Bhagwan Mahavira did not start any new religion. Whatever he had said had existed from
an eternal time; it is, in fact, permanent. He did not establish a religion; he simply
reopened it. Not religion, but faith in it, which had withered away, was restored by him.
Religion is the nature of a thing (Kartikeyanupreksa, Gatha 476). The nature of a thing cannot be a matter of creation.
How can it be the nature when it can be created? It can only be known. According to
Bhagwan Mahavira one who can remain apart from the ego of authority and "mineness" of
self and yet know in full 'self' and 'others' is a Bhagwan.
A Bhagwan is not the
creator-upholder of the universe; he is its knower and seer to the full. One who
having known the entire universe can remain fully detached to it, or can know it
with full non-involvement is a Bhagwan.
A Tirthankar knows the nature of a thing, unfolds it, but does not create it.
Bhagwan Mahavira was a Tirthankar; he started the Tirtha-religion which is a means
to cross through the worldly ocean. One who can start a Tirtha like this by dint of
which one may cross through the worldly ocean and help others to do so is a Tirthankar.
In the land of Bharata, Bhagwan Mahavira was the 24th and last Tirthankar of this age.
He was preceded by 23 other Tirthankars starting with Risabhadeva about whom details
are available in the Jain Puranas.
While viewing the time-cycle, no part of it is separated from the tradition. For,
if it is done, then various inconsistencies become visible in it. Although the revelation
of the past is the task of the historians, a few historians cannot do justice to this
work wherein involved are the oldest culture, civilisation and their contemporary
environment in the aggregate. To throw light on the environment the earliest Puranic
tradition has to be accepted as the base. But in the case of Tirthankar Bhagwan
Mahavira, we have the necessary historical material to lend support to the previous
tradition and background. Even before him, the 23rd Tirthankar Parsvanath, the
22nd Neminath and the 21st Namminath have been recognised by history as towering
The kayotsarga posture of Yogisvara Risabha found in the ruins of Mahenjo-daro
has compelled the historians to think as far back as the first Tirthankar Risabhadeva.
On this, the well known historian and poet Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' writes as follows:
"In the excavations at Mahenjo-daro, there is ample evidence about the existence of yoga
and the tradition of yoga and vairagya (detachment) is as much linked with the name of
Risabhadeva of the Jain path as Sakti is with Siva in the Hindu tradition. For this reason,
it is not unreasonable for some Jain scholars to suggest that even though Risabhadeva has
been noticed in the Vedas, he is pre-Veda." ( Aj-Kal, March, 1962, p 8.)
The antiquity of the Jain religious tradition and the Tirthankars has been clearly noticed at
several places in the earliest works of the Vedic tradition, the Vedas and the Puranas.
In this context, the following quotation from Dr. Radhakrishnan is worthy of note:
"There is evidence to show that so far back as the first Century B.C. there were people who were
worshipping Risabhadeva, the first Tirthankar. There is no doubt that Jainism prevailed even
before Vardhaman or Parsvanath. The Yajurveda mentions the names of three Tirthankars-Risabha,
Ajitanath and Aristanemmi. The Bhagavat Purana endorses the view that Risabha was the founder of
Jainism." (Indian Philosophy, Vol I., p. 287)
Prof. Virupaksa Wadiyar, while presenting the cause of the mention of the Jain Tirthankars in
the Vedas, writes:
"The naturalist Marichi was a close relation of Risabhadeva.................. The hymns written
by him are to be found in the Vedas, the Puranas and other texts, and at places
therein, he has mentioned the Tirthankars. There is no reason then not to admit the existence of
Jainism during the Vedic period." (Mahavira Jayanti: Smarika (Souvenir), 1964, p.42)
The Bhagavat Purana has noticed Risabhadeva with great respect. To quote:
"For running the administration of the world, Risabhadeva placed his son Bharata on the throne,
and himself became completely detached to propagate bhakti (devotion), gnaan
(knowledge) and vairagya (detachment), the religion of the great Seers (Paramahansas)
who themselves had attained the height of non-involvement and detachment."
(Srimad Bhagavat, 5/5/28)
Dr. Budhprakash, D.Litt., writes in his book Indian Religion and Culture, in part, as follows:
"In the list of a thousand names of Visnu contained in the Mahabharata are Included
Sreyans, Anant, Dharma, Shanti and Sambhav, and in that of Siva are included Risabha, Ajita,
Anant and Dharma. Both Visnu and Siva have been given a name as Subrata. All these are the names
of the Tirthankars.. It seems that in the atmosphere of synthesis of the Mahabharata,
effort was made to present the Tirthankars as Visnu and Siva and thus establish the religious
unity in the country. This shows that the tradition of the Tirthankars is very old."
