MAHAVIRA (Mahāvīra), also known as VARDHAMāNA, was the
Tirthankara (ford maker) of
Jainism . In the Jain
tradition, it is believed that
Mahavira was born in early part of the
6th-century BC into a royal family in what is now
India . At
the age of 30, he left his home in pursuit of spiritual awakening ,
abandoned all worldly possessions, and became an ascetic . For the
next twelve-and-a-half years,
Mahavira practiced intense meditation
and severe austerities, after which he is believed to have attained
Kevala Jnana (omniscience). He preached for 30 years, and is believed
by Jains to have died in the 6th-century BC. Outside the Jain
tradition, scholars such as Karl Potter consider his biographical
details as uncertain, with some suggesting he lived in the
5th-century BC contemporaneously with the
Mahavira died at
the age of 72, and his remains were cremated.
After he gained Kevala Jnana,
Mahavira taught that the observance of
the vows ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing),
brahmacharya (chastity) and aparigraha (non-attachment) is necessary
to spiritual liberation. He gave the principle of
sided reality), Syadvada and Nayavada. The teachings of
compiled by Gautama Swami (his chief disciple) and were called Jain
Agamas . These texts were transmitted by an oral tradition by Jain
monks, but are believed to have been largely lost by about the
1st-century when they were first written down. The surviving versions
of the Agamas taught by
Mahavira are some of the foundational texts of
* 1 Titles and names
* 2 Historical
* 3 Biography per Jain traditions
* 3.1 Birth
* 3.2 Early life
* 3.3 Renunciation
* 3.4 Omniscience
* 3.5 Disciples
* 3.6 Nirvāṇa, death
* 3.7 Previous births
* 3.8 Ascetic lineage
* 3.9 Sources
* 4 Teachings
* 4.2 Five vows
* 4.3 Soul
* 4.5 Gender
* 4.6 Rebirth and realms of existence
* 5 Legacy
* 5.1 Festivals
* 5.2 Adoration
* 5.3 Influence
* 5.4 Iconography
* 5.5 Temples
* 5.6 In popular culture
* 6 See also
* 7 Notes
* 8 References
* 8.1 Citations
* 8.2 Sources
* 9 External links
TITLES AND NAMES
Paul Dundas , a professor of
Sanskrit known for his
publications on Jainism, the earliest layer of
Jain literature such as
the Acaranga Sutra makes no mention of the names Vardhamana or
Mahavira, nor the equivalent of "fordmaker". The term Jina for him is
rare in early Jain texts.
The first book of
Sutrakritanga uses the name Mahavira. The early
Buddhist literature that has survived into the modern era
uses other names or epithets for Mahavira. These include Nayaputta,
Muni, Samana, Niggantha, Brahman and Bhagavan. In early Buddhist
Suttas, he is also referred to by the names Araha (meaning "worthy"),
and Veyavi (derived from the word "Vedas", but contextually it means
"wise" because the
Mahavira did not recognize the Vedas as a
Buddhist texts refer to
Mahavira as Nigaṇṭha
Jñātaputta. Nigaṇṭha means "without knot, tie, or string" and
Jñātaputta (son or scion of Natas), refers to his clan of origin as
Jñāta or Naya (
Prakrit ). He is also known as
Sramana , states
the Jain text Kalpasutras, because he is "devoid of love and hate".
According to later Jain texts, Mahavira's childhood name was
Vardhamāna ("the one who grows"), because of the increased prosperity
in the kingdom at the time of his birth. According to the
Kalpasutras, he was called
Mahavira ("the great hero") by the gods
because he stood steadfast in the midst of dangers and fears,
hardships and calamities.
Mahavira is also called a
According to the Kalpasutra,
Mahavira was born at Kundagrama in
present-day Bihar, India. This is assumed to be the modern town of
Basu Kund, which is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of
the capital of Bihar. However, it is unclear if the ancient
Kundagrama is same as the current assumed location, and the birthplace
remains a subject of dispute.
Mahavira renounced all his material
wealth and left his home when he was 28 by some accounts, or 30 by
others, then lived ascetic life and performed severe austerities for
12 years, and thereafter preached
Jainism for a period of 30 years.
The location he preached has been a subject of historic disagreement
between the two major sub-traditions of
Jainism – the Svetambaras
and the Digambaras .
Though it is universally accepted by scholars of
Mahavira was an actual person who lived in ancient India, the details
of Mahavira's biography and the year of his birth are uncertain, and
a subject of considerable debate among scholars. The Jain
Śvētāmbara tradition believes he was born in 599 BC and he died in
527 BC, while the
Digambara tradition believes 510 BC as the year he
died. The scholarly controversy arises from efforts to date him and
the Buddha, because both are believed to be contemporaries according
Buddhist and Jain texts, and because unlike
Jain literature there
is extensive ancient
Buddhist literature that has survived. Almost
all Indologists and historians, state Dundas and others, accordingly
date Mahavira's birth to about 497 BC, and death to about 425 BC.
However, the Vira era tradition that starts in 527 BC and places
Mahavira in the 6th-century BC is a firmly established part of the
Jain community tradition.
