There may be a time when your Jain colleagues, friends or neighbors come to you and say “Micchami Dukkadam” (seek forgiveness) with joined hands. You must have wondered what does this mean and why is he/she saying it to me?
On the final day of Paryushan is Samvastsari Pratikraman (ritual for washing away sins). Jains seek forgiveness from all the creatures whom they may have harmed knowingly or unknowingly by uttering the phrase— Micchami Dukkadam. It means "If I have caused you offence in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or deed, then I seek your forgiveness". No private quarrel or dispute may be carried beyond Samvatsari, and traditionally, letters have been sent and telephone calls made to friends and relatives asking their forgiveness.
Svetambara and Digambara are two major sects of Jain religion. Shvetambars observe the ritual over 8 days and Digambars over 10 days. It takes place during the monsoon season (Chaturmas), when travelling barefoot is difficult for Jain monks and nuns; so they make themselves available to the community for instruction and guidance.
The purpose of Paryushan is to stay close to your soul, reflect on your shortcomings, seek forgiveness for wrong doings, remove internal corruption and vow to minimise mistakes. Daily meditation and prayers help one to look within and reflect on the teachings of the Tirthankaras for guidance. On the fourth day of Paryushan, it is customary to read from the Kalpasutra, a scripture which recounts the life of Lord Mahavira, the last Tirthankara. It recounts the story of his birth, life and liberation and details of the lives of other Tirthankaras and the rules of Paryushan.
Jain devotees often take time off from work during Paryushan and observe penance. Their vegetarian meals are made simpler than usual. Professionals observe fast for at least one day while those who can, do the same for all eight days.
On this auspicious occasion of Paryushan I would like to wish all our Jain and Non-Jain friends Micchami Dukkadam.