|Who is it?||Last tirthankara of Jainism|
|Birth Place||Vaishali, Indian|
|Died On||c. 425 BCE (historical)\nc. 527 BCE (Svetambara)\nc. 510 BCE (Digambara)\nPawapuri, Magadha (present-day Bihar, India)|
|Other names||Vīr, Ativīr, Vardhamāna, Sanmati, Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta|
|Height||7 cubits (10.5 feet) (traditional)|
|Parents||Siddhartha (father) Trishala (mother)|
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.
Mahavira has been mistakenly called the founder of Jainism. Jains believe that there were 23 teachers before the Mahavira, and they believe that Jainism was founded in far more ancient times than that of the Mahavira, whom they revere as the 24th Tirthankara. The first 22 Tirthankaras are placed in mythical times. For Example, the 22nd Tirthankara Arishtanemi is believed in the Jain tradition to have been born 84,000 years before the 23rd Tirthankara named Parshvanatha. Mahavira is sometimes placed within Parshvanatha lineage, but this is contradicted by all Jain texts, which state that Mahavira renounced the world alone.
The two major annual festivals in Jainism associated with Mahavira are Mahavir-Jayanti and Diwali. During Mahavir Jayanti , Jains celebrate the birth of Mahavira, 24th and last Tirthankara (Teaching God) of Avasarpiṇī. In Mahavir Jayanti, the five auspicious events (Kalyaans) of Mahavira's life are re-enacted. Diwali marks the anniversary of Nirvana or the liberation of Mahavira's soul, the last Jain Tirthankara of the present cosmic age. It is celebrated at the same time as the Hindu festival of Diwali. Diwali marks the New Year for Jains and commemorates the passing of their 24th Tirthankara Mahavira and his achievement of moksha.
The earliest iconography for Mahavira is from archaeological sites in the north Indian city of Mathura. These are variously dated from the 1st century BC to the 2nd century AD. The use of the srivatsa mark on Mahavira's chest, along with his dhyana-mudra posture, appears in Kushana Empire-era artwork. The differences in the Mahavira artwork between the Digambara and Svetambara traditions appear in the late 5th century AD and thereafter. According to John Cort, the earliest archaeological evidence of Jina iconography with inscriptions precedes its datable texts by more than 250 years.
Mahavira is usually depicted in a sitting or standing meditative posture with the symbol of a lion beneath him. The earliest iconography for Mahavira is from archaeological sites in the north Indian city of Mathura. These are variously dated from the 1st century BC to the 2nd century AD. The day he was born is celebrated as Mahavir Janma-kalyanak (popularly known as Mahavir Jayanti), and the day of his liberation is celebrated by Jains as Diwali. In 1973, which was the 2,500th anniversary of the Nirvana (or Moksha) of Mahavira, monks of the various sects of Jainism assembled to resolve their differences and arrive at some commons points of agreement about the history and philosophy of Jainism .
A major event associated with the 2,500th anniversary of the Nirvana of Mahavira took place in 1974. According to Padmanabh Jaini:
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 have been much taller, with the 22nd Tirthankara Aristanemi, who lived for 1,000 years, stated to have been forty cubits tall (60 feet).
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. According to Mahavira, human beings are reborn, 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 Perfected Ones".
The Jain Śvētāmbara tradition believes he was born in 599 BC and died in 527 BC, while the Digambara tradition believes 510 BC was the year he died. The scholarly controversy arises from efforts to date him and the Buddha, because both are believed to be contemporaries according to Buddhist and Jain texts, and because, unlike for 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 his death to about 425 BC. However, the Vira era tradition that started in 527 BC and places Mahavira in the 6th century BC is a firmly established part of the Jain community tradition.
Kundagrama, the site of Mahavira’s birth is believed by tradition to be near Vaishali, a great ancient town in the Gangetic plains. The identity of this place in the modern geography of Bihar is unclear, in part because people migrated out of ancient Bihar for economic and political reasons. Dundas states that, according to the "Universal History" in Jain mythology, Mahavira had undergone 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. According to the texts of Svetambara sect, 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 not accepted by the adherents of the Digambara tradition.