Tirthankar Vardhaman, p. 15.
Major-General L C. R. Furlong, in his book, The Short Study, in Science of Comparative Religion,
"Innumerable number of years prior to Jesus Christ, Jainism was widely spread in India.
When the Aryans had reached Central India, they found that the Jainas were already
Expressing his views on 'Jainism in Bihar', P. C. Roy Choudhury writes:
"Some modern writers have indulged in a common-place error by writing that Jainism was
born out of the widespread discontent against the Brahmanical religion. This wrong notion
originated another which was that Vardhaman Mahavira was the founder of Jainism. This is
factually wrong ... ... Jainism had originated earlier and was fairly widespread, and
Mahavira helped it to spread further, and this is the reason why such a wrong notion
was entertained by some reputed scholars." (Mahavira Jayanti Smarika (Souvenir) 1968,
Not only Mahavira, not even the first Tirthankar, Risabhadeva, was the founder of Jainism.
It is not the function of a Bhagwan to propound a religion; rather, sheltered in religion,
the Soul is elevated to the status of Paramatman (Bhagwan). According to the Jain belief,
Bhagwans may be infinite in number, but in a single age, in the land of Bharata, the number
of Tirthankars is 24 only. Every Tirthankar is of necessity a Bhagwan, but not vice versa.
One may become a Bhagwan without becoming a Tirthankar.
Taking into consideration all times and all regions, even the Tirthankars are infinite in number.
Innumerable Tirthankars have appeared before Risabha, and in Videha and other regions,
they continue to appear. To understand this phenomenon, we must turn to the time-cycle as
propounded by Mahavira.
Though as an object, the universe is eternal, yet as a category, it is ever changing.
There is no hidden divine power in or beyond the universe which can regulate the change,
and yet the change is not disorderly. It is an order without a regulator; it is a law
without a lawmaker. Each object is itself the regulator of its own change. Time is only a
tool in the change.
Time repeats, and this is a natural law as well as a scientific arrangement. As day and night,
fortnight and month, season and year change, so do centuries, millennia, even an immensely
large time, because of some natural laws. In this eternal flow of time, there are up-phases
and down-phases called Utsarpini and Avasarpini in the Jain terminology.
As the Utsarpini
phase waxes and expands, so the Avasarpini wanes and gradually recedes. In the Utsarpini
phase, the strength, longevity and body size gradually increase, as they gradually diminish
in the Avasarpini phase. Thus if Utsarpini stands for growth, Avasarpini stands
for decline. Each phase, Utsarpini and Avasarpini, has a length of a Koda-kodi Sagars
(inconceivably long number of years), and twenty such Koda-kodi Sagars make one Kalpa.
There appear two-times 24 Tirthankars in each Kalpa. Avasarpini has six divisions called:
(Sukhma stands for the bracing phase; Duhkhma stands for the
non-bracing phase.) Likewise, Utsarpini has six divisions as follows:
The names of these time divisions indicate the extent of
pleasure and pain in each. Here the word 'pleasure' is used in the worldly sense.
Up to the third time division in the first group, the dominant feature is pleasure,
so that there is hardly any occasion for spiritual growth. The Tirthankars appear in the
fourth division and the road to liberation opens only then. From this angle, the fourth
division is very important. Fourteen Kulakars appear at the end of the third division
and 63 Shalaka-purushas (Spokes-men=Path-givers) in the fourth division who are as follows:
Tirthankars 24, Chakravartis 12, Narayans 9, Prati-Narayans 9 and Balabhadras 9.
The present time-phase is the fifth time-division of the Avasarpini.
In this phase, neither the Kulakars appear, nor the 63 Spoke-men. Nor is any one
in this phase. The 63 Spoke-men of the fourth division, particularly their character, is
the subject matter of the Jain Puranas. in this manner, an infinite number of
Kalpas are buried in the past, and an infinite number will blossom in future.
Accordingly the group of the 24 Tirthankars one after another had been born an infinite
number ot times in this land of Bharata, and similar groups will be born an infinite
number of times in future. A similar arrangement exists in the land of Airavat.
The state of things is somewhat different in Videha, because there it is always similar,
to that in the fourth division.