The 12th-century Jain scholar
Mahavira in the
5th-century BC. According to Kailash Jain,
Hemachandra made an
incorrect analysis that, along with attempts to establish Buddha's
nirvana date, has been a source of confusion and controversy about
Mahavira's year of nirvana. Kailash Jain states the traditional date
of 527 BC is accurate, adding that the
Buddha was a junior
contemporary of the
Mahavira and that the
Buddha "might have attained
nirvana a few years later". The place of his death, Pavapuri (now in
Bihar), is a pilgrimage site for Jains.
BIOGRAPHY PER JAIN TRADITIONS
According to the Jain texts, twenty-four Tirthankaras have appeared
on earth in the current time cycle of
Jain cosmology .
Avasarpiṇī (present descending phase or
half of the time cycle). A
Tirthankara (Maker of the River-Crossing,
saviour, spiritual teacher) signifies the founder of a tirtha which
means a fordable passage across the sea of interminable cycles of
births and deaths (called saṃsāra ). In Jain cosmology, twenty-four
Tirthankaras appear in every time cycle,
Mahavira was the 24th for the
Mahavir Jayanti The Birth of Mahavira, from the Kalpa
Belonging to Kashyapa gotra ,
Mahavira was born into the royal
Kshatriya family of King Siddhartha and Queen
Trishala of the Ikshvaku
dynasty . This is the same solar dynasty in which Hindu Epics place
Rama and the
Ramayana , the
Buddhist texts place the
Buddha in, and
the Jains attribute another twenty-one of their twenty-four
Tirthankaras over millions of years.
Mahavira was born in 582 BC. According
Svetambara Jain texts, he was born in 599 BC. Mahavira's
birthday, in the traditional calendar, falls on the thirteenth day of
the rising moon in the month of
Chaitra in the Vira
calendar. In the
Gregorian calendar , this date falls in March or
April and is celebrated as
Mahavir Jayanti by Jains.
The Kalpasutra, a popular text in Jainism, cites Kundagrama as the
place he was born. This site is believed by the tradition to be near
Vaishali, a great ancient town in the Gangetic plains. The identity of
this place in modern geography of
Bihar is unclear, in part because
people migrated out of ancient
Bihar for economic and political
reasons. According to the "Universal History" in the Jain mythology,
Mahavira underwent many rebirths before his birth in
the 6th century. These rebirths included being a hell-being, a lion,
and a god (deva ) in a heavenly realm in
Jain cosmology just before
his last birth as the 24th fordmaker. His embryo was first formed in
a Brahman woman, but his embryo was then transferred by the divine
commander of Indra's army Hari-Naigamesin to the womb of Trishala, the
wife of Siddhartha. The embryo transfer legend is accepted by the
Svetambara tradition, but the Digambaras don't accept this theory of
Mahavira was born, Jain texts state that god
Indra came from
the heavens, anointed him and performed his abhisheka (consecration)
Mount Meru . These events associated with Mahavira's birth are
illustrated in the artwork of numerous Jain temples and is a part of
Jain temple rituals. The Kalpa sutras describing Mahavira's
birth legends are recited by the
Svetambara Jains during annual
festivals such as
Paryushana , but the same festival is observed by
Digambaras without the recitation.
Mahavira grew up as a prince. According to the second chapter of the
Acharanga Sutra , both his parents were followers
Parshvanatha and lay devotees. Jain traditions do not agree
Mahavira ever married. According to the
Mahavira's parents wanted him to marry Yashoda but
Mahavira refused to
marry. According to the
Śvētāmbara tradition, he was married to
Yashoda at a young age and had one daughter, Priyadarshana, also
Jain texts portray
Mahavira as a very tall man, with his height
stated to be seven cubits (10.5 feet ) in Aupapatika Sutra. In Jain
mythology, he was the shortest of the 24 Tirthankaras, with earlier
teachers believed to be much taller, with the 22nd Tirthankara
Aristanemi stated to be forty cubits tall (60 feet) who lived for
At the age of thirty,
Mahavira abandoned the comforts of royal life
and left his home and family to live an ascetic life in the pursuit of
spiritual awakening. He undertook severe austerities of fasting and
bodily mortifications, meditated under the
Ashoka tree and discarded
his clothes. There is a graphic description of his hardships and
humiliation in the Acharanga Sutra. According to
Kalpa Sūtra ,
Mahavira spent the first 42 monsoons of his life at Astikagrama,
Champapuri , Prstichampa, Vaishali, Vanijagrama, Nalanda , Mithila ,
Bhadrika, Alabhika, Panitabhumi,
Pawapuri . He is said
to have lived in
Rajagriha during the rainy-season of 41st year of his
ascetic life. This is traditionally dated in 491 BC.
Kevala Jnana and
Samavasarana Attainment of
omniscience (kevalajñāna) by
After twelve years of rigorous penance, at the age of 43, Mahavira
achieved the state of
Kevala Jnana (omniscience or infinite knowledge)
under a Sāla tree according to traditional accounts. The details
of this event are mentioned in Jain texts like Uttar-purāņa and
Acharanga Sutra describes
Sutrakritanga elaborates the concept as all-knowing
and provides details of other qualities of Mahavira. Jains believe
Mahavira had the most auspicious body (paramaudārika śarīra)
and was free from eighteen imperfections when he attained omniscience.
Śvētāmbara believe that
Mahavira traveled throughout in
teach his philosophy for 30 years after gaining omniscience.
