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Mahavir Jain

Mahavir is the 24th Tirthankara (Arihant) of Jain religion. Jainism existed before Mahavir, and his teachings were based on those of his predecessors. Thus, unlike Buddha, Mahavir was more of a reformer of an existing religion than the founder of a new faith.

According to Jain philosophy, all Tirthankaras were born as human beings but they attained enlightenment through meditation and self-realization. There are two sects in Jainism: Digambara and Shwetambara.

The main points that distinguish the Digambaras from the Shvetambaras, (apart from monastic nudity) are: the Digambaras belief that the perfect saint needs no food to stay alive, and that no woman can reach moksha without being reborn as a man.



Mahavir was born to king Siddharth of Kshatriyakundagrama, (near Vaishali, Bihar) in 599 BC. He was brought up as a Jain. At the age of 30, he left his family and royal household, gave up his worldly possessions, including clothing and become a monk.

He spent the next twelve years in deep silence and meditation to conquer his desires and feelings. He went without food for long periods. After 12 years of extreme asceticism, he attained kevala, the highest stage of perception.

He spent the next thirty years traveling bare feet around India preaching the eternal truth. He attracted people from all walks of life, rich and poor, kings and commoners, men and women, princes and priests. He organized his followers into a four fold order, namely Sadhu, Sadhvi, Shravak, and Shravika.


Mahavir preached that samyak-darshana (right faith), samyak-dnyana (right knowledge), and samyak-charitra (right conduct) together help attain the liberation of one's self.

Samyak-charitra is following the five great vows:
   * Ahimsa - Nonviolence
   * Satya - Truthfulness
   * Asteya - Not stealing
   * Brahmacharya - Chastity
   * Aparigraha - Non-attachment