Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

Jainism  -  Respect For All Life

The birth of Jainism
Mahavira the Path-Maker
The Enlightenment
The Rise of Jainism
  The Two Sects
  The Scriptures
  Rise and Fall
  Jain Beliefs-The Universe
  The Soul
  Karma and Rebirth
  The way of Salvation
  The Everyday Life of a Jain
  The Life of an Ascetic
  Ways of Worship
  Temples and Domestic Shrines
  Ninian Smart

Mahavira the Path-Maker



Vardhamana, known to his followers as Maharira (the Great Hero), was an elder contemporary of the Buddha.  Although the legends surrounding his life are less attractive than those surrounding the Buddha�s, being even more formalized and unreliable, he was undoubtedly a historical person.  Under the name of Nigantha Nataputta, he is often mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures as one of the Buddha�s chief opponents.

The second son of Siddhartha, a Kshatriya chieftain, Mahavira was born around 540 BC at Kundagrama, near modern Patna in Bihar, and died in 468 BC according to scholarly opinion; but the tradition says 599-527 BC.

On both sides of the family he belonged to the ruling warrior classes which were a powerful force at the time.  Educated as a prince, according to one tradition Mahavira remained a bachelor for life; according to another he married a princess who bore him a daughter.  Either way, at the age of twenty-eight, on the death of his parents, he renounced his family life to become a beggar and ascetic, seeking liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

At first he followed the ascetic practices of a group founded some 250 years earlier by a certain Parsva.  Parsva is known as the twenty-third and Mahavira as the twenty-fourth of the Tirthankaras, the `Ford-makers�, �Path-makers� or great teachers of Jainism, who guide their followers across the river of transmigration, For over twelve years Mahavira wandered from place to place, living a life of the greatest austerity and engaging in disputation.  At first he wore only a single piece of cloth, but after thirteen months he discarded even that encumbrance and for the rest of his Life went about naked.