5:09 pm - Tuesday March 3, 7474

Historical Personality

Sages, Rushis and Saints of India


The young prince who gave up power, position and money to follow hte path of Jainish. He spent twelve long years in strict meditation and became a light to millions.


Kundapura was a suburb of Vaishali, the capital of the Lichchavi Republic. On the outskirts of the town was a large grove of banyan trees. In the center of that grove was a very big tree.

One morning its branches were of boys who had climbed the tree. They were so deeply interested in their games that they had forgotten the whole world. One of the boys standing below looked up. At once he screamed, "A serpent, a serpent, a python!" He threw away stick in his hand and began to run.

The boys on the tree top were frightened. Right from the center of the trunk a serpent was moving down! At once all the boys jumped down and ran towards the town.

The Brave Prince

A few boys who ran away from the tree stood at a distance from it and looked back. The fearful form of the serpent could be seen even from that distance. But there seemed to be something close to the serpent. What could that be' The boys looked at it with wide-open eyes. A boy was sitting there unperturbed. What courage! Who could that be' The person on the tree was none other than Prince Vardhamana.

Immediately some of them carried the news to the palace. The Maharaja, the Maharani and the bodyguards rushed to the scene.

The brave young prince on the top of the banyan tree was watching the movements of the python without batting an eyelid. The python was also trying to terrify him. It was also bewildered. It hissed. Furiously it put out its split tongue. It looked at him threateningly. It made noises. It stood up as if to attack. It beat its tail very close as if to smash him. The brave lad sat firm like a mountain. The serpent accepted defeat. The brave lad stepped on the serpent and descended from the tree top as if he was stepping down a ladder.

The courage and fortitude of the brave prince astounded the people who watched him. The parents felt as if they themselves had come back from the jaws of death. They embraced the boy and kissed him. From that day the boy came to be known as Mahaveera (the Great Hero).

Chetaka Of Lichchavi

Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Saran are districts of the Bihar State today. Two and a half thousand years ago this region was called Vajjio ' country. It meant that it was the land of the Lichchavis. The same region was also called Videha. Its capital Vaishali was very famous. The river Gandaki flowed in the middle of the city of Vaishali. On each of its banks was a suburb. One of these was Kshathriya- kundagrama. The other was Brahmana- kundagrama. Kshathriyakundagrama was popularly known as Kundapura.

The country of the Lichchavis was a republic. Its chief representative who was elected by its constituent units was called the 'Ganaraja'. It had a king as well. But the king depended on the advice and the consent of the ganarajas in ruling the country. There was unanimity among the Lichchavis of Vaishali.They took decisions on all big questions after consultations. Their enemies were afraid of the Lichchavis because of this spirit of unity. One incident deserves to be remembered.

Ajathashathru was the King of Magadha. He thought of invading the Lichchavi Country. He went to Buddha for advice.

Buddha advised Ajathashathru thus: "No one can touch the hair of a Lichchavi so long as they meet together to exchange views, take unanimous decisions, do not violate laws, respect the words of their elders, honor their women, attend Jain temples and worship -and honor their saints." These are words of deep significance. Ajathashathru gave up his plan.

Chetaka was the famous King of Vaishali. He was the overlord of the smaller kingdoms of Kashi and the nine Lichchavis of Koshala. He had seven daughters.

Chetaka wanted to establish friendly relations with his neighbours. He gave his daughters in marriage to most important personalities. Only Sujyestha (Chandane) did not marry. She took the vows of Jaina Diksha and became a nun.

Thrishala was the eldest daughter of Chetaka. (According to the Jain Shwethambar sect Thrishaladevi was the sister of Chetaka.) She was always doing pleasing things. So Thrishala was called Priyakarini (she who does what is pleasing). Of all the ganarajas, Chetaka trusted and loved Siddhartha most. He was the Ganaraja of Kundapura. Kundapura was famous for its trade. Siddhartha was also a Jain. He belonged to the Gnathru sect among the Lichchavis. They were Kshathriyas. They were famous for truth and nonviolence. They did not eat meat. They never drank wine. So Chetaka celebrated the marriage of his first daughter Priyakarini with Siddhartha.

