Mahāvīra is the name most commonly used to refer to one of the best-known and widely worshiped propagators of Jainism. His images are found throughout India. Jains regard him as the 24th and the last tirthankara. He is usually depicted in sitting or standing meditative posture with a symbol of Lion under him. He was one of the most popular propagators of Jainism.
According to the svetambara sect, Mahavira died on 527 BCE, however, according to the digambara sect, he died on 510 BCE. Different dating has been proposed by recent scholars. Paul Dundas suggests that Mahavira's death would have been around 425 BCE.
Mahavira has many other titles and epithets, including Vardhamana and Jnataputta. The ancient texts refer to Mahavira as Nayaputta (son of Nayas). This referred to his clan of origin, which is translated in sanskrit as jnatra. Mahavira was a senior contemporary of Buddha. The name Mahavira is a Sanskrit word meaning Great Warrior.
The acharanga sutra of svetambara describes Mahavira as all-seeing. Sutrakritanga however elaborates the concept as all knowing and provides details of other qualities of Mahavira.
Mahavira was born in a place called Kuṇḍagrama. It is a place said to be near Vaishali. However, historians cannot yet pinpoint where exactly this place Kundagrama was. He was the son of Siddartha and Trishala.
According to svetambara tradition, the embryo of Mahavira was transferred from a Brahmin woman Devananda to a Kshatriya woman Trisala. This is described in Acharanga-sutra and Kalpa-sutra. In Vyākhyāprajñapti, Mahavira acknowledges Devananda to be his real mother.
Mahavira's philosophy has eight cardinal principles – three metaphysical and five ethical. The objective is to elevate the quality of life.
Mahavira’s previous births are discussed in Jain texts like Trisastisalakapurusa Charitra and Uttarapurana. While a soul undergoes countless reincarnations in transmigratory cycle of samsara, the births of a Tirthankara are reckoned from the time he secures samyaktva or Tirthankar-nam-and-gotra-karma. Jain texts discuss about twenty-six births of Mahavira prior to his incarnation as a Tirthankara.
There are various Jain texts describing the life of Lord Mahavira. The most notable of them is Kalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu I. The first Sanskrit biography of Mahavira was Vardhamacharitra by Asaga in 853 CE.
- Dundas 2002, p. 24
- Kumar 2001, p. 3
- Dundas 2002, p. 25
- Glasenapp 1999, pp. 29–37
- Dundas 2002, p. 26
- Ram-Prasad, Chakravarthi (2003). "Non-violence and the other A composite theory of multiplism, heterology and heteronomy drawn from jainism and gandhi". Angelaki 8 (3): 3–22. doi:10.1080/0969725032000154359.
- Glasenapp 1999, p. 327
- Jain 1991, p. 59
- Dundas 2002, p. 21
- Jain, Kailash Chand (1991), Lord Mahāvīra and his times, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0805-3
- Dundas, Paul (2002), The Jains (2nd ed.), Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-26605-5
- Kumar, Sehdev (2001), Jain Temples of Rajasthan, Abhinav Publications, ISBN 978-81-7017-348-9
- Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (1999), Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-1376-6
- Helen, Johnson (2009) , Muni Samvegayashvijay Maharaj, ed., Trisastiśalākāpurusacaritra of Hemacandra: The Jain Saga (in English. Trans. From Prakrit), Part 3, Baroda: Oriental Institute, ISBN 978-81-908157-0-3
See also 
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Mahāvīra.|