Bihar, the seat of ancient Magadha and Videha has been famous for its golden and rich heritage. The healthy traditions of its culture, its emphasis on secularism, religion and on philosophy have remained the main centres of attraction There is no exaggeration to say that Bihar has contributed much to the glory and pride of India. It has witnessed the rise of democratic and parliamentary traditions in Vaisali. Here the Universities of Nalanda and Vikramasila and Vidyapithas of Viswamitra Asrama and Mahasalavana have flourished. It is famous for the literary, philosophical and religious activities of pataliputra (modern patna). It is known for the political and commercial relations of Anga-Campa, Magadha and Videha with those of Malwa and Saursena and Percian-Gulf countries.
Amongst the centres of Jain culture, Bihar occupies a very significant place. It has been the salvation-place of twenty two Tirthankaras. Twenty Tirthamaras attained salvation from Parasanatha (Dist. Hazaribag) hills only, while the 12th Tirthamkara Vasupujya from Campapura (Dist. Bhagalpur) and the last one, Lord Mahavira, attained his salvation from Pavapuri (Dist Nalanda). Besides, the 19th Tirthamkara Mallinatha and the 21st Tirthamkara Neminatha were born in Mithila (North Bihar), while the 20th Tirthamkara Munisuvrata and 24th Tirthamkara Mahavira were born in Girivjra (Rajagrha) and Kundalagrama (Vaisali) respectively.
The renowned Jain saint-philosopher Umaswati composed his work “Tattvarthasutra” at paraliputra. This work on Jaina philosophy, cosmology and ethics is so important that eight commentaries have been written on it in different styles and in different periods. This work is as valuable in Jainism as Gita, Bible, Kuran and Guru-Grantha Sahib in other faiths.
The last Srutakevalin Bhadrabahu also belonged to Pataliputra. According to the historian, emperor Chandragupta Maurya (First) adopted Jainism after becoming the chief desciple of the said Srutakevalin at Paraliputra and left his home with Bhadrabahu for South India in order to perform severe penance.
The Hathigumpha Inscription of King Kharavla (2nd century B. C.) proves that King Nanda (4th century B. C) of Pataliputra was a great devotee of the first Tirthamkara Adinatha, Emperor Ashoka constructed caves for Jaina-saints on Bara- bara Hills (nearby Gaya Town), out of his generosity and religious policies. These caves provided them facilities for meditation. All these works mentioned above are the embodiments of the pride and glorious past of Bihar.
The Prakrita Canonical literature contains exhaustive descriptions of various regions and towns of ancient Bihar. It preserves the geographical, geological, economic, political, social and cultural details, but unfortunately, this valuable literature is badly neglected as yet. There is a crying need for its critical and comparative study.
Lord Mahavira was born on Monday the 12th April of 599 B C at the holy place of Kundagram, a suburb of Vaisali (North Bihar). He was called Jnatiputra by ancestral heredity, a Vaisalika and Videhdinna from the view point of his birth place and Kasyapa from the Gotra (family origin) point of view. His father was king Siddhartha and mother Trisla, Priya-Karini. Mahavira’s maternal grand father was the president of Vaisali republic. Gautama Buddha was so much impressed with the constitutional ideals and the organisation of the republic, that he compared Vaisalikas with the gods.
Mahavira had a royal position by birth All the worldly pleasures were and him feat he was aver attached to them. King Udayana of Sindhu desa King Sataniks of Kausambi and the Magadha King Srenika were his father-in-law (Mass) They were renowned Emperors of 6th century BC Although his homely and out-worldly riches were enough to generate pride and worldly attac men in him, but he always remained unconcerned with them. From the very beginning, Lord Mahavira had been a great thinker. He observed the worldly acti vities very minutely and analysed them in detail from different angles. As a real be thought. This world is perishable and its pleasures are transitory”. So, he took renunciation at the age of thirty at Jnatri-vana (forest, situated perhaps near his home town).
He practiced penance for twele years. He left even his clothes and endured scorching sun, chilly cold, torrential rains, mosquito-bites, etc, with patienc People troubled him many times but he regarded the suffering as the consequence of his various Karmas
Mahavira got Kevalainana (ultimate knowledge of reality) on Baisskha Sukla Dasami at the age of forty two, when he was doing penance under a Sala tree near Jrmbhic village situated on the bank of river Rjukula. Since then he became detached, omniscient and full of equanimity. Some historians recognise this Jrmbhic village as modern Jamui (in Monghyer Dist. Bihar) on the bank of Kuil river, whereas some historians compare that with Jamgaon situated on the bank of river Ajl (in Giridih dist.) Lord Mahavira gave his first sermon on the first day of Sravana-Krishna at Vipulacala of Rajagrah Hills after sixty six days of the attainment of Kevalajnana.
According to Jaina mythology the organisers of the sermon ceremony prepared a huge Auditorium (or Samavasarana) for the meeting in which twelve tier sitting arrangments were made for gods(Devas)and goddesses (Devis), men and women, monks and nuns, for beasts and birds etc. On the same day, Indrabhuti Brahmin of Gautama Gotra, a scholar vice-chancellor of the famous Vedic Research Institute, Polasapura (nearby Rajagrhi) became the first disciple of Lord Manavira. Along with Indrabhuti, his two younger brothers-Vayubhuti, Agnibhuti and others like Sudharma, Mauryaputra, Mandita, Akampita etc. became his disciples. All these disciples were called Ganadharas, Indrabhuti being the chief.
Lord Mahavira delivered his sermons in Ardhamagadhi Prakrita, the Lingua Franca or the Language of the common people at that time. Since he was a man of equanimity, he propagated love for all beings and the need for the consideration of others point of view in order to solve the problems of life. He called his philosophy Anekanta. According to this philosophy it is essential to consider the truth from different points of view. According to it, a question can be answered in different ways containing equal truth from different angles. Along with Anekanta, he preached Ahimsa in thought, word and deed. He prescribed five vows for achieving moral upliftment. They are:-
(1) Ahimsa (non-violence).
(2) Satya (Truth),
(3) Asteya (Non-commitment of theft),
(4) Brahmacharya (Celibacy) and
(5) Aprigraha (Non-acquisition).
In fact, we find in the preachings of Lord Mahavira peace and prosperity of Mahatma Gandhi, economic equality of Karl Marx, Pancasila of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and fraternity of Guru Nanaka Deva. Thus Lord Mahavira is a great saint. preacher and divine guide and is a ray of hope for the suffering world.
University Professor of Prakrit & Head of the Dept. of Sanskrit & Prakrit
H. D. Jein College Mahajan Toli No. 2, ARRAH (Bihar) 802301.