Jaina Dharma

India has been the home of many religions, which have shown mankind the way to true happiness. Jainism (Shravana Dharma) is one of them. The Jains revere sixty-three great teachers of the past. They are called Thrishashti Shalaka Maha- purushas. They are: 24 Thirthankaras, 12 Emperors, 9 Narayanas, 9 Baladevas, 9 Prathinarayanas. Thirthankaras are also called Jinas. Arhanthas etc. The first among the Thirthankaras is Vrishabha- natha. He is also called Purudeva or Rishabhadeva.

Parshvanatha is the twenty-third Arhantha in the Vrishabhanatha Thirthankara order. Lakhs of people followed Jainism as it was taught by Parshvanatha. In Lichchavi they formed the majority. Like Chetaka, Siddhartha and Priyakarini were also deeply influenced by the Jainism taught by Parshvanatha. Their lives were devoted to good thoughts and good deeds. They practised Ahimsa in action, word and thought.

Vardhamana's Birth

Priyakarini became pregnant. Summer dawned. It was the year 599 B.C. On the morning of Monday, the thirteenth day in the first fortnight of Chaithra (the first month of summer), a boy was born. With lightning speed the news was carried to the king.

The nurses made way for Siddhartha as soon as he arrived. A decorated cradle by the side of the cot - a living jewel inside it! This was the light the two spirits had brought forth, the young and bright hope of their family.

Siddhartha seemed to fill his sight with Priyakarini. He spoke to her to his heart's content. And Priyakarini forgot all the pain of childbirth.

It was the eleventh day after the birth of the child. The child was to be given a name. Kundapura wore a festive appearance. There was joy everywhere. Green festoons smiled everywhere and rows of lights brightened every house in the night.

Everyone received a generous gift. Every citizen of Kundapura got a Gadyana (a gold coin). The poor were fed. Prisoners were set free and given food and clothing. Every one wished Siddhartha's son joy and prosperity. The citizens named the child as Vardhamana. The parents called him Veera.

What Can The Elephant Do'

Vardhamana grew stronger from day to day. He began to crawl on all fours. He spoke sweet wards. He was as intelligent as he was lovely. At the age of five Vardhamana did not know what fear was. He used to go fearlessly anywhere at any time. Once he was playing with his friends. A wild elephant began to run towards the playground. The elephant crushed under its feet anything that crossed its path. It struck with its trunk anyone who came in its way. Seeing this from a distance the playmates of Vardhamana began to shiver. They ran helter-skelter. But Vardhamana, fearless, stood still and firm. The elephant saw the little boy. It stretched its trunk. The boy quickly escaped. The elephant lifted its trunk once again. Vardhamana rushed forward and held its trunk, put his foot on its knee and quickly climbed over its crown, sat on its neck, patted its cheek and brought the elephant under control. He took the elephant to the palace. No danger could dim his courage. So he came to be known as Mahaveera.


Mahaveera grew up in the company of Kshathriyas, members of the warriors' clan. He was instructed in the use of arms worthy of the Kshathriyas; he became an expert rider and a master wrestler. He was foremost among swimmers. He became proficient in music. He was introduced to the fine arts. Thus his physical prowess and intellectual prowess developed evenly. Everyone could see clearly the growth of these powers. But there was a power growing within that people could not see. This third power was the soul-force, the strength of the Atma. But the time was not ripe yet for its outward expression.

Mahaveera was the joy of Siddhartha and Priyakarini. The son was certain to bring fame to the family. He was full of virtues. He had completed his education at the Gurukula (the teacher's ashram). He had learnt much from experience.

The Siddhartha couple thought: Mahaveera has the ability and the training to take charge of the administration. He is old enough to marry. Why delay' We can crown him king and give up our worldly lives, take the vows of Jainism and spend our days in meditation and prayer.

