2500 years ago, Mahavir Varadhaman, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, appeared in the Kingdom of Vaishali in Kundapur district.
His father Siddhartha ruled Kundapur.
Also, his mother Trishala Devi belonged to the powerful dynasty of king Chetak.
Interestingly, both families adopted Prashavanatha’s Jainism.
Birth of Mahavira
Mahavir’s mother Trishala had 16 extraordinary dreams when he entered her womb.
So, the dream analysts proclaimed-
“Oh queen, You shall bear an extremely valorous son whose fame shall spread far and wide.
He shall bring happiness to society by his sacrifice and morals,”
After nine months, seven and a half days, queen Trishala delivered a handsome boy in 599 BC during Chaitra month.
When the king heard the news, he danced in ecstasy.
Hence, he released all the city captives and minimized the market rates.
Moreover, he got the entire town sprinkled with scented water.
The entire city celebrated the birth of their prince and was immersed in festivity.
Thereafter, the king organized a grand feast on the tenth and honored the guests by donating costly articles.
The king publicly declared-
“The birth of my son has brought prosperity to the land.
Hence, I name him Vardhaman”
Young Vardhaman and the snake
Young Vardhamana grew up in great pomp and luxury.
As a child he displayed all signs of a great warrior.
He thus possessed unmatchable tolerance, patience and equanimity.
Once, young Vardhaman played with his friends near a tree.
Suddenly, they oversaw a fierce-looking serpent, raising its fangs.
All his friends fled in fright. However, Vardhaman stood firm.
Eventually, he lifted the snake by his hand and threw it.
Since he stayed fearless and defeated all trials, people call him Mahavir (or the brave one).
Mahavir’s school life
Mahavir as a student displayed unquestionable insight.
In school, his tutor would hear his answers dumbfounded.
At a tender age, he had mastered grammer, literature, duties, ethics and warfare.
Mahavir renounces the world
At the age of thirty, Mahavir renounced the world. Being a prince, he never lacked any bodily comfort.
Servants stood ready to fulfill every requirement.
However, Mahavir Vardhaman had something great to accomplish.
Mahavir was large-hearted. He would verily feel for his people and find ways to help them
The state of the country
The country faced dire times. In the name of religion, people became atrocious.
They sacrificed mute animals to fulfil petty desires.
A lot of suprersition grew in the name of gods and goddesses.
Women and Shudras faced discrimination. People manhandled them to suit their ego.
No love existed between people.
Deceit, debauchery, treachery, enmity were on the rise. The entire environment had turned violent.
Hence, Vardhaman’s heart melted in compassion.
He thought “I must first cultivate soul power to bring back peace in the world”
Mahavir was an inborn ascetic. But now he discarded his royal accoutrements and comforts.
Leaving his bereaved family, Mahavira accepted Sanyasa by shaving off his hair.
Thus, he decided to smilingly undergo all trials.
The great king assumed the guise of a seeker like a resolute warrior.
The difficulties faced by Mahavir
On seeing him beg arms in the naked and dusty state, the fearful children threw stones at him.
Some abused him while others beat him with sticks.
Yet, the epitome of bravery, Vardhaman forgave everyone and tolerated all the tribulations with a smile.
Mostly he remained silent.
Also, he never showed interest in sensuous pleasures like dancing, singing and warfare.
He would reside at the city outskirts, gardens, crematorium or simply under trees in isolation.
Vardhaman never slept peacefully for a moment.
Instead he would cautiously sit for meditation or start strolling.
During harsh winters when people hid in their homes, Mahavir would spread his arms widely and invite the frosting cold.
However, He underwent serious tribulations in West bengal.
The violent residents released wild dogs on him and exiled him from the village.
Sometimes they even dissected his meat and threw sand on him.
Likewise, they would manhandle and physically assault him.
Many times mistaking him to be a spy they imprisoned him.
The cowherd story
Once, a cowherd searching for a bull saw Vardhaman seated peacefully.
Suddenly he spotted Mahavir and enquired about the bull.
However Mahavir had undertaken a vow of silence.
This pricked the cowherd’s ego.
Hence, he picked up a wooden nail and pierced it into Vardhaman’s ears.
Mahavir smilingly tolerated the pain, but never uttered a word of complaint.
Such was his tolerance. He was truly mahavir or the brave one, for he had conquered the inner faculties.
One hearing this tale, ordinary men quiver in horror.
Glories to such an elevated soul!
And brave is the land of Bharat that witnessed his birth!
On falling sick, he never got himself treated.
He had already stopped pitta cleansing, vomiting, applying pastes, bathing, brushing etc.
Thus, he showed no attachment to the body.
Moreveoer, he never wore clothes and tolerantly withstood all the environmental pressures.
“I am not the body, but the ever-free soul.
That very soul is the embodiment of Ishwara.
Each soul has the potency of the lord.”
Hence, he stood by this principle and kept his spirits high.
In 24 hours, he ate simple food only once a day without complaint.
The food being unpalatable, he would mostly fast
Sometimes he would starve for the entire month, never did he complain.
Thus he underwent all tribulations with an equipoise.
Mahavir attains enlightenment
All of a sudden he experienced a penetrating state of calm and tranquility.
The sun of knowledge arose within.
He trembled in ecstasy.
His severe austerities had borne fruit today.
All his vices, conflicts and doubts came to an end as his heart dazzled with the torch of knowledge.
Now he could clearly see the path of wellbeing. He thus got busy preaching dharma.
The four types of Sanghas in Jainism
His teachings became popular. People from distant lands came to hear his discourses. To effectively spread his teachings, Mahavir designed four divisions or sanghas-
1) Sadhu 2) Sadhavi 3) Shravak and 4) Shravika
They resided in little cottages. Thousands would follow a single preceptor, following a similar set of doctrine.
Hence , they learnt multiple languages.
Even they followed the precepts of Mahavira.
1) Not accepting food especially cooked for them
2) Not accept invitations
3) Not eat late-night meals
4) Not cause harm to others
Lord Mahavir and the serpent Chanda Kaushika
Once lord Mahavir wished to visit the village Vachala.
For directions he asked a few villagers .
They said “There are two routes.
One goes safely to the village- the long route while the other is short but involves danger.
A poisonous snake named Chanda kaushika resided there.
Hence I suggest you take the longer route.”
Lord Mahavir being fearless, chose the shorter route. Eventually, the snake hissed and tried to frighten the seer but to no avail.
So it bit him on his foot.
However the poison failed to work on Mahavir.
Streams of milk emerge from his feet in place of blood.
With eyes full of compassion, Mahavir said-
“Oh Chanda Kaushik, Relax.
Discard your anger.”
His words had a calming effect on the snake.
As a result, the snake recalled two of his past lives by Vardhaman’s blessings.
In repentance, it bowed down as a transformed being.
Finally, the snake returned to his hole and with a promise “From henceforth, I shall never harm any soul”
Thus, Mahavir commenced his journey.
You may also want to read- Story of Siddhartha Gautama
Thanks for reading!