Vardhaman Mahavira, is regarded as the founder of Jainism. He was born in 599 BC near Vaishali in Bihar. He was twenty-fourth and the last tirthankara of Jainism. Jainism believed that the main goal of human life is the purification of soul and attainment of nirvana, which means freedom from birth and death.

This can be achieved not through rituals and sacrifices but by pursuance of triratna and panchamahavrata. Triratna or three jewels are right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct, which can lead to liberation. Right conduct means observance of five great vows: ahimsa (do not commit violence) satya vachana (do not speak a lie), asteya (do not steal), brahmacharya (do not indulge in sexual act) and aprigraha (do not acquire property).

Householders were expected to observe milder form of the practice of these virtues called anuvrata (small vows) in comparison to the monks. So, one can notice that while the Brahmanism was a ritual oriented religion this new faith was conduct-oriented.

The most distinguishing feature of Jainism was the concept of anekantavada or syadavada. It means that the truth can be viewed from aneka or various angels.

Another important feature of Jainism was its emphasis on extreme form of penance, austerity, and strict non-violence. Perhaps emphasis on strict discipline was one of the reasons why it could not attract the masses in large number. Mahavira used Prakrit language to spread his message. However, just like other religions, Jainism also could not remain united for very long and later divided into two sects called the Digambara (who remain naked) and Svetambara (who wear white clothes).