According to the Jain geography, of the innumerable isles and oceans in the central
part of the universe, human beings exist only in the two isles and a half; and so
the Tirthankars may appear in these two and a half isles. The expanse in the first of
these latter isles called Jambudvip is one lakh yojanas, containing seven regions,
viz., Bharata, Haimavat, Hari, Videha, Ramyak; Hairanyavat and Airavat. To know the details
of these, one need have the deep knowledge and study of the Jain Agams. It is
superfluous to reproduce the description here.
Although taking into consideration the current Avasarpini, it has been said that
Mahavira was the twentyfourth and last Tirthankara of the land of Bharata. Yet, taking a
view of the aggregate, he can neither be given a definite nor be called last. As it is said.
kalo hyayam niravadhi vipula ca prthvi(Bhavbhuti, Malati-Madhava.)
Time takes no limit, and the world is very big.
In the first, second and third time-divisions, the arrangement is that of a land of pleasure
(bhogbhumi), the order of pleasure being maximum, middle and minimum, but all the same
the dominant note is pleasure. Everyone is well-supplied with objects of pleasure through the
medium of the Kalpa trees. Thus though the life is full of joy, from a spiritual angle, the
road to its full growth is, in a sense, closed. The fourth division sees the emergence of a
land of spiritual action (karmbhumi). The easy realisation of pleasure gradually tends
to cease and livelihood calls for more effort and pain, but the door of opportunity to
spiritual growth widely opens. At the end of the third division, the fourteen Kulakars train
the common folks in the affairs of a land of spiritual appear and action The fourteenth Kulakar
of the present Avasarpini:- was king Nabhiraya. By the time of his appearance, when the
third division had virtually closed, the land of pleasure was getting transformed into a land
of spiritual action.
The first Tirthankar Risabhadeva was born in the city of Ayodhya from the womb of queen
Marudevi, the consort of the 14th Kulakar, king Nabhiraya. Exceptionally talented by birth,
he belonged to the race of Iksvaku. He was enthroned after Nabhiraya. During his rule, he
initiated many works of public interest for his subjects and taught them to earn their livelihood
by dint of six types of activities, such as, sword, pen, farming, technology, commerce and
craft. (prjapatiryah prathamam jijivi suh sasasa krsyadisu karmasu prajah -
Samantabhadra, Svayambhu Stotra). Since life had become difficult in the absence of the
Kalpa trees, which had started disappearing with the land of pleasures, some alternative
arrangements were essential to avoid the tension arising out of the difficulty in earning
livelihood. With the emergence of the land of spiritual activity (karmbhumi) all
necessary arrangements were initiated by king Risabhadeva, for which he was given diverse
names, such as, Prajapati, Brahma; Vidhata, Adipurush, etc.
As prince, Risabhadeva was married and had two wives, Yasasvati and Sunanda. Yasasvati had a
second name which was Nanda. Risabhadeva had 101 sons and 2 daughters. Queen Yasasvati gave
birth to 100 sons starting with Bharata and one daughter named Brahmi. Sunanda gave birth to
a boy named Bahubali and a girl named Sundari.
On the one hand, he trained his sons in difficult skills like fighting, on the other he
trained his two daughters. Brahmi and Sundari, in the science of letters and the science of
numerals respectively. The Brahmi script, named after the princess had been widely used in
our ancient inscriptions. Regarding this Brahmi script, Dr. Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' writes:
"All Dravidian languages have their genesis in the Brahmi Script ... According to the well-known
Jain tradition in South India, Brahmi was the daughter of Risabhadeva. It was Risabha-deva who
was the inventor of 18 scripts of which one became Kannada." (Samskrti-ke Car
Although the word 'vidya' has a wide connotation, in the field of learning, it has
many branches other than letters and numerals. Inspite of that, at the present time,
vidya includes those branches wherein numerals and letters are in wide use.
Those who know these are considered to be educated, and the rest uneducated, even
though the latter may have expertise in their own fields. Education today stand for
education in letters and numerals. In the field of education, women are still lagging
behind. Though female education has been much publicised, and propagated in these years,
even then the situation has been far from satisfactory and it has not brought women at par
with men. It was further pitiable 50 or 60 years ago. It is considered to be a matter of
good luck if out of a lakh of women, a few are gifted with education. It is not the function
of women to acquire education. Such an ideology has been the main factor which has prevented
and hampered the growth of female education. It was Risabhadeva who first imparted education
to his daughters. This should clearly indicate the attitude of the Jains to female education.
