Among all the Jain festivals Mahavir Jayanti is regarded as the most important festival of the Jains. It celebrates the birth anniversary of Mahavir. According to the Digambar school of Jainism, Lord Mahavira was born in the year 615 BC, but the Swetambaras believe that He was born in 599 BC. Both sects however agree that he was the son of Siddhartha and Trisala. Legend has it, that He was conceived by Devananda, wife of a Brahmin named Rishabhdeva. The gods, ingeniously, transferred the embryo to the womb of Trisala. It is said that the expectant mother had sixteen auspicious dreams before the child was born (only 14 according to the Swetambaras). Astrologers intepreting these dreams, stated that the child would be either an emperor or a Teerthankar. This religious event is largely observed by the Jains, by visiting sacred sites and worshipping the Teerthankars
Shrines and temples are decorated with flags for the occasion, and on the day of the festival, the idol of the tirthankar is given a ritual bath before being taken out, ensconced in a cradle, in a grand procession.
The custom of donating money, food and clothing to the poor is also an important aspect of celebrating Mahavir Jayanti. Jain organisations (in some cases, even individuals) arrange for free food and drink for all passersby. Important Jain shrines such as Sri Mahavirji in Rajasthan; Girnar and Palitana in Gujarat; Parasnath Temple (Kolkata) and Pawapuri in Bihar host major celebrations to mark Mahavir Jayanti.