Digambara however claim that after attaining omniscience, he sat fixed
Samavasarana giving sermons to his followers.
The Jain texts state that Mahavira's first disciples were 11 Brahmins
, who traditionally are called the 11 Ganadharas. Gautama was their
chief. Others were Agnibhuti, Vayubhuti, Akampita, Arya Vyakta,
Sudharman , Manditaputra, Mauryaputra, Acalabhraataa, Metraya and
Prabhasa. Mahavira's disciples are said to be led by Gautama after
him, who later is said to have made
Sudharman his successor. These 11
Brahmin-Ganadharas as the early followers were responsible for
remembering and verbally transmitting the teachings of the Mahavira
after his death, which came to be known as Gani-Pidaga or Jain Agamas.
According to the Jain tradition,
Mahavira had 14,000 muni (male
ascetics), 36,000 aryika (nuns), 159,000 sravakas (laymen) and 318,000
sravikas (laywomen) as his followers. Some of the royal followers
included King Srenika (popularly known as
Bimbisara ) of
Mahavira initiated the
mendicants with the Mahavratas (Five vows). He delivered 55
pravachana and answered 36 unasked questions (
The Mahavira's teachings were gradually lost after around 300 BC,
according to the Jain tradition, when a severe famine in the Magadha
region of ancient
India caused a scattering of the Jain monks.
Thereafter, attempts were made by Jain monks to gather again,
co-recite the canon and re-establish it in its entirety. These
efforts identified differences between recitations of the Mahavira's
teachings, and an attempt was made in the 5th century AD to reconcile
the differences. However, the reconciliation efforts failed, with
Digambara Jain traditions continuing on with their own
incomplete, somewhat different versions of the Mahavira's teachings.
In the early centuries of the common era, Jain texts containing
Mahavira's teachings were written down on palm leaf manuscripts .
Jal Mandir marking Mahavira's nirvana at
Mahavira attained omniscience at the age of 42, under a
Sala tree on the banks of River Rijupalika near Jrimbhikagrama. He
preached, then died at the age of 72. The Jain
believes his death occurred in 527 BC, while the
tradition believes this happened in 510 BC. His jiva (soul) is
believed in all Jain traditions to be in
Siddhashila (abode of the
According to Jain texts, Mahavira's nirvana (death) occurred in the
Bihar ). His life as a spiritual light and the
night of his nirvana is remembered by Jains as
Diwali on the same
night Hindu's celebrate their festival of lights. On the same night
that Mahavira's died, his chief disciple Gautama is said to have
The accounts of his death vary by the Jain text. Some texts describe
a simple death, but others describe grandiose celebrations attended by
gods and kings. According to the
Jinasena 's Mahapurana , the heavenly
beings arrived to perform his funeral rites. Yet in others, he is
described at age 72 to be giving his final preaching over six days to
a large crowd of people. Everyone falls asleep, he disappears, only
his nails and hair remain and his followers cremate these.
Jain temple called
Jal Mandir stands at the place of
Mahavira's nirvana, also known as moksha. Jaina artwork in temples
and texts depicts the final liberation and cremation of Mahavira,
sometimes symbolically shown as a miniature pyre of sandalwood and a
piece of burning camphor.
Mahavira's previous births are discussed in Jain texts such as the
Mahapurana and Tri-shashti-shalaka-purusha-charitra. While a soul
undergoes countless reincarnations in the transmigratory cycle of
saṃsāra (world), the births of a
Tirthankara are reckoned from the
time he determined the causes of karma and developed the
Jain texts discuss twenty-six births of
Mahavira before his
incarnation as a Tirthankara. As per the texts,
Mahavira was born as
Marichi , the son of
Bharata Chakravartin , in one of his previous
Mahavira has been mistakenly called the founder of Jainism. For the
Jains, there were 23 teachers before the Mahavira, and they believe
Jainism was founded in far more ancient times than that of the
Mahavira, who they revere as the 24th Tirthankara. The first 22
Tirthankara are placed in mythical times. For example, the 22nd
Arishtanemi is believed in the Jain tradition to have been
born 84,000 years before the 23rd
Mahavira is sometimes placed within
Parshvanatha lineage, but this is
contradicted by all Jain texts which state that
Mahavira renounced the
Jain texts suggest that Mahavira's parents were lay devotees and
followers of Parshvanatha. However, the lack of details and mythical
nature of the legends about Parshvanatha, combined with medieval era
Svetambara texts portraying Parsvites as "pseudo-ascetics" with
"dubious practices of magic and astrology" have led scholars to debate
the evidence for Parshvanatha's historicity. Regardless of scholarly
speculations, according to Dundas, Jains believe that Parshvanatha
lineage influenced Mahavira. Parshvanatha, as the one who "removes
obstacles and has the capacity to save", has been a highly popular
icon and his image the greatest focus of Jain devotional activity in
temples. Of the 24 Tirthankaras, the Jain iconography has celebrated
Parshvanatha the most since the earliest times, with
sculptures discovered at the
Mathura archeological site that have been
dated to 1st-century BCE by modern dating methods.
