When Mahavir was born, the world was literally a hell. A handful of people, wallowing in luxuries, had made life miserable for the common man who had lost all hopes, and had resigned himself to fate with no hope of salvation.
Religion had fallen on evil days. Kings waged wars to satisfy their ambitions and scriptures would say that those dying on the battle field would inherit the kingdom of heaven. Knowledge was a privilege for the few. Women were treated as slaves with no identity of their own. Caste distinctions were rampant and untouchability ruled the roost. It was in such terrible times that Mahavir was born 2500 years ago.
All philosophical discussions were in Sanskrit which were beyond the ken of the common people. Those who spoke the language of the ordinary people were considered inferior. The first thing Bhagvan Mahavir did was to break the dominance of Sanskrit. Ardhmagadhi was the language used by the masses and so he began to preach in that language. He expounded the mysteries of religion in easy-to-understand language.
Women in Mahavir's time were denied social and religious rights. Mahavir brought about reforms. He said that if a woman became a sadhvi she would be entitled to liberation. Mahavir paved the way for her to reach spiritual heights, which was closed to her for centuries as she was considered unchaste.
The caste system was very rigid and the society was riven with the evils of casteism. Bhagvan Mahavir succeeded in removing caste system and emphasised the importance of character and of birth. Character, according to him, was supreme and Shraman was one who never prides himself on caste, beauty, knowledge or penance. He, thus, brought about social revolution. Since Mahavir had overcome vices like ill-will, attachment, malice etc. he was called Jin and the followers of Jin are Jains.