Vardhamāna Mahāvira

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Vardhamāna Mahāvira lived in 599-527 B. C. Jainism, one of the great religions of the world, considers 24 Tīrthaṅkaras[1] as its founders. Of them the last two, Pārśvanātha[2] and Vardhamāna Mahāvira[3] are historical personalities.

Birth & Childhood of Vardhamāna Mahāvira[edit]

Vardhamāna Mahāvira was born at Vaiśālī[4] to the king Siddhārtha and the queen Triśalā. During his early years, he got good education including the use of weapons of war. He led a pure life and served his parents well. In his 30th year, he renounced the world and started practicing severe austerities, to realize the Truth. He attained enlightenment in his 42nd year. Thereafter, he roamed about the country mostly in the Bihar area preaching his doctrines and making disciples. He passed away in his 72nd year at Pāvā.[5] He started the sect of Nirgranthas,[6] same as Digambaras.

Ideologies of Vardhamāna Mahāvira[edit]

To the four supreme commands of Pārśvanātha, he added a fifth. These five are:

  1. Ahiṅsā - non-injury
  2. Satya - truth
  3. Asteya - non-stealing
  4. Aparigraha - non- acceptance of gifts
  5. Brahmacarya - celibacy

Contributions of Vardhamāna Mahāvira[edit]

His chief contribution was the popularization of the religion. On its basis he elaborated an ethical code for householders and monks. By peaceful proselytisation, he admitted all aspirants irrespective of caste or sex. In his 30 years of ministration he had won a large number of followers, both monks and householders. He also left behind a well-organised religious Order, through the efforts of which ahiṅsā became firmly established as a rule of life, even among those who did not join his Order. His followers gradually spread all over the country.

Philosophy of Vardhamāna Mahāvira[edit]

According to his philosophy, Karma, the deed of the soul, is responsible for bondage. It is a material forming a subtle bond of extremely refined kārmic matter which keeps the soul confined. It is by purging the soul of the Karma, by following the commandments, that one can get liberation. Vardhamāna Mahāvira was a senior contemporary of Buddha.[7]


  1. Tīrthaṅkaras means holy men.
  2. He lived in circa 800 B. C.
  3. He lived in 599-527 B. C.
  4. It is identified with the village Basarh in the Muzaffarpur district of Bihar.
  5. Pāvā is the modern town of Pāvāpurī near Patna.
  6. Nirgranthas means those who are free from all fetters.
  7. He lived in 557-477 B. C.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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