Once a year, around the monsoons in India, Jains observe the festival of Paryushan. During this time, the community comes together at temples to pray, meditate and to listen to religious discourses by learned teachers. At these gatherings attended by men and women of all ages, people seek forgiveness for any hurt or harm they may have caused through speech, thought or action, to other living beings.

In the Jain tradition, there is no creator-God. However, the highest ideals are represented through liberated souls who are beyond all worldly aspects. Jain devotion entails walking in the footsteps of such souls, sometimes nominally called bhagavan, or God.

In the monsoon of 2014, I follow Rekha Jain and the greater community she is a part of  through the festival of  Paryushana.

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Rekha summarizes the Jain pursuit incisively—
Bhagavan ban ke bhagavan ki puja karte hain”
(“One must become God in order to worship God”).

Text and photographs: Gayatri Ganju