Certain events sharpened this desire of Siddhartha and Priyakarini. Many kings, nobles and princes desired that Mahaveera should marry their daughters; oil paintings of many brides piled up, for Mahaveera's choice.

One-day Mahaveera's mother spoke to him about this. She placed before him the paintings. The father also arrived. Mahaveera did not like to oppose at once the persuasive words of his parents. He only moved the paintings from 'one side to another as if he had examined them.

Mahaveera was attracted by the teachings of Parshvanatha, which his parents followed. He looked like one who was very much attached to the external world. But within he had developed a love for Dharma and was not interested in worldly life. True, he had grown up among the Kshathriyas. Physically the virtues of the warrior race had developed in him. Within, he was preparing for a war, too. But this was war of a different kind. Mahaveera got ready to fight against enemies like Anger, Illusion, Greed and Love of Earthly Things. To conquer and subdue these was a truly great victory, he thought. His approach to administration was different, too. He had faith in a moral and just democracy. He did not like a life of luxury and ease. Such a life seemed brief and passing. He wanted to get that which was deathless.

That was a dark period in the cultural history of the country. Gods and deities numbered hundreds. Dumb animals were sacrificed to them and blood flowed like a river. Man lived like a Rakshasa. In addition there was the curse of untouchability. Men were squeezing the 'untouchables' in the mill of cruelty. Women did not have the same rights as men. Violence was supreme. All these disturbed the mind of Mahaveera.

But day in and day out Siddhartha and Priyakarini were trying to compel Mahaveera to agree for marry and becomes a householder.

Mahaveera thought of a plan. 'I do not want marriage this year', he said and thus put it off. They also agreed. Years passed. Then doubts arose in their minds. Mahaveera was upset. She grew impatient and tried to find a suitable bride for her son at once. Yashoda was a beautiful and virtuous girl and an artist. Priyakarini selected her for her daughter-in-law.

But the father, Siddhartha, had begun to understand his son better. His doubts began when the son said he did not want marriage. He understood the son's path. He appreciated the ideals of his son. He informed his wife Priyakarini of this.

"Mahaveera has decided to remain bachelor!"


"Mahaveera has decided to give up family life and to become a sanyasin."

"Oh God! How can I endure this!" said Priyakarini and swooned. Father and son did all they could for her. Priyakarini Began to regain her lost consciousness. Her heart had been wounded. Right at that time two great sages Sanjaya and Vijaya arrived. They were studying the Scriptures of the Jains and had a doubt. They wanted help. As soon as they came to Mahaveera the doubt was cleared. So the sages praised Mahaveera as 'Sanmathi'.

"Please advise Mahaveera. Let him marry and remain in the house like others," Priyakarini begged the monks.

They replied: "Mother, what are you saying' This boy is the reward for the good deeds of several births. Don't come in the way of one who will become a Teacher of all the three worlds."

"Sirs, what do you want me to do now'"

"Bless Mahaveera. Send him to perform Tapas (prayer and meditation),"

"Revered Sirs, my child cannot endure the difficulty of tapas."

"His body is a steel-frame. Isn't his name Mahaveera' Moreover, what tapas require is not physical strength but the strength of the soul. Wish him well, mother."

Mahaveera prostrated before his mother. In a voice majestic like the voice of the sea he said, "Mother, you know everything. You are my elder. You have given birth to me. This world is Maya, mere illusion. The things and people of this world are short-lived like bubbles. It is full of misery and pain and disease. Where is happiness in worldly life' I am going to seek eternal truth. Please bless me."

It was the year 569 B.C. According to the Indian calendar, the day was the tenth day of the second half of the month of Magha. Throwing away the chains of worldly life Mahaveera turned towards tapas or spiritual life. He gave up wealth, palace and relatives. Compared with his high ideals all these looked like mere straw.

