INDIA: Today is Mahavir Jayanti, the birth of the 24th Tirthankara. Lord Mahavir was 24th and the last Tirthankara (spiritual leader) of Jainism. According to the Gregorian Calendar, Mahavir Jayanti is celebrated in March or April. This year the auspicious day is being celebrated on April 25. On this auspicious day, Jains carry out a procession with the idol of Lord Mahavir and they sing religious songs and celebrate this day with full fervor and enthusiasm.
However, this time the celebration of Mahavir Jayanti will look a little different due to the ongoing second wave of COVID-19. On this pious occasion, it will be worth browsing the life of this great spiritual preacher.
Lord Mahavir was born as Prince Vardhamana to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala of the Ikshvaku Dynasty. He was born in 599 B.C. on the thirteenth day of the rising moon during the month of Chaitra in the Vira Nirvana Samvat calendar. According to the Gregorian calendar, Vardhamana was born during the month of March-April, which is when Mahaveer Jayanti is celebrated today. According to most historians, he was born in Kshatriyakund in the Kingdom of Vaishali which is in modern-day Bihar.
When Queen Trishala was pregnant, she had the 14 dreams depicted in Jain scriptures indicating that her unborn child was destined to soar at a greater height in his life. His parents were followers of the Jain ascetic Parashwanatha. As a child, Vardhamana was calm and quiet but, very brave. He displayed acts of great valor several times during tricky situations. He was brought up in great pomp and luxury. Yet he led a very simple life. Following his parent’s advice, he married Princess Yashoda, at a very young age and the couple had a daughter, Priyadarshana. The Digambara sect of Jainism believes that Vardhamana refused to get married when his parents insisted.
Abdication and renunciation
His interest in the beliefs of Jainism from an early age drew him to meditate. When he was 30 age, he abdicated the throne and left his family to seek spiritual truth. He chose an extremely ascetic life spending most of his time meditating and remained in silence for more than 12 years. First, he ate only for one time, then ate an alternate day. Soon, he stopped eating and drank only water. He was searching for the final knowledge which could liberate his soul. His way was quite akin to that of Lord Buddha who was contemporary of his time. Finally, he dropped all his clothes and became fully naked.
Attaining the final knowledge, Kaivalya
According to traditional accounts, Mahavir achieved Kaivalya Gyan (omniscience, or infinite knowledge) under a Sal tree on the bank of the River Rijubalika (present-day Barker river) near Jrimbhikagrama at age 43 after twelve years of rigorous penance. Jains believe that Mahavir had a most auspicious body and was free from eighteen imperfections when he attained omniscience. He traveled throughout India for his preachings for thirty years after attaining omniscience.
Lord Mahavir preached five principles that every household person must adopt to attain omniscience. They are- Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (chastity), and Aparigraha (non-attachment). His teachings are called Jain Agamas and they are universal.
Lord Mahavir attained Nirvana (died) in 527 BCE at Pawapuri, Magadha (present-day Nalanda district, Bihar, India).