Moriz Winternitz ,
Mahavira may be considered as a
reformer of a pre-existing sect of Jainas called Niganthas
(fetter-less) that is mentioned in early
Kalpa Sūtra , 15th century
* Tiloya-paṇṇatti of
Yativṛṣabha discusses almost all of the
events connected with the life of
Mahavira in a form convenient to
* Acharya Jinasena's Mahapurāṇa include
Ādi purāṇa and
Uttara-purāṇa . It was completed by his disciple Acharya Gunabhadra
in the 8th century. In Uttara-purāṇa the life of
described in three parvans (74–76) in 1818 verses.
* Vardhamacharitra is a
Sanskrit kāvya (poem) that describe the
Mahavira written by
Asaga in 853.
Kalpa Sūtra is biographies of the Jain Tirthankaras, notably
Parshvanatha and Mahavira.
Samavayanga Sutra is a collection of texts containing Lord
Acharanga Sutra describes the penance of Mahavira.
The colonial era Indologists, for a long time, considered
Mahavira's followers as a sect of Buddhism because of the superficial
similarities in their iconography, meditative and ascetic practices.
However, as studies and understanding progressed, the differences
between the teachings of the
Mahavira and the
Buddha were found to be
so markedly divergent that the two gained recognition as separate
religions. Mahavira, states Moriz Winternitz, taught a "very
elaborate belief in the soul" unlike the Buddhists who denied it, the
ascetic practices in his teachings have been of a higher order of
magnitude than those found in Buddhism or Hinduism, and his emphasis
Ahimsa (non-violence) against all life forms is far greater than
the teachers in all other Indian religions.
Mahavira's teachings were compiled by his
Ganadhara (chief disciple),
Gautama Swami . The sacred canonical scriptures had twelve parts.
According to the Digambaras, Āchārya
Bhutabali was the last ascetic
who had partial knowledge of the original canon. Later, some learned
Āchāryas started to restore, compile and write down the teachings of
Mahavira that were the subject matter of Agamas. Āchārya Dharasena,
in 1st century CE, guided Āchārya Pushpadant and Āchārya
Bhutabali, to write down these teachings. The two Āchāryas wrote on
Ṣaṭkhaṅḍāgama —among the oldest known
Digambara Jaina texts.
Main article: Ethics of
Jain emblem and the "Five Vows"
Jain Agamas prescribe five major vratas (vows) that both ascetics and
householders have to follow. These ethical principles were preached
Ahimsa (Non-violence or Non-injury).
Mahavira taught that every
living being has sanctity and dignity of its own and it should be
respected just as one expects one's own sanctity and dignity to be
Ahimsa is formalised into Jain doctrine as the first and
foremost vow. The concept applies to action, speech and thought.
Satya (Truthfulness)—neither lie, nor speak what is not true, do
not encourage others or approve anyone who speaks the untruth.
Asteya — Non-stealing. Theft is explained as "taking anything
that has not been given".
Brahmacharya (Chastity), abstinence from sex and sensual pleasures
for Jain monks, faithfulness to one's partner for Jain householders.
Aparigraha (Non-attachment) — the attitude of non-attachment to
property or worldly possessions for layperson, not owning anything for
The goal of these principles is to achieve spiritual peace, better
rebirth or ultimately liberation. According to Chakravarthi, these
teachings help elevate the quality of life. In contrast, states
Dundas, the emphasis of
Mahavira on non-violence and restraint has
been interpreted by some Jain scholars to "not be driven by merit from
giving or compassion to other creatures, nor a duty to rescue all
creatures", but resulting from "continual self discipline", a
cleansing of the soul that leads to one's own spiritual development
which ultimately effects spiritual release.
Of these precepts,
Mahavira is most remembered in the Indian
traditions for his teachings of ahimsa (non-injury) as the supreme
ethical and moral virtue.
Mahavira taught that the doctrine of
non-injury must cover all living beings, and causing injury to any
being in any form creates bad karma which affects one's rebirth,
future well being and suffering. According to
Mahatma Gandhi ,
Mahāvīra was the greatest authority on Ahimsa.
Mahavira taught that soul exists, a premise that
Jainism shares with
Hinduism, but disagrees on with Buddhism. According to Buddhism, there
is no soul or self, and it premises its teachings on the concept of
anatta . In contrast,
Mahavira taught that the soul is permanent and
eternal with respect to dravya (substance).
taught that the soul is also impermanent with respect to paryaya
(modes that originate and vanish).
To Mahavira, the metaphysical nature of the universe consists of
dravya, jiva and ajiva. The jiva gets attached and bound to samsara
(wordly realms of suffering and existence), because of karma
(activity). The karma, in Jainism, includes both actions and intent,
and it colors (lesya) the soul, its particles stick to the soul
affecting how, where and what the soul is instantaneously reborn into
after a being dies.
There is no creator God, according to Mahavira's teachings, and the
existence has neither beginning nor end. However, there are gods and
demons in Jain beliefs, whose jivas are a part of the same cycles of
births and deaths depending on the accumulated karmic particles. The
goal of spiritual practice is to liberate the jiva from all karmic
accumulation, and thus enter the realm of the siddhas who are never
reborn again. Enlightenment, to Mahavira, is the consequence of a
process of self-cultivation and self-restraint.
