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.
Mahavira is usually depicted in a sitting or standing meditative posture with the symbol of a lion beneath him. The earliest iconography for Mahavira is from archaeological sites in the north Indian city of Mathura. These are variously dated from the 1st century BC to the 2nd century AD. The day he was born is celebrated as Mahavir Janma-kalyanak (popularly known as Mahavir Jayanti), and the day of his liberation is celebrated by Jains as Diwali. In 1973, which was the 2,500th anniversary of the Nirvana (or Moksha) of Mahavira, monks of the various sects of Jainism assembled to resolve their differences and arrive at some commons points of agreement about the history and philosophy of Jainism .
The early Jain and Buddhist literature that has survived into the modern era uses other names or epithets for Mahavira. These include Nayaputta, Muni, Samana, Niggantha, Brahman, and Bhagavan. In early Buddhist Suttas, he is also referred to by the names Araha (meaning "worthy"), and Veyavi (derived from the word "Vedas", but contextually it means "wise" because Mahavira did not recognize the Vedas as a scripture). Buddhist texts refer to Mahavira as Nigaṇṭha Jñātaputta. Nigaṇṭha means "without knot, tie, or string" and Jñātaputta (son or scion of Natas), refers to his clan of origin as Jñāta or Naya (Prakrit). The Jain text Kalpasutras states that he is also known as Sramana because he is "devoid of love and hate".
According to later Jain texts, Mahavira's childhood name was Vardhamāna ("the one who grows"), because of the increased prosperity in the kingdom at the time of his birth. According to the Kalpasutras, he was called Mahavira ("the great hero") by the gods because he stood steadfast in the midst of dangers and fears, hardships and calamities. Mahavira is also called a Tirthankara.
Though it is universally accepted by scholars of Jainism that Mahavira was an actual person who lived in ancient India, the details of his biography and the year of his birth are uncertain, and continue to be a subject of considerable debate among scholars. Digambara text, Uttarapurāna mention that Mahavira was born at Kundpur kingdom of Videh. and Svetambara text, Kalpasūtra use the name Kundagrama. It is said to be located in present-day Bihar, India. This is assumed to be the modern town of Basu Kund, which is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Patna, the capital of Bihar. However, it is unclear if the ancient Kundagrama is the same as the current assumed location, and the birthplace remains a subject of dispute. Mahavira renounced all his material wealth and left his home when he was twenty-eight by some accounts, or thirty by others, then lived an ascetic life and performed severe austerities for twelve years, and thereafter preached Jainism for a period of thirty years. The location where he preached has been a subject of historic disagreement between the two major sub-traditions of Jainism – the Svetambaras and the Digambaras.