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Mahavira

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twenty-fourth tirthankara+
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'''Mahavira''' (540 BCE–468 BCE), also known as '''Vardhamana''', was the twenty-fourth and last ''tirthankara+'' of Jainism+. He was born into a royal family in what is now Bihar+, India+. At the time of his birth, the whole town marked prosperity in term of agriculture, health, wealth and wisdom. It is for this reason that he was named as Vardhman (Hindi : Vridhi) by his parents. At the age of 30 he left his home in pursuit of spiritual awakening (Diksha). For the next 12 and a half years he practiced intense meditation and severe penance, after which he achieved Kevala Jnana+ or enlightenment. He travelled all over India for the next 30 years to teach his philosophy which is based on ahimsa+, satya+, asteya+, brahmacharya+ and aparigraha+.

Mahavira attained nirvana+ after his physical death at the age of 72. He was one of the most popular propagators of Jainism, and he is regarded as a reformer of Jainism rather than its founder.


The exact place of birth of Mahavira is unknown. Historians have identified three places in Bihar as his possible birthplace: kundigram in Vaishali district+, Lachhuar in Jamui+ and Kundalpur in Nalanda+. Most modern historians agree that Basokund was his birthplace. Traditionally, Kundalagrama in the ancient city of Vaishali+ is regarded his birthplace; however, its location remains unidentified.

According to Jainism, Mahavira was born in 540 BCE. Some historians identify Mahavira as a junior contemporary of Gautama Buddha+, leaving his year of birth ambiguous. Mahavira was born into the royal family of King Siddartha of Kundgraam+ and Queen Trishala+, sister of King Chetaka of Vaishali. His childhood name was 'Vardhamana'. Both his parents were strict followers of Pārśva+.

According to Śvētāmbara+ traditions, the embryo of Mahavira was transferred from a Brahmin+ woman, Devananda, to a Kshatriya+ woman, Trisala+. This is described in the ''Acaranga+'' and ''Kalpa Sūtra+s. In the ''Vyākhyāprajñapti+'', Mahavira acknowledges Devananda as his real mother.

As a son of the king, Mahavira had all luxuries of life at his command. The name Mahavira is a Sanskrit word meaning ''Great Warrior''. During his boyhood Mahavira brought under control a terrifying serpent and it is one of the reasons for the Mahavira. Mahavira has many other titles and epithets, including Vira, Sanmati and Ñataputta. The ancient texts refer to Mahavira as ''Ñataputta'' (son of ''Natas''). This referred to his clan of origin, the ''Ñatta''.

Jain traditions are not unanimous about his marital state. According to one tradition (Digamber) he was celibate and according to another (Shwetamber) he was married young to Yashoda and had one daughter, Priyadarshana.

According to Jainism, Mahavira attained moksha+ in 468 BCE. Different dating has been proposed by recent scholars. Some Western scholars suggests that this date would have been around 425 BCE.

At the age of 30, Mahavira abandoned all the comforts of royal life and left his home and family to live ascetic life for spiritual awakening. He underwent severe penances, even without clothes. There is graphic description of hardships and humiliation he faced in the ''Acaranga Sūtra''. In the eastern part of Bengal+ he suffered great distress. Boys pelted him with stones, people often humiliated him.

The Kalpa Sūtra gives a detailed account of his ascetic life:


After twelve and a half years of rigorous penance he achieved kevalajñana. i.e., realization of perfect perception, knowledge, power, and bliss. The ''Acharangasutra'' describes Mahavira as all-seeing. The ''Sutrakritanga+'' elaborates the concept as all-knowing and provides details of other qualities of Mahavira.


For the next 30 years Mahavira travelled far and wide in India to teach his philosophy. His philosophy has eight cardinal (law of trust) principles and three metaphysical and five ethical. The objective is to elevate the quality of life. Ahimsa or non-violence is the first of five ethical principles. Mahavira taught that every living being has sanctity and dignity of its own and it should be respected just like we expect to respect our own sanctity and dignity. In simple words, we should show maximum possible kindness to every living being. The second principle is Satya or truthfulness which leads to good neighborliness in society. One should speak truth and respect right of property of each other's in society. One should be true to his own thoughts, words and deeds to create mutual atmosphere of confidence in society. Third principle is Asteya or non-stealing which state that one should not take anything if not properly given. Fourth principle is Bramhacharya or chastity which stress steady but determined restraint over yearning for sensual or sexual pleasures. Fifth and final principle is Aparigraha or non-possession, non-attachment which requires complete detachment from people, places and material property.