All the people of Kundapura have assembled. There is the palace where Mahaveera was born and brought up. These are the highways where he used to wander, here are the gardens, in which he had played and danced. Here are assembled the citizens who have admired him and showered flowers on him. Lo, the banyan grove where he stamped the snake with his feet! Ah, here is the parade ground where he subdued the wild elephant. Mahaveera looked around, like a lion surveying the land he has crossed. His eyes stood still as he saw the feet of his parents - the feet which he had seen and worshipped every day. He bowed again. The mother's tears fell on Mahaveera's head. The world has to be renounced for the sake of the Atma; tears are but the forerunners for the coronation as the king of the realm of tapas---- so thought Mahaveera.

Mahaveera bowed to all. He entered the palanquin. Thousands of people shouted, 'Victory!' The people of Kundapura felt honored to bear the palanquin on their shoulders. Elephant, horse, chariot and the infantry led the royal send-off given to Mahaveera.

The Recluse

By the side of Kundagrama there was a garden called Shandavana. At the center was the happy blossoming Ashoka tree. The palanquin was lowered near the tree.

Mahaveera descended. He stood facing the East. Then he sat on the marble bench. He removed the garlands around his neck, and also all the ornaments. He took off the fine and expensive clothes and made a pile. He had now no love of the body. All these comforts were no longer needed. A Jain monk removes the hair from his head with his own hands. Mahaveera had such a luxurious growth of hair! So with his own hands he removed the hair. The people who had come with him left. Siddhartha and Priyakarini also returned to the palace. Without her son the palace looked like a prison to the mother. She sent Yashoda to her parents. (According to the Shwethambars Mahaveera had married Yashoda and had a daughter by her. But the Digambars do not accept this view.)

Mahaveera fasted for two and a half days. He did not drink even a drop of water. He was far away from the world of men. He was all, all alone. For twelve years from 569 B.C. to 557 B.C. Mahaveera led a monk's life. He had no other Gurus or teachers. He was his own Guru. Thirthan- kara Parshvantha's teaching was the high road before him. He led the rigorous life of a monk. He paid no attention to the body. He did not think of protecting the body. All his thoughts were only about the soul. He did not stay in the same place for long. He had nothing with him.

His body was naked. He wore no clothes. Insects bit him. Mosquitoes stung him. Ants bit him. Flies moved on his body. Mahaveera was not even aware of all this. He inflicted no pain on the insects or plants. They too have life like us. Inflicting pain on living beings is wrong. People laughed at his naked form. Some made fun of him. The riff-raff cried them hoarse. Mischievous fellows began to whistle. The ignorant beat him. The wicked hurled stones at him. Mahaveera did not protest. He forgave them all. His patience was UN-limit. He did not complain that he suffered pain. He did not turn round on them. He did not abuse them, or curse them. He did not say a word to them.

Days and weeks were passed. He used to observe the vow of silence for months together. He was lost in thinking about the, soul. He did not mix with the people. Some abused him. Some bowed to him. Mahaveera treated both equally. He was not angry with those who blamed him. Nor did he show favor to those who bowed before him. Nothing could disturb his mind. Many spoke to him. They asked questions. Mahaveera did not break his long silence.

Severe Tapas

Mahaveera was determined to attain the highest knowledge. He was determined to destroy the bondage of action and its effect. So he undertook severe tapas - prayer and meditation. He meditated for days without a pause. He remained perfectly pure. A life of dedication is like walking on a razor's edge. Mahaveera spent days and nights in single-minded concentration. He wandered far and wide during the day. But he did not travel at night. Mahaveera was not worried about certain place cluing the nighttime. The smell of manure and the sweet scent of sandal were the same to him. He spent the night where he happened to be - a fair, a choultry, a cottage, the shelter of a tree, a village, a town, a garden, a field or a burial ground. Did he desire sound sleep' Was he to slumber for seven to eight hours' He had only four or five hours of sleep a day.

