Lord Mahavira is the twenty-fourth Tirthankar. He was born in 599 B.C. at Kshatriyakund which was a part of the well known Vaishäli republic. Mahavira’s father was King Siddartha and his mother was Queen Trishala, who were both devoted followers of Parshva. Mahavira was born in Kundapura and according to a legend, his mother had 14 prophetic dreams, which were indications that he would become a sage and an enlightened guide for his people.
Though Mahavira was born with worldly comforts and luxuries, they never attracted him. He lived a simple life. So when his parents died, he decided to be a monk. He asked for permission from his brother. His brother was still mourning the loss of their parents. He therefore requested Mahavira to wait for a couple of years before leaving. Mahavira waited for two years, during which he led a totally detached life. After realizing this, his brother gave him permission to become a monk. Mahavira was thirty years old when he gave up his worldly life and all worldly activities. He spent most of his time in austerity and in meditation. He suffered a great deal of physical pain and torture from various sources. Among them, the most severe was the biting by the highly poisonous snake Chandakaushik. Lord Mahavira remained calm and peaceful in the midst of all these torturous events. He never lost his serenity and never developed hatred for anyone. He magnanimously forgave all of them. He led such a highly austere life for twelve and a half years. At the age of forty-two he attained omniscience, Kevaljnan. He became Jina, the twenty-forth Tirthankar of the present era. As omniscient he knew everything of the past present and future.
During the time of Lord Pärshvanäth there were four great vows followed by monks and nuns. Realizing the status of mind of current and future sadhus and sadhvis, Lord Mahavira added one more vow to them. The five vows are:
1) Non-violence (Ahimsa)
2) Truth (Satya)
3) Non-stealing (Asteya)
4) Chastity (Brahmacharya, added by Mahavira)
5) Non-possession (Aparigraha).
During his times violent sacrificial rituals were conducted by people in the name of religion. The teachings of Lord Mahavir opened their eyes, and they also adopted the principle of non-violence. His sermons encouraged people to build a happy and harmonious society.
After offering guidance to the public for thirty years, Lord Mahavira attained Nirvän in 527 B.C., at the age of seventy-two. Nirväna means that he attained liberation and became a Siddha who no longer has to undergo the cycle of birth and death.