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.
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). 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
After twelve-and-a-half years of rigorous penance, at the age of 43, Mahavira achieved the state of Kevala Jnana (Kevala means "isolation-integration" and Jnana means knowledge). This implies omniscience and release from earthly bondage, corresponding to the bodhi ("enlightenment") of the Buddhas. This happened under a Sala tree on the banks of the Rjupalika River (today Barakar) near a place called Jrmbhikagrama. 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.