On some days he slept just for an hour or two. Even in winter he did not coverhimself with a sheet. He prayed under the trees in cold and wind. It was the same even in summer. The bare body became black in the hot sun. He used no oil, no soap-nut powder. He did not rub the body with his hands or stones. Even if there was itching he did not scratch himself. He did not bathe. He applied no medicines to wounds.

His Food

He ate a very small and limited quantity. He had no vessels with him. He was naked. He was empty-handed. How was he to eat' The hand itself was his vessel! Mahaveera followed very strict rules about his food. He did not want to trouble any one on his account. He would not touch food, which was specially prepared for him. Food, which makes the senses, sharper was not for him. He did not want a sumptuous meal. He ate only once a day. And then he would not have even a drop of water till mealtime the next day. He was very strict even on his rounds seeking food. While walking he would closely observe ten feet of the ground before him. He did not want ants or insects to be crushed under the feet. He would touch no food if he saw a hungry crow. He fasted if he chanced to see a thirsty animal. He would go back it a cat or dog crossed his path. Sometimes, because of such rigorous rules he used to fast for twelve days continuously. Fasts of six to seven days' duration were countless. A month's fast too became a matter of course. He would accept food only in houses to which he was invited with love. Cottage and palace he treated alike. He was satisfied if the family was vegetarian - or even it there was a single vegetarian preparation. Cleanliness, and not taste, was important. He ate very little. How was he to eat even that much' Seated comfortably' Sifting on a plank or mat' In a silver or gold plate' All these have no place here. He used the vessel that he had brought with him at birth - his hand. He stood as he ate. Those offering food had to do so gladly. Whatever they could offer was enough. He had no rules about the quality or the quantity of the food. Those offering food had to stand before their houses and pray Mahaveera with devotion to accept bhiksha. If he stopped it was a sign of acceptance. First they washed his feet at the doorstep. Then, when he entered the house, they poured water on his hand. After washing his hands he would place his right palm on the left palm, still standing. The right palm was itself the cup, the plate and the spoon. People who offered food did so in morsels placing each morsel in the palm. Mahaveera would examine it with his fingers to see it there were hairs or insects. It there was an insect or a hair in the food, he ended his meal at once. He would wash his hands and leave silently. He fasted on that day. And then he would go out seeking food only the next day.

For six months after ordination, he ate nothing. It was a long fast. Only after that he went for bhiksha (food offered by devotees). The chief of Kulapura gave the first bhiksha. Mahaveera spent 12 years 5 months and 15 days in tapas. During this period he had food only 349 times. Mahaveera would not stay in one place for a long period. He used to move like mercury from place to place. He used to remain in a village only for a day. He spent four days in a town and ten days in a forest. Only during the rainy season he would live in one place. This is called chathurmasayoga. Mahaveera spent his very first chathurmasa in Asthigrama. This town is in Bengal now and is known as Burdwan. Mahaveera had no anger, pain or pride. And no greed whatever. His mind was always at peace. Like the sky Mahaveera depended on no one and needed no help. He was majestic like the ocean and gentle as the moon. What fear has a man who has given up everything' On the outskirts of Asthigrama isShoolpani Mandir. No one used to go near it at night. Even during the day people was afraid to go there. The reason was that there was an evil spirit in that Mandir. Mahaveera camped in that Mandir itself. The evil spirit gave him much trouble. In the same way he spent chathurmasa in places like Siddagrama, Vaishali, Vanijagrama and Shravathsi.