One day (the ninth day of the dark half of Chaitra), king Risabhadeva was seated on his throne
surrounded by hundreds of kings and the dance by the nymph (apasara) Nilanjana was in
progress. Risabhadeva and other members of the illustrious assembly were delighted by the
dance, but ill-luck prevailing, her life-span was over just then, so that Indra at once
replaced her by another similar divine dancer. Although Indra had done all this with skill
and speed so that none else could perceive the change, but it did not escape the penetrating
vision of Risabhadeva. As soon as he realised the transitoriness of the worldly life, his
attachment for it faded and he was full of detachment. He decided to be initiated in the
As soon as the Lokantik "gods" came to know this, they gave full approval to this desire of
Risabhadeva. Though the relatives and other members of the royal household tried very humbly
to desist him from his resolve, they could not make him sway from his pious resolve. Ultimately,
he abdicated and enthroned Bharata in Ayodhya and Bahubali at Podanapur; and became a
Along with him, about four hundred kings joined the digamber order as
They followed the king because of their emotional attachment for him rather than their faith.
When monk Risabha steeped in meditation, he remained meditating for six months continuously.
Likewise fortitude and heroism was absent in these kings who had in a moment of enthusiasm
assumed the role of a monk. They were very disturbed by hunger and thirst. Risabhadeva was
mute all the time and other monks did not have anyone to guide them. In fact, before initiation,
they had not taken the permission of Risabhadeva. Being deeply immersed in meditation,
Risabhadeva had no idea about the predicament of these monks.
In the end, these monks had
to satisfy their hunger by taking wild vegetation and they began to dress according to their
In this manner, bad saintliness and bad religion got started with good saintliness and
good religion. In the land of enjoyment all living beings attain heaven as devs after
death, but with the emergence of the land of spiritual activity, wherefrom started the road
to liberation, as also opened the road to four-fold existence. Among those four thousand
who had deviated from the right path, there was one Marichi who, having passed through many
good and bad lives ultimately ended as the final Tirthankar Mahavira.
When after six months, the meditation of monk Risabhadeva ended, he went out to collect food,
but because of the emergence of the land of spiritual activity, none knew how to make an offer
to the monk. He could not get food for seven months and nine days. Thus on the expiry of a
total period of one year one month and nine days, he obtained food for the first time in the
city of Hastinapur from the hands of Shreyans, the brother of king Somaprabha. Shreyans
had recollected by dint of his memory of the previous births the manner of offering food
to a monk, and thus he was able to make the offer.
The great monk took his meal on the
third day of the second half of Vaisakh and since then that day has been called Akshay
Tritiya which is an occasion for country-wide festivity. In this manner, the founder of
the religious order (dharma-tirtha) is Tirthankar Risabhadeva and of charity
(daan-tirth) is Shreyans.
Monk Risabhadeva continued to perform the severest penance, both internal and external,
for the realisation of self, by remaining mute for a thousand years. One day as he was
completely immersed in self, he attained the highest, the
Indra, the king of the "gods", came down to organise his first congregation (samvasaran).
Brisabhasen, the younger brother of king Bharata became his first Ganadhar.
Both the daughters of Risabha, Brahmi and Sundari, joined the order as nuns
(Aryika) and took charge of the female section of the spiritual order.
Quite a large number of the four thousand kings who got initiated into
monk-hood with Risabhadeva and then
parted company, came back to join the order and were initiated into it by
Risabhadeva. But because of passion, Marichi did not rectify his mistake and
started opposing Bhagwan Risabhadeva
by propagating an alternative faith of his own.
Then on the expiry of his life-span, Bhagwan Risabhadeva discarded his mortal frame on
the top of Mount Kailash and entered into nirvana. As he was the first Tirthankar
of the present down-phase of the cycle, he has also been called Adinath.
After the above analysis, the most natural question that arises is, was
married and had wives? Did he rule? Did he impart lessons in farming,
etc.? Does a Bhagwan marry?
Does he rule? Does he teach farming? Does he have children? If the
answer is in the affirmative, what is the difference between him and us?
He is just like us!
If this be true, then what does the marriage of a
Bhagwan mean? Where from did come the wives?
What is his need of a kingdom? Why did he teach farming, etc.? For, a
Bhagwan is the very
embodiment of detachment; and, for one wholly detached, such perversions as marriage is
simply not possible. The fact is that he who got married was prince Risabha, he who had
consorts was king Risabha, he who ruled was also king Risabha, he who taught farming was also
king Risabha. These were not the activities of Bhagwan Risabha.
