual evolution and salvation.