The path of this kind of tapas is very difficult. Many are the obstacles. In North India some sanyasis were creating havoc. Their gang troubled Mahaveera also. But by his self-discipline Mahaveera overcame the obstacles placed by them.Mahaveera's trials did not end here. He had to face two other difficult trials. He stayed in Shravathsi for the eleventh chathurmasa. There he was troubled by a man called Sanghamakha who had fallen into evil ways. He tormented Mahaveera for months, following him everywhere. He disguised himself like a disciple of Mahaveera. He committed thefts in houses. He got caught willfully and lied, saying 'Mahaveera sent me'. People cursed Mahaveera as a false Guru. They punished him. Sanghamakha did not stop at all. When Mahaveera started for bhiksha he cowed like hungry crows. He came in Mahaveera's way when he was eating. On another day when Mahaveera went for bhiksha Sanghamakha posed like a beggar and deprived him of food. On another day he mewed like a cat from the kitchen just as Mahaveera was about to put the morsel of food in his mouth. Thus Mahaveera burned in the furnace of difficulties. Fie shone like pure molten gold. Sanghamakha was totally defeated. He ran away afraid to show his face. Mahaveera came to Ujjaini. On its outskirts was a fearful burning ground called Athimuktha. No one dared to stop there. It was evening when Mahaveera came there. He had to spend his night in that place. Mahaveera began his prayers. Total darkness descended. Immediately there was thunder and lightning. Thunderbolts roared. Wild animals surrounded him. Lions and tigers roared. The cries of cheetas would have made anyonetremble. Scorpions moved all round. Snakesmoved about with raised hoods. But Mahaveera did not break his great silence. Terrifying masks appeared. But Mahaveera did not fear even for evil spirits. Day dawed. Mahaveera had spent the fearful night calmly.

Mahaveera spent his twelth chaturmasa at Kaushambi. Here he undertook a fast known as Abighraha. On the day of breaking the fast he started for bhiksha. He heard a call, "Oh! Great saint! Stop." That was the voice of a woman appealing to him. He turned to where the sound had come from. She was Chandane, the daughter of King Chetaka. She had remained unmarried and led a life of purity. She had firm faith in Jainism. She had suffered much and was in rags. But she was rich in piety. She had no milk or ghee; not even fruits. Chandane gave him thick rice which had been boiled. Mahaveera accepted it with joy. Chandane's joy knew no bounds.

A Thirthankara

Mahaveera proceeded further. He reached the village Jrumbhika. The river Rujukoola was flowing nearby. Mahaveera sat under a tree. Immersed in medition and prayer he forgot the world. It was the second month of summer. It was the year 557 B.C. According to the Indian calendar, it was the tenth day of the Indian calendar, it was the tenth day of the first fortnight of Vaishakha. The afternoon was declining and the shadows were eastward. Mahaveera was in the Paryankasana posture. He attained Divine Knowledge. This is the attainment of the Highest Knowledge ' enlightenment that enables one to know everything. Mahaveera became a Thirthankra. At the time Mahaveera was 41 years 9 months and 5 days old. There is no drought within a radius of four hundred miles from where a Thirthankara lives. He moves so as not to hurt any living creature. He has only one face, but people looking at him see four faces on all the four sides. He knows all branches of knowledge. His body does not throw a shadow. His eyelids do not move. His nails and hair do not grow.

He Shows The Way

After he became a ThirthankaraMahaveera taught the way of Dharma. He organized a group of disciples. The principal tenets of Mahaveera are the five Vrathas. They are on a small scale for householders. They are therefore called Anuvrathas. For sanyasins they are on a large scale; they are Mahavrathas. The five vrathas he taught are Ahimsa, Astheya, Asathya Thyaga, Aparigraha and Brahmacharya. Ahimsa means non-violence. No pain should be inflicted on any living being. Even the thought of causing pain should be avoided. We should love birds and beasts.

Asathya Tyaga means not telling lies. It means giving up anger and hate.

Astheya means not stealing. It means not desiring another's property.

Aparigraha means keeping only as much as is necessary; this applies to clothes, property, jewels, money, everything. Any thing in excess of one's needs should be given away to others.

Brahmacharya does not mean only remaining unmarried. Even the married must keep their love of pleasure under check. Husband and wife must treat all others as their parents.