Indeed, he was not a Bhagwan by birth, nor can one be a
Bhagwan by birth.
Bhagwans are not born, they are made. Afterwards, when he conquered himself,
he became a Bhagwan. The conquest of delusion, attachment, greed, etc., is synonymous
with the conquest of self. A Bhagwan is one who is fully detached and is all-knowing.
But Risabha was not fully detached, nor all-knowing by birth. He acquired these when he
became a monk by throwing out all acquisitions of wives, children, kingdom, etc., and the
attachment connected with these and became a
digamber-possessionless monk and got immersed within self, thus
wholly weeding out attachment, greed and ignorance. Thus whenever the adjective (prefix)
Bhagwan is used with his name before he had attained total detachment and
it should be understood as an honorific title bestowed on him in anticipation of his future
Bhagwan-hood. When it is said that Bhagwan
Risabhadeva taught farming, here, too, the word
Bhagwan is to be understood in a similar sense. In order to understand this, one must
understand the expressions used in the Jain philosophy.
Of the 101 sons born to king Risabhadeva, at least two, Bharata and Bahubali, are the
much-noticed personalities in the Jain Puranas. Bharata was the eldest and was
the first World Monarch (Chakravarti) of this age. From him, the country has taken
its name as Bharata. We have it in the Shrimad Bhagavat as follows. "The great
Yogi Bharata was the eldest of the hundred sons of Risabha and from him this country has
taken its name as Bharatavarsa."
(yesam khalu mahayogi Bharato jyesthah
sresthagunascti-yenedam varsa bharatamiti vyapadisanti-SrimadBhagavat, 5.4.90
In support of this fact, there is available ample evidence in the Indian classical
literature.(Mahapuran, Introduction, p. 27-28)
In this connection, Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar', writes, "Bharata was the son of Risabhadeva
from whom the country has taken its name as Bharata." (Samskrti-ke Car Adhyaya, p.129. )
With the help of a chakraratna born in his armoury, he conquered all the six segments of the land
of Bharata and brought them under his control and taught the feudatory kings how to govern their
kingdom. Emperor Bharata was a very careful and competent ruler when he was on the throne; and
later he proved himself to be the best of the Yogis and acquired full detachment and
omniscience within two hours of his initiation.
His brother Bahubali too was a great warrior, unconquered even by Emperor Bharata, a
in physical grace, a great Yogi and penancer, who in the age was the first (even before
Risabhadeva) to enter into liberation.
On being initiated into monkhood, he never went out in
search of food, and did not budge from his posture of meditation till he mastered complete
detachment and omniscience. Thus passed a whole year when he stood in the posture of meditation
(dhyann-mudra). During the rainfall months, creepers grew with the support of his body
which they wrapped and his feet were covered by ant-hills. His hard penance is a notable event
noticed in the Puranas A gigantic 57 feet stone image of Bahubali covered with creepers
stand at Sravanabelgola in the State of Karnataka and it attracts every year thousands of
visitors from near and far.
As already said, Bharata acquired the chakraratna with which at the fore he set out for
the conquest of the world. His mission was successful but the chakraratna suddenly
stopped at the entrance of Ayodhya. On enquiry it was discovered that till the wheel had completed
the complete subordination of all the six segments, it would not enter into the capital city.
So the search went on as to which segment had been left out. It was soon found that nothing had
been left out except the kingdoms of his own brothers. So messengers were despatched post-haste
to all of them, and almost all of them approved of the monarch's proposal except Bahubali.
Being sorry at the meanness of the elder brother, other brothers developed a detachment and
joined the order of monks under their parent. But the messenger who had gone to Bahubali came
back with the following message: "The younger brother Bahubali may submit to the elder brother
Bharata, but not surely king Bahubali to another and more powerful king Bharata. If he has
decided for a trial of strength, I shall suitably respond." The provocation was enough and
the war started. The ministers from both the sides tried to dissuade their respective masters,
but failed. Then thought they: "Both the kings are in their last body-frame wherefrom they will
be liberated. So they will loose nothing from the war. But the men on both the sides who are
present here for fighting will simply be obliterated for no gain to them. So we should strive to
stop this massacre if we can." So they came to their respective masters and proposed a straight
fight between the two monarchs which would spare the life of so many. This was accepted and it
was decided that the monarchs would fight with their eyes, then in the water and ultimately they
would he wrestling.