Mahavira taught the doctrine of "many sided reality". This doctrine
is now known as
Anekantavada or Anekantatva. This term does not
appear in the earliest layer of
Jain literature or the Jain Agamas,
but the doctrine is illustrated in the answers of
questions his followers asked. According to Mahavira, truth and
reality are complex and always have multiple aspects. Reality can be
experienced, but it is not possible to totally express it with
language. Human attempts to communicate are Naya, or "partial
expression of the truth". Language is not Truth, but a means and
attempt to express Truth. From Truth, according to Mahavira, language
returns and not the other way around. One can experience the truth
of a taste, but cannot fully express that taste through language. Any
attempt to express the experience is syāt, or valid "in some respect"
but still remains a "perhaps, just one perspective, incomplete". In
the same way, spiritual truths are complex, they have multiple
aspects, language cannot express their plurality, yet through effort
and appropriate karma they can be experienced.
Anekantavada premises of the
Mahavira are also summarized in
Buddhist texts such as in
Samaññaphala Sutta , where in he is called
Nigantha Nataputta. The
Anekantavada doctrine is another key
difference between the teachings of the
Mahavira and those of the
Buddha taught the Middle Way, rejecting extremes of the
answer "it is" or "it is not" to questions. The Mahavira, in contrast,
accepted both "it is" and "it is not", with "perhaps" qualification
and with reconciliation.
Jain Agamas suggest that Mahavira's approach to answering all
metaphysical philosophical questions was a "qualified yes" (syāt). A
version of this doctrine is also found in the
Ajivika tradition of
ancient Indian philosophies.
In contemporary times, according to Paul Dundas, the Anekantavada
doctrine has been interpreted by many Jains as intending to "promote a
universal religious tolerance", and a teaching of "plurality" and
"benign attitude to other positions", but this is problematic and a
misreading of Jain historical texts and Mahavira's teachings. The
"many pointedness, multiple perspective" teachings of the
a doctrine about the nature of Reality and human existence, and it was
not a doctrine about tolerating religious positions such as on
sacrificing or killing animals for food, violence against disbelievers
or any other living being as "perhaps right". The Five vows for Jain
monks and nuns, for example, are strict requirements and there is no
"perhaps". Beyond the renunciant Jain communities, while Mahavira's
Jainism co-existed with Buddhism and Hinduism over the history,
according to Dundas, each were also "highly critical of the knowledge
systems and ideologies of their rivals".
One of the historically contentious views within
Jainism is in part
Mahavira and his ascetic life where he never wore any
clothes as a mark of disowning everything (interpreted as a
consequence of the Fifth vow of Aparigraha). The disputes triggered by
this teaching of
Mahavira are those related to gender and whether a
female mendicant (sadhvi) can achieve spiritual liberation just like a
male mendicant (sadhu) through Jain ascetic practices.
The main sub-traditions of
Jainism have historically disagreed, with
Digambaras (sky clad, naked mendicant order) stating that a woman is
by her nature and her body unable to practice asceticism, such as by
living naked, and therefore she cannot achieve spiritual liberation,
because of her gender. She can at best, state the
live an ethical life so that she is reborn as a man in a future life.
In this view, she is also viewed a threat to a monk's chastity. In
contrast, Svetambaras (white clad, wear clothes) have disagreed and
have interpreted Mahavira's teaching as encouraging both males and
females to pursue a mendicant ascetic life with the possibility of
moksha (kaivalya, spiritual liberation) regardless of gender.
REBIRTH AND REALMS OF EXISTENCE
Rebirth and realms of existence are foundational teachings of
Mahavira. According to the Acaranga Sutra,
Mahavira comprehended life
to exist in myriad forms, such as animals, plants, insects, water
bodies, fire bodies, wind bodies, elemental forms and others. He
taught that a monk should avoid touching or disturbing any one of them
including plants, never swim in water, nor light up fire or extinguish
it, nor thrash arms in the air as such actions can torment or hurt
other beings that live in those states of matter.
Mahavira preached that the nature of existence is cyclic, where the
jiva (soul) of beings is reborn after death in one of the triloka –
heavenly, hellish or earthly realms of existence and suffering. Human
beings are reborn, according to Mahavira, depending on one's karma
(actions) as a human, animal, element, microbe and other forms on
earth, or in a heavenly or hellish state of existence. Nothing is
permanent, everyone including gods, demons and beings on the earthly
realms die and are reborn again based on their karma merits and
demerits. It is the Jina who have reached
Kevala Jnana who are not
reborn again, and attain the Siddhaloka or the "Realm of the
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The two major annual festivals in
Jainism associated with Mahavira
are Mahavir-Jayanti and Diwali.
Mahavir Jayanti : It celebrates the birth of Mahavira,
twenty-fourth and last
Tirthankara (Teaching God) of
In Mahavir Jayanti, the five auspicious events (Kalyaans) of
Mahavira's life are re-enacted by Jain.
Diwali marks the anniversary of
Nirvana or liberation of
Mahavira's soul, the twenty fourth and last Jain
present cosmic age . It is celebrated at the same time as the Hindu
Diwali marks the New Year for the Jain group and
it likewise remembers the passing commemoration of their 24th
Mahavira and his achievement of moksha.
