Mahavira was born to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala. Mahavir was
named Vardhamana and belonged to the Jnatrikas, a Kshatriya clan of
Kundapura near Vaisali, north of Patna.
Life of Mahavira was very spiritual from the beginning. He had a reflective
mind from his early childhood. He realized the transitory nature of the world
after undergoing all the education and training for princes of the time and
became an ascetic at the age of thirty.
He practiced hard penances and meditations for twelve years and had to
bear many persecutions at the hands of the ignorant people till he attained
As King Siddhartha’s son, he led the life of a prince. At a tender age he
exhibited an honest nature. He was engaged in meditation and immersed
himself in self-contemplation. He was interested in the beliefs of Jainism
and distanced himself from worldly matters gradually.
In the 13th year he Nirvana and became an Arhat, a Jina, and a Kevalin, an
omniscient. He wandered from places to places and preached. He had to
suffer much from crawling insets, from bad people, from the attacks of the
village-guards, from domestic temptations and from other wanderers.
Mahavira renounced his kingdom and family at the age of thirty. He spent
twelve years as an ascetic. During these years he spent most of his time
meditating. He gave utmost respect to other living beings, including
humans, animals and plants, and never harmed them. He lived an
extremely austere life. He had exemplary control over his senses while
continuing the penance during these years. The name Mahavira was given
owing to the courage and bravery displayed by him. At the end of his
spiritual journey he achieved Kaivalya Gyan.
Mahavira had got powerful royal patronage which caused the spread of his
doctrines. Kings and princes like Bimbisara, Ajatashatru and Lichchhavi
king Chetaka supported his teachings. His influence penetrated into distant
kingdoms. He also got support from contemporary republican governments.
Vardhamans birthday is celebrated as Mahavir Jayanti, the most important
religious holiday of Jains around the world.
Mahavira devoted his life in preaching the eternal truth of spiritual freedom
to people around India. He traveled barefoot and without clothes and
people from all walks of life gave a patient ear to his preaching. He attained
Nirvana in Pawapuri at the age of 72 years. Jains celebrate this as the day
he attained Moksha. There are various Jain texts which narrates the life of
Lord Mahavira. The most notable among is Kalpasutra of Acharya
Mahavir Jayanti one great lesson about Jainism that should never be
forgotten is that we are what we have made ourselves to be and that our
future can be made by us in the now. This cardinal doctrine of self-help
involves the perception of the great responsibility of life. Mahavir’s
doctrines and his life show us the line of success we must follow in the
present moment, which is all that is really within our control.
The first principle that under-ran the life of Mahavir was his
irrepressible desire to know the cause of things, of all things. By study,
observation, steady thinking and tapas, his inquiries led him to the entire
satisfaction of his desire and he attained nirvana.
Another point is Lord Mahavira’s broad mindedness. That he started
a movement which embraced persons of all castes and creeds, of all
degrees of civilisation, very amply illustrates the breadth of view with which
he conceived Jainism. Kings, warriors, queens, Brahmans, Sudras all
profited by his teachings. Like Buddhism, it also took up the cause of the
masses which were being demoralised and tyrannised by the privileged
A third point which could perhaps be given the first place is the
great freedom that Mahavir gave to women. In theory Jainism never denied
equality of spiritual rights for women (except that the Digambara Jain
women cannot go to nirvana). In practice they have been put down lower
than men, as a matter of course. Women have been given very few, if any,
chances of cultivating their minds and bodies. It is one of the most
scandalous features of our community and must be remedied soon.
A fourth point that should appeal to those of younger spirits is the
great lesson of a devoted pursuit to one central idea of life. I do not know if
there is a more painful and sinful life than a purposeless existence. In many
cases the object of each individual life can be seen with a little exertion and
having seen it, the beholder realises what path it is that he or she must
The spiritual power and moral grandeur of Mahavir’s teachings
impressed the masses. He made religion simple and natural, free from
elaborate ritual complexities. His teachings reflected the popular impulse
towards internal beauty and harmony. Mahavir made Jainism the focal
point for the students of other schools of thoughts as well.
To liberate one's self, Mahavira taught the necessity of right faith
(samyak-darshana), right knowledge (samyak-gyana), and right conduct
(samyak-charitra'). At the heart of right conduct for Jains lie the five great
Nonviolence (Ahimsa) – to cause no harm to living beings;
Truthfulness (Satya) – to speak the harmless truth only;
Non-stealing (Asteya) – to take nothing not properly given;
Chastity (Bramacharya) – to indulge in no sensual pleasure;
Non-possession / Non-attachment (Aparigraha) – to detach
completely from people, places, and material things.