Bahubali had, compared to Bharata, a greater physical strength and a higher stature
and he remained unconquered in the three modes of fighting. The shame of defeat was too much
for Bharata and he lost control of himself and hurled the wheel on Bahubali by transgressing
the code of warfare, but Bahubali was unhurt and invincible. But all these developments gave a
turn to Bahubali's way of thinking, and hence to his life. He renounced everything and became a
monk. Bharata now became the Emperor
(Chakravarti) over the whole world.
Thus all the brothers and sisters of Bharata were in the spiritual order. Although as Emperor
Bharata remained in the hub of the worldly life, nevertheless, his worldly life itself was
unprecedented and worthy of imitation which theme has often been sung in popular ballads.
After Risabhadeva, the life-story of all the Tirthankars from Ajita, the 2nd till Nammi,
the 21st Tirthankar is available in the Jain literature but with far less elaboration.
Compared to Risabhadeva, even the elaboration in the case of Neminath, Parsvanath and Mahavira
is very much less.
The main reason for this is that except the few just mentioned who had certain special events
to notice, for the rest the life-stories had an amazing similarity. All the Tirthankars come from
their births previous with the acquisition of a great merit called Tirthankar-prakrti, for which
all of them have in common five auspicious events, which need no repetition here. This is the
reason why, apart from the life story of Risabha, those of other Tirthankars have hardly any
scope for literary or poetic elegance. Leaving aside a few events in the life of Risabhadeva,
the rest have been shared by the succeeding Tirthankars.
From Ajita to Nammi, the most important things to note are that the 16th Tirthankar Shantinath,
the 17th Kunthunath and the 18th Arrnath had been Chakravarties
and Kamadevs before they became Tirthankars.
A Chakravarti is one who is the master of the six segments of the world with 32000 crowned
feudatory kings as his vassals. He acquires nine treasures, fourteen gems. He has 96000
consorts in attendance. His army has 84 crores (1 crore=10 million) of warriors, 18 crores horses, 84 lakhs
elephants and a similar number of chariots, 3 crores cows and 1 crore ploughs. The details
of a Chakravarti's treasures may be looked up in the Jain Puranas.
Kamdev is a great man with a highly graceful body. Their number is 24.
Since three of the Tirthankars had been world monarchs, the description of their life-story
was perhaps exception to contain a separate account of their secular greatness, but since this
bears some similarity with that of Bharata who himself was a world monarch, this has been
meticulously abandoned to avoid repetition.
At the time of the 20th Tirthankar Muni Suvratanath, there lived in India the legendary heroes,
Rama and Lakhsmana. Rama had never been a Tirthankar but he has been widely noticed in the Jain
literature. There are quite a few Jain Tirthankars who have not been separately noticed in the
Jain texts, but Rama story in some facet of it is rarely missing either in the Puranas
or in Kavyas (long poems). the reason for this is the many facetedness of Rama's life,
which does throw some light on one aspect or another of any one's life. The National Poet
Maithili Saran Gupta has rightly sung:
'Rama ! Thy life itself is a poem,
Any one who desires may become its poet."(Saket, Title Page)
According to the Jain tradition, Rama and Laksmana take their place in the galaxy of 63
illustrious personages. Rama was Balabhadra and Lakshmana was Narayan. Ravana has been
considered to be a Prati-Narayan and Hanuman was a Kamdev. Both Rama and Hanuman became,
later in life digamber-possessionless monks and
attained complete detachment and supreme knowledge. Though not
themselves Tirthankars, they are as much worthy of reference as the Tirthankars, and there
is hardly any difference between the two.
Bhagwan Neminath, the 22nd Tirthankar,
was a cousin, of Krishna. Andhakavrisni, the king
of Sauripur had ten sons, of which the eldest was Samudravijay and the youngest was Vasudev.
Samudravijay became the father of Neminath, as Vasudev became the father of Krishna. The
name of Neminath's mother was Sivadevi. The entire race, the Yadavas, had fled Sauripur
because of the fear of Jarasandh, who was a half-Chakravarti
Emperor and Prati-Narayan and they had taken shelter in Dvaraka.
Krishna is one of the 63 illustrious personages, he was a Narayan and his brother Baldev
was a Balabhadra. This was the Age of the Mahabharata, when flourished the
Pandavs and the Kauravs, who have been noticed in the Jain Puranas.