Mahavira adoration in a Manuscript, ca. 1825 CE
* Svayambhustotra by Acharya Samantabhadra is the adoration of
twenty-four Tirthankaras. Its eight shlokas (aphorisms) adore the
qualities of Mahavira. One such shloka is:
O Lord Jina! Your doctrine that expounds essential attributes
required of a potential aspirant to cross over the ocean of worldly
existence (Saṃsāra ) reigns supreme even in this strife-ridden
spoke of time (Pancham Kaal). Accomplished sages who have invalidated
the so-called deities that are famous in the world, and have made
ineffective the whip of all blemishes, adore your doctrine.
* Yuktyanusasana by Acharya Samantabhadra is a poetic work
consisting of sixty-four verses in praise of Mahavira.
Mahavira's teachings influenced many personalities. Rabindranath
Mahavira proclaimed in India, the message of salvation, that religion
is a reality and not a mere social convention, that salvation comes
from taking refuge in the true religion and not from observing the
external ceremonies of the community, that religion cannot regard any
barriers between man and man as an eternal variety. Wonderous to say,
this teaching rapidly over topped the barriers of the race abiding
instinct and conquered the whole county. —
Mahavira iconography is recognized by the lion stamped or
carved below his feet. On his chest is a
Shrivatsa mark, found on
other Jinas as well.
A major event is associated with the 2,500th anniversary of the
Mahavira in 1974. According to
Padmanabh Jaini :
Probably few people in the West are aware that during this
Anniversary year for the first time in their long history, the
mendicants of the Śvētāmbara,
assembled on the same platform, agreed upon a common flag (Jaina
dhvaja ) and emblem (pratīka); and resolved to bring about the unity
of the community. For the duration of the year four dharma cakras, a
wheel mounted on a chariot as an ancient symbol of the samavasaraṇa
(Holy Assembly) of Tīrthaṅkara
Mahavira traversed to all the major
cities of India, winning legal sanctions from various state
governments against the slaughter of animals for sacrifice or other
religious purposes, a campaign which has been a major preoccupation of
the Jainas throughout their history. —
Mahavira is usually depicted in a sitting or standing meditative
posture with the symbol of a lion beneath him. Every Tīrthankara has
a distinguishing emblem that allows worshippers to distinguish
similar-looking idols of the Tirthankaras. The lion emblem of
Mahavira is usually carved below the legs of the Tirthankara. Like all
Mahavira is depicted with
Shrivatsa and downcast eyes.
The earliest iconography for
Mahavira are from archeological sites in
the north Indian city of
Mathura . These are variously dated from the
1st-century BC to 2nd-century AD. The use of the srivatsa mark on
Mahavira's chest, along with him in dhyana-mudra posture, appears in
Kushana Empire era art works. The differences in the
Svetambara traditions appear in the late
5th-century AD and thereafter. According to John Cort, the earliest
archeological evidence of Jina iconography with inscriptions precedes
its datable texts by more than 250 years.
An image of
Mahavira at the
State Museum Lucknow is dated to 1007 AD,
while the one at
Kumbharia , is dated to 1179 AD.
Another image dated v.s. 1212 is installed at Vimala Vasahi , Mount
Abu . An ancient sculpture of
Mahavira was found in a cave at
Theni district ,
Tamil Nadu . K Ajithadoss, a Jain
scholar based in Chennai, dated the sculpture to the 9th century AD.
Rock cut sculpture depicting
Samanar Hills ,
The highest known image of Lord
Mahavira (in seated position)
Four sided sculpture depicting
Mahavira (found during excavation at
Kankali Tila ,
Rishabhanatha (left) and
Mahavira (right), British Museum
, 11th century
Temple relief of Mahavira,
Seattle Asian Art Museum
Seattle Asian Art Museum , 14th century
Tamil Nadu )
16 ft. 2 inch single stone statue of
Ahinsa Sthal ,
Mahavira Statue in Cave 32 of
According to John Cort , the
Mahavira temple at
Osian, Jodhpur ,
Rajasthan is the oldest
Jain temple surviving in western India. It was
constructed in the late eighth century CE. Other temples of Mahavira
Jal Mandir ,
Shri Mahavirji ,
Karauli , Rajasthan
Muchhal Mahavir Temple , Rajasthan
Lakkundi Jain Temple in
* Rata Mahaveerji ,
Bhandavapur Jain Tirth
Shri Dharmachakra Prabhav Tirth,
Meguti Jain Temple
Lakkundi Jain Temple
Daman Jain Temple
IN POPULAR CULTURE
Mahavira: The Hero of Nonviolence is an illustrated children’s
story based upon the life of Mahavira.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to MAHAVIRA .
* God in
* History of
* Timeline of
* ^ Heinrich Zimmer: "The cycle of time continually revolves,
according to the Jainas. The present "descending" (avasarpini) period
was preceded and will be followed by an "ascending" (utsarpini).
Sarpini suggests the creeping movement of a "serpent" ('sarpin'); ava-
means "down" and ut- means up."
Trishala was the sister of King
Chetaka of Vaishali in ancient
* ^ This mythology has similarities with those found in the
mythical texts of the
Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism.
* ^ On this
Champat Rai Jain wrote- "Of the two versions of
Mahavira's life — the Swetambara and the Digambara— it is obvious
that only one can be true: either
Mahavira married, or he did not
* ^ Not to be confused with Kevalajnana (omniscience), which he
achieved at age 42.
