Mahavira (Sanskrit: महावीर:), also known as Vardhamana, was the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism

He was the spiritual successor of the 23rd Tirthankara Parshvanatha

Tradition holds that Mahavira was born in the early part of the 6th century BCE into a royal Jain family in Bihar, India

But many scholars believe this date to be as much as 100 years early

His mother’s name was Trishala and his father’s name was Siddhartha

They were lay devotees of Parshvanatha

Mahavira abandoned all worldly possessions at the age of about 30 and left home in pursuit of spiritual awakening, becoming an ascetic

Mahavira practiced intense meditation and severe austerities for twelve and a half years, after which he attained Kevala Jnana (omniscience)

He preached for 30 years and attained Moksha (liberation) in the 6th century BCE, although the year varies by sect

Historically, Mahavira, who preached Jainism in ancient India, was an older contemporary of Gautama Buddha

Mahavira taught that observance of the vows of ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity), and aparigraha (non-attachment) are necessary for spiritual liberation

He taught the principles of Anekantavada (many-sided reality): syadvada and nayavada

Mahavira’s teachings were compiled by Indrabhuti Gautama (his chief disciple) as the Jain Agamas

The texts, transmitted orally by Jain monks, are believed to have been largely lost by about the 1st century CE (when the remaining were first written down in the Svetambara tradition)

The surviving versions of the Agamas taught by Mahavira are some of Svetambara Jainism’s foundation texts, but their authenticity is disputed in Digambara Jainism

Mahavira is usually depicted in a sitting or standing meditative posture, with the symbol of a lion beneath him

His earliest iconography is from archaeological sites in the North Indian city of Mathura, and is dated from between the 1st century BCE and the 2nd century CE

His birth is celebrated as Mahavir Janma Kalyanak and his nirvana (salvation) and also his first shishya (spiritual enlightenment) of Shri Gautama Swami is observed by Jains as Diwali