Mahavira taught that pursuit of pleasure is an endless game, so we should train our minds to curb individual cravings and passions. That way one does achieve equanimity of mind, mental poise and spiritual balance. One should voluntarily limit acquisition of property as a community virtue which results in social justice and fair distribution of utility commodities. The strong and the rich should not try to suppress the weak and the poor by acquiring limitless property which results in unfair distribution of wealth in society and hence poverty. Attempting to enforce these five qualities by an external and legal authority leads to hypocrisy or secret criminal tendencies. So the individual or society should exercise self-restrain to achieve social peace, security and an enlightened society.

At the age of 72 (468 B.C), Lord Mahavira died and his purified soul left the body and achieved complete liberation i.e., attained Nirvana+ or Moksha. He was cremated at Pawapuri+ where today stands a Jain temple named Jalmandir.

Mahavira is usually depicted in a sitting or standing meditative posture with a symbol of a lion under him.

Mahavira’s previous births are discussed in Jain texts such as the ''Trisastisalakapurusa Charitra'' and Jinasena+'s ''Mahapurana+''. While a soul undergoes countless reincarnations in transmigratory cycle of saṃsāra+, the births of a tirthankara are reckoned from the time he determined the causes of karma+ and developed the Ratnatraya+. Jain texts discuss twenty-six births of Mahavira prior to his incarnation as a tirthankara.

There are various Jain texts describing the life of Mahavira. The most notable of them is the ''Kalpa Sūtra'' of Bhadrabahu+. The first Sanskrit biography of Mahavira was ''Vardhamacharitra'' by Asaga+ in 853 CE.

Mahavira is linked to the first ''tirthankara'', Rishabha+, according to Jain legends. He was earlier born as the heretical grandson of Rishabha known as Marichi. Nagārāja|2003|p=127

Reflist:

*citation
|first=Ram-Prasad
|last=Chakravarthi
|title=Non-violence and the other A composite theory of multiplism, heterology and heteronomy drawn from jainism and gandhi
|journal=Angelaki
|year=2003
|volume=8
|issue=3
|pages=3–22
|doi=10.1080/0969725032000154359
*citation
|last=Dundas
|first=Paul
|title=The Jains
|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=jdjNkZoGFCgC
|edition=2nd
|year=2002
|publisher=Routledge
|isbn=978-0-415-26605-5
*citation
|last=Glasenapp
|first=Helmuth Von
|title=Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation
|year=1999
Delhi
|publisher=Motilal Banarsidass
|url=http://books.google.co.in/books/about/Jainism.html?id=WzEzXDk0v6sC
|isbn=81-208-1376-6
*citation
|last=Jain
|first=Kailash Chand
|title=Lord Mahāvīra and His Times
|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=8-TxcO9dfrcC
|year=1991
|publisher=Motilal Banarsidass
|isbn=978-81-208-0805-8
*citation
|last=Kumar
|first=Sehdev
|title=Jain Temples of Rajasthan
|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=nSDACkmA_ukC
|year=2001
|publisher=Abhinav Publications
|isbn=978-81-7017-348-9
*citation
|last=Nagārāja
|first=Muni
|title=Agama and Tripitaka a Comparative Study of Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha
|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=dXVOXRrYQiQC
|year=2003
|publisher=Concept Publishing Company
|isbn=978-81-7022-731-1
*citation
|last=Winternitz
|first=Moriz
|title=History of Indian Literature: Buddhist and Jain Literature
|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=Lgz1eMhu0JsC&pg=PA408
|year=1993
|publisher=Motilal Banarsidass
|isbn=978-81-208-0265-0



Jainism topics:

Persondata
Mahavira
Vardhamana
Jain religious leader
Vaishali
Pavapuri

Category:Ascetics+
Category:Indian religious leaders+
Category:Nonviolence advocates+
Category:Tirthankars+
Category:468 BC deaths+
Category:540s BC births+

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