* ^ Samaññaphala Sutta, D i.47: "Nigantha Nataputta answered with
fourfold restraint. Just as if a person, when asked about a mango,
were to answer with a breadfruit; or, when asked about a breadfruit,
were to answer with a mango: In the same way, when asked about a fruit
of the contemplative life, visible here and now, Nigantha Nataputta
answered with fourfold restraint. The thought occurred to me: 'How can
anyone like me think of disparaging a brahman or contemplative living
in his realm?' Yet I neither delighted in Nigantha Nataputta's words
nor did I protest against them. Neither delighting nor protesting, I
was dissatisfied. Without expressing dissatisfaction, without
accepting his teaching, without adopting it, I got up from my seat and
* ^ According to Melton and Baumann, the Digambaras state that
"women's physical and emotional character makes it impossible for them
to genuinely engage in the intense path necessary for spiritual
purification. (...) Only by being reborn as a man can a woman engage
in the ascetic path. Later
Digambara secondary arguments appealed to
human physiology in order to exclude women from the path: by their
very biological basis, women constantly generate and destroy (and
therefore harm) life forms within their sexual organs. Svetambara
oppose this view by appealing to scriptures."
* ^ A special symbol that marks the chest of a Tirthankara. The
yoga pose is very common in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Each
tradition has had a distinctive auspicious chest mark that allows
devotees to identify a meditating statue to symbolic icon for their
theology. There are several srivasta found in ancient and medieval
Jain art works, and these are not found on
Buddhist or Hindu art
* ^ A B C Potter 2007 , pp. 35–36.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , p. 22, Quote: "
Mahavira died aged seventy-two at
the town of Pava in what is now the state of Bihar. His body was
cremated, with the gods taking his bones to heavens and his ashes
being distributed throughout the Ganges region"..
* ^ Suresh K. Sharma; Usha Sharma (2004). Cultural and Religious
Heritage of India: Jainism. Mittal Publications. p. 39. ISBN
978-81-7099-957-7 . , Quote: "The body of
Mahavira was cremated in
Pava, and to this day the town of Pava, in the province of
the holy ground for his followers."
* ^ Sharma & Khanna 2013 , p. 18.
* ^ A B C D E F G Dundas 2002 , p. 25.
* ^ A B Dundas 2002 , pp. 24–25.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , pp. 25–26.
* ^ A B C Winternitz 1993 , p. 408.
* ^ A B Zimmer 1953 , p. 223.
* ^ von Dehsen 2013 , p. 29.
* ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991 , p. 31.
* ^ A B C Heehs 2002 , p. 93.
* ^ A B Kailash Chand Jain 1991 , p. 32.
* ^ Doniger 1999 , p. 682.
* ^ A B C D von Glasenapp 1925 , p. 29.
* ^ A B Taliaferro & Marty 2010 , p. 126.
* ^ Chaudhary, Pranava K (14 October 2003), "Row over Mahavira’s
birthplace", The Times of
* ^ A B C D E Doniger 1999 , p. 549.
* ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987 , p. 3.
* ^ A B C D E Dundas 2002 , p. 24.
* ^ Rapson 1955 , pp. 155–156.
* ^ Cort 2010 , pp. 69–70, 587–588.
* ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991 , pp. 74–85.
* ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991 , pp. 84–88.
* ^ A B C Zimmer 1953 , p. 224.
* ^ Jain & Upadhye 2000 , p. 54.
* ^ Zimmer 1953 , p. 181.
Upinder Singh 2016 , pp. 312–313.
* ^ Britannica Tirthankar Definition,
* ^ Sunavala 1934 , p. 52.
* ^ George M. Williams 2008 , pp. 52, 71.
* ^ Evola 1996 , p. 15.
* ^ Zimmer 1953 , pp. 220–226.
* ^ von Glasenapp 1925 , pp. 15–17.
* ^ A B C Wiley 2009 , p. 6.
* ^ Dowling & Scarlett 2006 , p. 225.
Upinder Singh 2016 , p. 313.
* ^ Gupta & Gupta 2006 , p. 1001.
* ^ A B C D Dundas 2002 , p. 21.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , pp. 21, 26.
* ^ Mills, Claus & Diamond 2003 , p. 320, note:
Indra is referred
to as Sakra in some Indian texts..
* ^ Olivelle 2006 , pp. 397 footnote 4.
* ^ Mills, Claus & Diamond 2003 , p. 320.
* ^ A B Dundas 2002 , p. 22.
* ^ Jain & Fischer 1978 , pp. 5–9.
* ^ Dalal 2010 , p. 284.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , p. 30.
* ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987 , p. 99, Quote: "According to the
Mahavira did not marry, while the Svetambaras hold a
* ^ Shanti Lal Jain 1998 , p. 51.
Champat Rai Jain 1939 , p. 97.
* ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987 , p. 188.
* ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987 , p. 95.
* ^ von Glasenapp 1925 , p. 16.
* ^ A B C D E F G George 2008 , p. 319.
* ^ Jacobi 1964 , p. 269.
* ^ A B Wiley 2009 , pp. 5–7.
* ^ von Glasenapp 1925 , p. 30.
* ^ Sen 1999 , p. 74.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , p. 27.
