The last (twenty-fourth) Tirthankara, Mahavir, was a historical
personality. He was born in 599 BC in a royal family of Kshatriyas in the democratic republic of Vaishali (Bihar).
His father was King Sidhartha and his mother Queen Trishla Devi (Priyakarini). Sidhartha's gotra was Kasyapa and the paternal gotra of Trisala is
mentioned as Vasistha. Trisala was the eldest daughter ( according to another tradition, sister) of King Cetaka of Vaisali). ;
Mahavira's original name was Vardhman. From his childhood, he was soft, kind-hearted. He was very upset by the
ritual sacrifice of animals, and vowed to fight for the rights of animals. He also wished to fight for the advancement of women and
untouchables. Among his sports of boyhood, there is even a traditional story that he brought under control a terrif serpent.
Consequently and symbolic of this feat of bravery, he got the title Mahavira and Vira-natha.
He left his kingdom at the age of thirty to begin an ascetic life. He entered the forest to commune with all living
beings, including animals, trees, and other plants. He practiced meditation, austerity, and samadhi for twelve and a half years,
getting enlightenment. By self-purification and severe spiritual practices, finally, at the age of forty-two, Mahavira attained
For the next thirty years, Mahavira spread the message
of Ahimsa non-violence , truth, non-stealing, right conduct, and non possession. He campaigned against the barriers of caste, creed, and
faith. He also advocated protecting all living creatures. Bhagavan Mahavira gave us several analytical theories of Karma, multiplicity
of truth etc. All these theories helped people to reach higher levels of consciousness and to create happiness and peace in
society. His doctrines of Right Knowing, Right Vision, and Right Conduct are considered the three Jewels of Jain philosophy, by which
to achieve the ultimate goal in life.
His routine involved not even a trace of violence to
living beings (Ahimsa), not to deprive others of even a blade of grass belonging to them (achorya), not to speak lie even remotely (Satya),
not to entertain any sex appetite, even in mind (Brhamcharya), and not to have any possession of worldly goods (Aprigraha). These were
his five great vows.
Mahavira responded with supreme forbearance. "I
forgive all living beings. May all beings forgive me. I have forgiveness for one and all. I bear no malice towards anyone",
he declared. Through his precept underscored by a practice of forgiveness and compassion, Mahavira brought about a happy
transformation in a strife-torn society that was in perpetual tension and conflicts. Each living being is essentially and
individual soul striving for ultimate happiness, he said. The supreme bliss, therefore, consists of liberation from the vicious
circle of life and death. Freedom from the bondage of attachments is the only path that leads to salvation or ‘Nirvana’ - a state of
perfection or the Life Eternal.
Gandhiji acknowledged mankind’s debt to Mahavira in these
words: "No religion in the world has explained the principle of Ahimsa so deeply and systematically as discussed with its
applicability in life in Jainism. Noted orientalist H.W. Beecher, said. "Mahavira was a great saviour, a benefactor of humanity
and "one of the greatest of the great.
Mahavira attained Nirvana in 527 B.C. on the day of
Kartik Krishna 15 at Pawapuri. But the light of knowledge he bequeathed to the world continues to
enlighten the path of redemption for humanity.