The main idea behind JSR-303 is to have a common approach for validation at all places of the application in a simplistic way. The bean validation is built keeping in mind the validation process as a kind of meta information for a bean, so if you say that a property of bean should be not null or the content of a bean property should match to the format of e-mail or telephone. Such kind of information can be treated as meta-information of bean properties. One of the other motive for having JSR-303 into picture is to remove the boilerplate code introduced due to the need of bean validation at multiple places in the application, such as at UI level, while persisting a bean or performing some business operation.
JSR-303 provides bean validation using two ways, either you can configure validations using annotations on properties or using a XML validation descriptor. Annotations can be used as Meta-data for bean validation in case of some simple validations such as not null, e-mail, telephone number check. XML validation descriptor is used for some complex validations or context aware validation.
JSR-303 also defines API for Java Bean validation, so this API can be used to programmatically validate the bean .