Mahavira (; IAST: Bhagavān Mahāvīra), also known as Vardhamāna, was the twenty-fourth Tirthankara (ford-maker) of Jainism. In the Jain tradition, it is believed that Mahavira was born in the early part of the 6th century BC into a royal family in what is now Bihar, India. At the age of thirty, abandoning all worldly possessions, he left his home in pursuit of spiritual awakening and became an ascetic. For the next twelve and a half years, Mahavira practiced intense meditation and severe austerities, after which he is believed to have attained Kevala Jnana (omniscience). He preached for thirty years, and is believed by Jains to have died in the 6th century BC. Scholars such as Karl Potter consider his biographical details as uncertain, with some suggesting he lived in the 5th century BC contemporaneously with the Buddha. Mahavira died at the age of 72 in Pawapuri (now Bihar), and his remains were cremated. According to the Jain tradition, Mahavira had 14,000 muni (male ascetics), 36,000 aryika (nuns), 159,000 sravakas (laymen), and 318,000 sravikas (laywomen) as his followers. Some of the royal followers included Srenika (popularly known as Bimbisara) of Magadha, Kunika of Anga (Ajatashatru), and Chetaka of Videha.
After he gained Kevala Jnana, Mahavira taught that the observance of the vows ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity), and aparigraha (non-attachment) is necessary for spiritual liberation. Mahavira taught that the doctrine of non-injury must cover all living beings, and causing injury to any being in any form creates bad karma which affects one's rebirth and future well-being and suffering. According to Mahatma Gandhi, Mahāvīra was the greatest authority on Ahimsa. He gave the principle of Anekantavada (many-sided reality), Syadvada and Nayavada. Mahavira taught that the soul is permanent and eternal with respect to dravya (substance) and impermanent with respect to paryaya (modes that originate and vanish). The teachings of Mahavira were compiled by Gautama Swami (his chief disciple) and were called Jain Agamas. These texts were transmitted through oral tradition by Jain monks, but are believed to have been largely lost by about the 1st century when they were first written down. The surviving versions of the Agamas taught by Mahavira are some of the foundational texts of Jainism.