Mahaveera organized society into four groups: the Sanyasi, the Sanyasini, the Grihastha (the married man), the Grihini (the married woman). This is called Chathurvarna Sangha. Mahaveera showed the path of salvation to all human beings. He stated that Samyagdarshana, Samyagjnana and Samyagcharithra would lead to salvation. Samyagdarshana means the mind being attracted by the teachings of the Thirthankaras. Samyagjnana means loving study and understanding of those teachings. Samyagcharithra means observation of the precepts without dilution.

Mahaveera loved all living creatures. He regarded all humanity as one. He criticized caste, religion, sect and sub-sects. No one is different because of his birth. Differences arise from actions.

Mahaveera first practised and then preached his teachings. He was the guest of a potter by name Saddala.He converted him. There was a man by name Harikeshi, who was supposed to belong to a very low caste; Mahaveera appointed him to a post of authority in the Society of Jain Monks. He showed that all languages were equal.

'Saraswathi, the Goddess of Learning, is the embodiment of all languages', he declared. He selects the language of the people to explain his teachings. Mahaveera's teaching was a 'Sarvodaya Thirtha', a sacred place where all were made nobler.

His Influence Spreads

Mahaveera's first great victory was securing Mahavijaya Indrabhoothi as his disciple. This man was interested in the performance of yagnas and yagas (religious sacrifices). He had arranged for a yagna in Pavapur. He was criticizing Mahaveera who preached against yagnas. One of Mahaveera's disciples went and put questions to Indrabhoothi. Those questions were based on Jaina Dharma. It became difficult for Indrabhoothi to answer them.

"Who taught you all this'" He asked.

"Mahaveera" was the reply.

"Where is he'"

"Today he has come to your town."

"All right. Come on. I will meet him and argue with him." Indrabhoothi set out.

Mahaveera's voice was called 'Divyadhwani'. That divyadhwani spanned all languages. Each person heard the speech in his own language. There was a Manasthambha (a mighty piller) before the Samavasarana Mantapa. Indrabhoothi looked at that Manasthambha. Immediately his pride and arrogance vanished. All his doubts were cleared. He met Mahaveera. Their debate went on for a long time. Indrabhoothi accepted the superiority of Mahaveera. He gave up his arguments in favor of yagnas. Indrabhoothi became a convert to Jainism with 4400 disciples. Later on he became the chief disciple of Mahaveera. He could explain the tenets of the Thirthankara very ably.

From then onwards Mahaveera's banner of nonviolence flew victoriously throughout the length and breadth of India. Buddhadeva too was a great teacher and the contemporary of Mahaveera. Mahaveera endowed India with the diamond armour of ahimsa. He bestowed honor and equality on woman. He declared that in social and religious fields women had equal rights with men. On that basis a society of Bhikshunis (nuns) was organized. Chandanabale was its leader. She supervised the work of an association of 36000 Aryikes (Jain sanyasinis). Mahaveera's association was quite huge. There were 14000 Bhikshus in it. There were one lakh and fifty thousand Shravakas. The number of Shravikes exceeded three lakhs.

Himself Like The Himalayas

Mahaveera propagated Dharma for 32 years. It was in Pavapuri that he attained salvation in the month of Karthika in 527 B.C. At the time he was 71 years 3 months and 25 days old. That was the day of the Dipavali Festival (the Festival of Lights). The Jains celebrate the Dipavali Festival with great enthusiasm as the day of Mahaveera's salvation.

It is true that this marks the end of the earthly life of a great historic personage who illuminated a great Dharma. But his ideals and Sadachara Samhithe are deathless. Dharmic personages are immortal. We may forget kings and emperors. A king looks to the good of his own country. But a great Dharmic teacher paves the way for the good of all mankind. Mahaveera wished for the good of all humanity. He wore himself out for the good of the world.

Mahaveera's ideal life is an open book. He said that anyone could follow hisfootsteps, attain the goal reached by him and rise to the heights attained by him. He constructed the steps and put up the ladder. He opened the doors of the world of salvation so that all that had freed themselves from self might enter. He did not yield to temptations. He was not afraid of difficulties. Fearless, he stood like the Himalayas. Finally lie himself became the Himalayas.



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