The story of Neminath's attaining a state of detachment is exceedingly heart-rending on
which poems, songs and paintings exist in a large number. There exist many poems and songs in
the form of Nemi-vivaha and Rajul-barahamasa. The incident goes as follows:
Rajmati (Rajul), the princess at the famous city of Junagadh near the Girnar mountain was
betrothed to Nemi Kumar. From both the sides, elaborate preparations were made for the
celebration. It was at its pitch and the marriage procession reached the vicinity of Junagadh.
The inmates at the palace at Junagadh were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the procession.
Things were ready for the performance of rites at the entrance. The atmosphere everywhere was
one of joy. Although Rajul, who was surrounded by her attendants who were cracking jokes
befitting the occasion, looked grave, inside, she was also in a light mood, awaiting the
arrival of the procession. While dreaming of the pleasant company of Nemi Kumar, she had in
fact forgotten everything else.
Right then, like a cyclone, the news spread all over the city that being sympathetic to the mute
appeal of the animals who had been caged for the purpose of the marriage dinner, the minutest
chord of attachment in Nemi Kumar had given way. He had decided not to marry, removed the
nuptial thread, and taken the road to the Girnar mountain. His attachment had transformed into
detachment, and having torn asunder the great acquisition including the parents, treasures,
granaries, the kingdom and every other object of attachment, and like wise all internal
attachments, like greed, malice, etc., he had become a
The news took no time to spread. Efforts were made to induce him to return, but all was in vain.
The Lokantik "gods" appeared and approved his decision. The initiation was appropriately
celebrated with suitable zeal by all "gods" and men. There dropped a curtain of metamorphosis on
the whole situation which changed from a happy marriage occasion into an environment of
Rajul's mind too changed. She too took the road to self-realisation. Following the footprints
left by him, she proceeded towards the Girnar mountain. The whole city looked agape with a
sense of deprivation. The members of the marriage party had come to acquire a bride, but they
lost the groom. King Ugrasen desired to endow a huge dowry on his daughter and send her to her
new home in a palanquin, but all these remained discarded, and Rajmati proceeded towards the
mountain in a white saree. The king had collected and got prepared costly robes to be
bestowed on his son-in-law, but he discarded whatever robes he had on his person and became a
digamber-possessionless monk and took his place on the mountain. He had come to marry with Rajul but events turned
in a manner in which he got married with liberation.
The heart-rending episode in the life of Nemi Kumar and Rajul has been sung by the Jain poets in
a touching and thought provoking manner. It has also been the theme of many traditional paintings
and crafts. It was indeed an unusual episode of separation for the Jain stories-separation
without a physical contact. And what did Rajul get out of it except a pleasant reverie?
Compared to her, Yasodhara enjoyed the company of the Buddha for some time. She had a son to
support her, she had the expectation that the Buddha would some day come back. Sita too enjoyed
the pleasant company of Rama and she had the expectation of a future restoration-though
circumstances were very much against her, she knew for certain that Rama's mind had not changed.
So hope still lurked. Even Radha was not fully disheartened. But Rajul got nothing before she
was discarded, and she held nothing on which to live in memory. Besides, the mind of Nemi Kumar
too had changed, and so there was no hope on which she could live on. There was the need of a
Bhavbhuti (Bhavbhuti was a Sanskrit poet) to depict the pathetic story of this pious
Monk Neminath was already self-enlightened, and
now he started making steady progress on the
steps to stability. On the 56th day from his initiation, he rose to the stage of
kshapaka-shreni, which was the extreme point in penance, and soon acquired the
supreme knowledge and became a
Bhagwan. He shone like a beacon light for full
seven hundred years,
showing the right path; and, in the end, on completion of the life-span of a thousand years,
he entered into liberation at the Girnar mountain.
This is the reason why Girnar has been considered to be a Siddhakshetra,
a Land of Liberation. This is a holy place of the Jains. Located near Junagadh in Gujarat,
this place attracts also many who are not Jains. This was not only a land of liberation for
Neminath, this was also a land where he practised penance. Rajul too practised her penance here.
Two sons of Krishna, Pradyuman Kumar and Sambhu Kumar, too were liberated
from their seat on this mountain. Pradyuman Kumar was a Kamdev.
