Lord Mahavira, also known as Vardhaman Mahavir, was the last Tirthankara and the founder of Jainism religion. What Lord Mahavira taught formed the teachings of Jainism which are the following:
1. Ahimsa: The first and foremost principle of Jainism was Ahimsa or non-injury to anyone. It is why many of the Jains walk bare-footed, filter water before drinking and even tie a band of cloth round their mouth so that they may not kill small insects. They even take care not to injure any plant or tree, not to speak of causing pain to men, birds and beasts. This principle was against the rising rate of animal sacrifice in the Yajnas.
2. Hard Penance and Self-Sacrifice: The preachers of Jainism believe in hard penance and giving all sorts of injury to their human bodies. To die while starving oneself is regarded a virtue by them.
3. God: Mahavira denied the power of the Almighty as the creator and controller of the whole universe.
5. No Faith in Yajna, Sacrifice and Ritualism: Jainism was a sort of revolt against the superiority of the Brahmans and their Yajnas, sacrifices and useless ritualism. They stopped performing all these things. They went further and refused to accept the authority of the Vedas.
5. Worship of Twenty-four Tirthankaras: Instead of respecting the Brahmans and worshiping their gods the Jains began to worship their own Tirthankaras.
6. No Faith in the Caste System: Jainism strikes a deadly blow at the caste system and all sorts of class-distinctions. It preached the equality of human beings. All who have faith in Jainism are brothers without any class-distinctions.
7. Attainment of Salvation: The Jains like those of the Hindus believe that the chief aim of a man is to attain salvation (Moksha) or freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth. This salvation can be achieved by following three Jewels (Or Triratnas) of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.
8. Next life and Karma Theory: The Jains like those of the Hindus and the Buddhists believe in next life and transmigration of soul. According to them one acquires new life according to his actions (or Karma) in his past lives. If one does good actions during this life he is bound to get a good life next time.
About two centuries after Mahavira’s death the Jain Church was divided into two sects:
- The Digambaras or orthodox followers of Mahavira, who preferred to lead a life of self-torture and remained naked, and
- The Svetambaras or the followers of Acharya Badrabahu who wore white dress.