MAHAVIRA Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Mahavira (599 - 527 BCE, though possibly 549 - 477 BCE)                           
is the name most commonly used to refer to the Indian sage Vardhamana             
who established what are today considered to be the                               
central tenets of Jainism. According to Jain tradition, he was the 24th and the   
last Tirthankara. He is also known in texts as Vira or Viraprabhu, Sanmati,       
Ativira, and Gnatputra. In the Theravada Buddhist scriptures he is referred to     
as the Nirgrantha Nathaputta.                                                     
In a place called Kundagram in the ancient kingdom of Vaishali (modern day Bihar, 
India), Mahavira was born to King Siddartha and Queen Trishala on the 13th day     
under the rising moon of Chaitra (April 12 according to the Gregorian calendar).   
While still in his mother's womb it is believed he brought wealth and prosperity   
to the entire kingdom, which is why he was also known as Vardhaman. An increase   
of all good things, like the abundant bloom of beautiful flowers, was noticed in   
the kingdom after his conception. Queen Trishala had 14 (16 in Digambara Sect)     
auspicious dreams before giving birth to Vardhaman, signs foretelling the advent   
of a great soul.                                                                   
Jain tradition states that after his birth, Indra bathed him in celestial milk     
with rituals befitting a future Tirthankar and he was returned to his mother,     
Trishala. Many Jains believe that Vardhaman was actually conceived by the         
Brahmin Devananda but was transferred to the womb of Trishala by Indra             
because all Tirthankars had to be born into the Kshatriya caste.                   
Vardhaman's birthday is celebrated as Mahavir Jayanti, the most important         
religious holiday of Jains around the world. Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated with   
prayers, decorations, processions and festivity.