Mahavir Jayanti: The Life of Mahavira in Bihar

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Mahavira, also known as Vardhamāna, was the twenty-fourth and last Jain Tirthankara (Teaching God). Mahavira is often called the founder of Jainism, but this was not the case because the Jain tradition recognizes his predecessors.

Birth Place: Vaishali, Bihar

Mahavira was born into a royal family in what is now Bihar, India, in either 599 BC or 480 BC. At the age of 30, he left his home in pursuit of spiritual awakening, and abandoned worldly things, including his clothes, and became a Jain monk. For the next twelve-and-a-half years, Mahavira practiced intense meditation and severe penance, after which he became kevalī(omniscient).

For the next 30 years he travelled throughout South Asia to teach Jain philosophy. Mahavira taught that the observance of the vows ahimsa (non-injury), satya (truth), asteya (non-thieving), brahmacharya (chastity) and aparigraha (non-attachment) is necessary to elevate the quality of life. The teachings of Mahavira were compiled by Gautama Swami (chief disciple) and were called Jain Agamas. Most of these Agamas are not available today. Jains believe Mahavira attained moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death) at the age of 72.

Names

Mahavira’s childhood name was Vardhamāna (“the one who grows”), because of the increased prosperity in the kingdom at the time of his birth. He was called Mahavira (“the great hero”) because of the acts of bravery he performed during his childhood. Mahavira was given the title Jīnā (“the victor or conqueror of inner enemies such as attachment, pride and greed”), which later became synonymous with Tirthankara.

Buddhist texts refer to Mahavira as Nigaṇṭha JñātaputtaNigaṇṭha means “without knot, tie, or string” and Jñātaputta(son of Natas), refers to his clan of origin as Jñāta or Naya (Prakrit).[13][15][16] He is also known as Sramana (seeker).

Birth

Belonging to Kashyapa gotra, Mahavira was born into the royal Kshatriya family of King Siddhartha and QueenTrishala (sister of King Chetaka of Vaishali) of the Ikshvaku dynasty, on the thirteenth day of the rising moon ofChaitra in the Vira Nirvana Samvat calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, this date falls in March or April and is celebrated as Mahavir Jayanti. Traditionally, Kundalpur in the ancient city of Kashtriya Kund Lachhuar is regarded as his birthplace ,at present this is comes under Sikandra Division of Jamui district, Bihar ;. After his birth, anointment andabhisheka (consecration)—carried out by Indra on Mount Meru, the axis of the central cosmic contingent of Jambudvipa—he was given the name Vardhamāna.

The Birth of Mahavira, from the Kalpa Sutra, c.1375-1400
The Birth of Mahavira, from the Kalpa Sutra, c.1375-1400

Early life

As the son of a king, Mahavira had all luxuries of life at his disposal. According to the second chapter of the Śvētāmbaratext Acharanga Sutra, both his parents were followers of Parshvanatha and lay devotees of Jain ascetics. Jain traditions do not agree about his marital state; according to the Digambara tradition, Mahavira’s parents wanted him to marry Yashoda but Mahavira refused to marry. According to the Śvētāmbara tradition, he was married to Yashoda at a young age and had one daughter, Priyadarshana.

Lord Mahaveer attaining enlightment in squating/goduhasana posture
Lord Mahaveer attaining enlightment in squating/goduhasana posture

Renunciation

At the age of thirty, Mahavira abandoned the comforts of royal life and left his home and family to live an ascetic life in the pursuit of spiritual awakening. He underwent severe penances, meditated under the Ashoka tree and discarded his clothes. There is a graphic description of his hardships and humiliation in the Acharanga Sutra. He suffered great distress in eastern Bengal; boys pelted him with stones and people often humiliated him. According to Kalpa Sūtra, Mahavira spent forty-two monsoons of his ascetic life at Astikagrama, Champapuri, Prstichampa, Vaishali, Vanijagrama, Nalanda, Mithila, Bhadrika, Alabhika, Panitabhumi, Shravasti and Pawapuri.

 

Sanskriti
A girl from the capital of Bihar, trying to understand the past underdevelopment of Bihar and exploring the ways to improve the status of the State

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