* ^ A B C von Glasenapp 1925 , p. 327.
* ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991 , p. 79.
* ^ Jain & Upadhye 2000 , p. 30.
* ^ von Glasenapp 1925 , p. 30, 327.
* ^ Jain & Upadhye 2000 , p. 31.
* ^ Vijay K. Jain 2016b , p. 5.
* ^ A B
Upinder Singh 2016 , p. 314.
* ^ A B Wiley 2009 , pp. 6–8, 26.
* ^ George 2008 , p. 326.
* ^ Heehs 2002 , p. 90.
* ^ A B von Glasenapp 1925 , p. 39.
* ^ A B C Caillat & Balbir 2008 , p. 88.
* ^ A B Wiley 2009 , pp. 6–8.
* ^ von Glasenapp 1925 , pp. 30–31.
* ^ A B Doniger 1999 , p. 549-550.
* ^ von Glasenapp 1925 , pp. 29–31, 205–206, QUOTE: "At the end
of almost thirty years of preaching, he died in the chancellory of
King Hastipala of Pavapuri and attained Nirvana.".
* ^ Zimmer 1953 , p. 222.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , p. 22-24.
* ^ A B Melton & Baumann 2010 , p. 897.
* ^ von Glasenapp 1925 , p. 328.
Pramansagar 2008 , p. 38–39.
* ^ "Destinations : Pawapuri".
Bihar State Tourism Development
* ^ Jain & Fischer 1978 , pp. 14, 29–30.
* ^ Wiley 2009 , p. 5.
* ^ Zimmer 1953 , p. 226.
* ^ A B C D Dundas 2002 , pp. 30–33.
* ^ Zimmer 1953 , p. 220.
* ^ von Glasenapp 1925 , pp. 16–17.
* ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987 , pp. 9–11.
* ^ Cort 2010 , pp. 25–32, 120–122, 166–171, 189–192.
* ^ Jain & Upadhye 2000 , p. 45.
* ^ Jain & Upadhye 2000 , p. 46.
* ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991 , p. 59.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , p. 19.
* ^ Jain & Upadhye 2000 , p. 47.
* ^ A B Winternitz 1993 , pp. 408–409.
* ^ Cort 2010 , p. 225.
* ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012 , p. xi.
* ^ Vijay K. Jain 2012 , p. xii.
* ^ Sangave 2006 , p. 67.
* ^ Shah, Umakant Premanand ,
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* ^ Long 2009 , p. 101-102.
* ^ Long 2009 , p. 109.
* ^ Cort 2001 , pp. 26–27.
* ^ Appleton 2014 , pp. 20–45.
* ^ Adams 2011 , p. 22.
* ^ Chakravarthi 2003 , p. 3–22.
* ^ A B Dundas 2002 , pp. 88–89, 257–258.
* ^ Jain & Jain 2002 , p. 13.
* ^ Titze 1998 , p. 4.
* ^ A B C D E Taylor 2008 , pp. 892–894.
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* ^ Pandey 1998 , p. 50.
* ^ A B Nanda 1997 , p. 44.
* ^ Great Men\'s view on Jainism,
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* ^ Anatta,
Encyclopædia Britannica (2013), QUOTE: "
Buddhism, the doctrine that there is in humans no permanent,
underlying soul. The concept of anatta, or anatman, is a departure
from the Hindu belief in atman (“the self”).";
Steven Collins (1994), Religion and Practical Reason (Editors: Frank
Reynolds, David Tracy), State Univ of New York Press, ISBN
978-0-7914-2217-5 , page 64; QUOTE: "Central to
is the doctrine of not-self (Pali: anattā, Sanskrit: anātman, the
opposed doctrine of ātman is central to Brahmanical thought). Put
very briefly, this is the doctrine that human beings have no soul, no
self, no unchanging essence.";
Bruno Nagel (2000), Roy Perrett (editor), Philosophy of Religion:
Indian Philosophy, Routledge, ISBN 978-0815336112 , page 33, QUOTE:
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gives the Atman schools a chance to articulate the intellectual
aspects of their way to meditative liberation". * ^ A B
Charitrapragya 2004 , pp. 75–76.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , pp. 99–103.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , pp. 90–99.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , pp. 91–92, 104–105.
* ^ A B C D E Charitrapragya 2004 , pp. 75–79.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , pp. 229–231.
* ^ A B Jain philosophy, IEP, Mark Owen Webb, Texas Tech University
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* ^ Matilal 1998 , pp. 128–135.
* ^ Matilal 1990 , pp. 301–305.
* ^ Balcerowicz 2015 , pp. 205–218.
* ^ A B Dundas 2002 , pp. 232–234.
* ^ Long 2009 , pp. 98–106.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , p. 233.
* ^ Long 2009 , pp. 36–37.
* ^ A B Harvey 2014 , pp. 182–183.
* ^ Melton & Baumann 2010 , p. 1396.
* ^ A B Arvind Sharma 1994 , pp. 135–138.
* ^ Dundas 2002 , pp. 55–59.
* ^ Chapelle 2011 , pp. 263–270.
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* ^ Gorski 2008 , pp. 125–128.
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Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia
article MAHāVīRA .
* Quotations related to
Mahavira at Wikiquote
* Harvard Pluralism Project: Jainism