Mahavira (599 BC -527 BC)
(INDIA: 24th Jain Tirthankar)
Mahavira was the 24th and most recent tirthankara (“ford maker” or “creator of the religious community”) of the Indian religion of Jainism. He is often considered as the initiator of Jainism as a major historical religious tradition. According to the standard biographies, he was by birth a prince, who at the age of 30 renounced his family and position to become a wandering ascetic. Through twelve and a half years of severe ascetic practice and absolute non-violence, Mahavira attained full enlightenment (omniscience). The next thirty years of his life were spent in preaching the doctrines of Jainism. He also met the Magadha ruler, Bimbisara and gave sermons to him.
He died, according to tradition, in 527 BC in the Indian state of Bihar, leaving a group of followers who established Jainism. Through their practice of non-violence, they have deeply influenced Indian culture.
Mahavira laid supreme emphasis on Ahimsa or non-violence, truth and purity in life. Amongst his teachings, non-injury to living-beings is regarded as the highest religion. His codes of ethics are based on sympathy and compassion.