The 23rd Tirthankar Parsvanath is the very embodiment of the spirit of non-malice. In one of
his previous lives, the one-sided malice entertained by one Kamath towards him on the one hand,
and Parsva's feeling of amity towards him on the other are a proof of his highest attainment
About 3000 years ago, an exceedingly illustrious child was born in the race of Iksvaku in the
line of Kasyapa to king Asvasena of Varanasi from his
enlightened consort Vamadevi on the
eleventh day of the dark half of Pausa He was named Parsva Kumar. Parsva Kumar was brilliant,
rich in intellect, endowed with many auspicious marks and detached to worldly life by birth.
Although there was no dearth of luxury goods in his home, he had no attraction for them. Though
reared under the shadow of affluence, he remained non-involved like a lotus though in water.
In his youth, his parents tried to settle him in marriage but they could not succeed to make
He was self enlightened by birth and so he was always indifferent to the worldly life. One day
in the morning, he was going out for a walk in the company of his friends when in the way he saw
his maternal grandfather garbed as a monk performing the panchagni penance on the way side.
In the midst of the blazing flame, there was a pair of he and she snakes who were also getting
burnt. Parsva Kumar knew all this by dint of his extra sensory knowledge and he asked his
grandfather to desist from this type of penance, but the latter was not convinced till the log
was pierced and the pair came out half burnt. Parsva Kumar consoled the snakes with sweet words.
As their sin had reached a low point, after death they were born as Dharanendra and his consort
After this heart rending episode, Parsva was full of compassion, and he became a
digamber-possessionless monk on
the eleventh day of the dark half of Pausa.
Once the said monk Parsvanath was seated in meditation with a vow of non-breaking silence in
the district of Ahi when a "god" named Samvara (who had in him the soul of Kamath) was flying
through the sky. When his eyes fell on Parsva the inveterate hatred of his previous birth
against him suddenly came up and he inflicted on him terrible hardships such as severe downpours,
snowfall, hailstorm, terrible gusts of wind even heavy shower of stones, but he could not sway
Parsva from his penance.
At the time when Samvara was inflicting these hardships Dharanendra and Padmavati sought to soften
his hardships. Though Parsvanath was fully protected in his meditation and he neither desired
nor need help from any quarter, still Dharanendra and Padmavati tried to help him within their
own resource. In accordance with this tradition, many images of Parsva have been found with the
hood of a snake above him but these cannot and must not be very old, since, as per the sacred
texts, images are made only after one had conquered all foes, internal as well as external,
and become a victor (Arihanta), and at this stage,
no hardship can be inflicted on him.
So the image with the hood of a snake can be the image of
monk Parsva, and not of Bhagwan
Parsva. The images of Bahubali too need a similar consideration. An image with creepers may
be that of monk Bahubali, but surely it cannot be that of
Arihanta Bhagwan Bahubali. But
unfortunately such a wrong tradition got started and is still continuing. One may come across
in any temple in India the image of Bhagwan
Parsva with the hood of a snake and of Bahubali with creepers.
On the 14th day of the dark half of Chaitra, when fully immersed in self,
monk Parsva had the
acquisition of supreme knowledge. He became a
Bhagwan. Afterwards, for about 70 years, he
travelled on foot all over the country and delivered sermons at innumerable congregations.
In the end, on completion of a Century of lifespan, he entered into nirvana at Sammet Sikhara,
from which it has acquired the name Paresnath Hill. Even the Railway Station is named Paresnath.
Located in the District of Hazaribag in Bihar, this is the most important place of pilgrimage
for the Jains. On this mountain, twenty out of twentyfour Tirthankars of the Jains have
attained nirvana. Thousands of pilgrims visit this place every year.
Thus we see that Bhagwan Mahavira had been preceded
by a long tradition, a long line of
Tirthankars, from a venerable past. Of this long line,
Bhagwan Mahavira was the last, as, in this
down-swing of the cycle, Adinath was the first, though, needless to add, in the preceding up
and down swings of the cycle prior to Adinath, there had been innumerable Tirthankars, as
there would be innumerable more after Mahavira in the subsequent up and down swings of the cycle
till an infinite time. The first Tirthankar to appear in the upswing following Mahavira would
be Mahapadma. So it would be a gross error to call Mahavira the founder of Jainism, as Buddha is
called the founder of Buddhism.
Bhagwan Mahavira was not the founder of a new religion; he had simply developed it and propagated
it. Indeed, he did not even introduce a reform. And pray, who can reform a religion? Religion is
always a reformed thing that helps the reform of a soul which is under perversion. Viewed as a
category, reform itself is religion.