Mahavira established what are today considered to be the central tenets of Jainism and was a contemporary of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha.
In the ancient kingdom of Vaishali, now in Bihar, India, Mahavir was born on the thirteenth day under the rising moon of Chaitra (April 12 according to the Gregorian calendar). His birthday is celebrated as Mahavir Jayanti.He was known as "Vardhaman" (increasing) because his family's wealth and the kingdom's welfare grew after his conception. An increase of all that was good, like the abundant bloom of beautiful flowers, was noticed in the kingdom. Tradition states that after his birth, Indra bathed him in celestial milk with rituals befitting a future 'Tirthankar' and he was returned to his mother,Queen Trisala. She had dreamt of 14 auspicious symbols before giving birth, signs foretelling the advent of a great soul.
As King Siddartha's son, he lived as a prince, married Princess Yashodhara and had a daughter. At thirty, he left his family, gave up his worldly possessions (over the course of a year), and spent twelve years as an ascetic. At one point, Mahavir had over 400,000 followers. At 72, he left his body [Moksh] in 527 BC, Pawapuri on Dipavali, the last day of the Hindu and Jain calendars. Jains celebrate this as the day he attained liberation and enlightenment, Moksh.
Jains believe Mahavir lived from 599-527 B.C., though some scholars prefer 549-477 B.C
After renouncing his kingdom, he spent the next twelve and half years in deep silence and meditation and disciplined himself by conquering his desires, feelings, and attachments. He carefully avoided harming or annoying other living beings, including animals, birds, and plants. He went without food for long periods. His enduring calm, peaceful demeanour against unbearable hardships and his dedicated search for what is real, led others to call him Mahavir (a Sanskrit word, meaning very brave, heroic and courageous). During this period, he attained keval-jnana, or perfect enlightenment, that is when spiritual powers are fully developed and perfect perception, knowledge, power, and bliss completely realized.
Mahavir spent the next thirty years travelling around India preaching about the eternal truth. His ultimate objective was to show how to attain total freedom from birth, life, pain, and death, and such temporary joy or misery, and achieve permanent bliss, recognize one's self, or Moksha, Sanskrit for "liberation".