Tirthankara

A statue of Lord Mahavira, the last Tirthankara, located in the Shri Mahaveerji temple (Rajasthan, India).

In Jainism, the Tirthankara ("Fordmaker") (also Tirthankara) refer to twenty four enlightened spiritual masters who are believed to have achieved perfect knowledge through asceticism. They are also known as Jina ("Victors") for totally conquering anger, pride, deceit, and desire.

The Tirthankara provide the highest model of spiritual conduct in the Jain religion and communal devotional practice often involves veneration of these figures. Their teachings have been compiled in the Jain scriptures known as the Ägams, also called the Jain Shrut.

Contents

Jainism is renowned throughout the world for its exemplary devotion to the practice of ahimsa (non-violence), which was embodied by the Tirthankara. The next Tirthankara will be born at the beginning of the third era of the next (ascending) half cycle of time, in approximately 81,500 years.

Cosmological Context

According to Jain cosmology, human existence is very ancient compared to most other religious calendars; consequently, it is believed that the various Tirthankaras have existed over billions of years in order to teach humanity in different epochs. Jainism states that time has no beginning or end. It moves like the wheel of a cart. There have been an infinite number of time cycles before our present era and there will be an infinite number of time cycles after this age. Twenty four Tirthankars are born in each half cycle of time (that is forty eight in each full cycle), in this part of the universe. In our current (descending) half cycle of time, the first Tirthankar Rishabh Dev, lived billions of years ago and attained liberation ('moksh' or 'nirvan') towards the end of the third era. The twenty-fourth and last Tirthankar was Mahavir Swami (599-527 B.C.E.), whose existence is a historically accepted fact. The most recent Tirthankara, known as Mahavira, is sometimes incorrectly called the founder of Jainism.[1] At the end of his human life-span, each Tirthankara achieves liberation ('moksh' or 'nirvan'), ending the cycle of infinite births and deaths.

Iconography

Depictions of the Tirthankaras are almost always represented as seated with their legs crossed in front, the toes of one foot resting close upon the knee of the other, and the right hand lying over the left in the lap. Only two are represented differently: that of Parsvanatha, the twenty-third, who has snake-hoods over him, and Suparsva, the seventh, who the Digambarashas depict with a smaller group of snake-hoods.

Digambara representations are nude, while those of the Svetambaras are clothed and decorated with crowns and ornaments. They are further distinguished from one another in representations by their attendant Yakshas and Yakshinis, as well as by their associated chihnas (cognizances) carved on the cushions of their thrones.

Twenty-one of the Tirthakaras are said to have attained Moksha in the Kayotsarga posture; Rishabha, Nemi; and Mahavira on the padmasana (lotus throne).

Worship

Tirthankaras in British Museum

Although Tirthankara statues are worshipped in Jain temples, they are not seen as gods. Jainism does not believe in the existence of God in the sense of a creator. Moreover, while gods are beings superior to humans, they are, nevertheless, not fully enlightened.

Sectarian Differences

The Digambara sect of Jainism believes that all twenty four Tirthankars were men but Svetambara sect claims that the nineteenth Tirthankar, Malli Nath, was a woman.

Lineage

All but two of the Tirthankaras are ascribed to the Ikshvaku family (or Kula or Kul, which in Sanskrit means "heart community" or "intentional/chosen community/family"). Munisuvrata, the twentieth, and Neminatha, the twenty-second, were of the Harivamsa race.

All but Rishabha received diksha (consecration) and jnana (complete enlightenment of all knowledge) at their native places. Rishabha became a Kevalin at Purimatala, Nemi at Girnar, and Mahavira at the Rijupaluka river. Twenty Tirthankaras died or obtained moksha (deliverance in bliss) on Sameta Sikhara. However Rishabha, the first, achieved nirvana on the Kailasa Mountain of the Himalayas; Vasupujya died at Champapuri in north Bengal; Neminatha on Mount Girnar; and Mahavira, the last, at Pavapur.

Narration Chart of 24 Tirathankars

The following particulars for each Arhat are given below:

Tirthankar Heaven Birthplace;
Consecration
Parents Complex Symbol Height Age Tree Attendant
spirits
Male disciple;
Female disciple
I. Lord Rishabha (Adinath) Sarvarthasiddha Vinittanagari;
Purimatala
Nabhiraja
by Marudeva
golden bull or ox 500 dhanusha
(poles)
8,400,000 purva
(great years)
Vata (banyan) Gomukha and
Chakresvari
Pundarika;
Brahmi
II. Ajitnath Vijayavimana Ayodhya;
Sammet Shikharji
Jita['s]atru
by Vijayamata
golden elephant 450 dhanusha 7,200,000 purva ['S]ala
(Shorea robusta)
Mahayaksha and
Ajitabala;
or Rohi[n.]i
['S]i[.m]hasena;
Phalgu
III. Sambhavanath Uvarimagraiveka Savathi;
Sravasti
Jitari
by Senamata
golden horse 400 dhanusha 6,000,000 purva Prayala
(Buchanania latifolia)
Trimukha and
Duritari;
or Prajnapti
Charu;
Syama
IV. Abhinandannath Jayantavimana Ayodhya;
Sammet Shikharji
Sambararaja
by Siddhartha
golden monkey 350 dhanusha 5,000,000 purva Priyangu
(Panicum italicum)
Nayaka and
Kalika; or
Yakshesvara and
Vajrasrinkhala
Vajranabha;
Ajita
V. Sumatinath Jayantavimana Ayodhya;
Sammet Shikharji
Megharaja
by Mangala
golden curlew or
red goose
300 dhanusha 4,000,000 purva Sala Tumburu and
Mahakali; or
Purushadatta
Charama;
Kasyapi
VI. Padmaprabha Uvarimagraiveka Kausambi;
Sammet Shikharji
Sridhara
by Susima
red lotus 250 dhanusha 3,000,000 purva Chhatra Kusuma and
Syama; or
Manovega
or Manogupti
Pradyotana;
Rati
VII. Suparshvanath Madhyamagraiveka Varanasi;
Sammet Shikharji
Pratish[t.]haraja
by P[r.]ithvi
golden
or emerald
swastika 200 dhanusha 2,000,000 purva Sirisha
(Acacia sirisha)
Matanga
and Santa; or
Varanandi
and Kali
Vidirbha;
Soma
VIII. Chandraprabha Vijayanta Chandrapura;
Sammet Shikharji
Mahasenaraja
by Lakshmana
white moon 150 dhanusha 1,000,000 purva Naga Vijaya and
Bhrikuti; or
Syama or Vijaya
and Jvalamalini
Dinna;
Sumana
IX. Pushpadanta Anatadevaloka Kanandinagari;
Sammet Shikharji
Sugrivaraja
by Ramarani
white Crocodile 100 dhanusha 200,000 purva Sali Ajita and
Sutaraka;
or Mahakali
Varahaka;
Varuni
X. Sheetalnath Achyutadevaloka Bhadrapura or Bhadilapura;
Sammet Shikharji
Dridharatha-raja
by Nanda
golden Kalpavriksha or
[icus religiosa
90 dhanusha 100,000 purva Priyangu Brahma and
Asoka; or
Manavi
Nanda;
Sujasa
XI. Shreyansanath Achyutadevaloka Simhapuri;
Sammet Shikharji
Vishnuraja
by Vishna
golden rhinoceros 80 dhanusha 8,400,000 common years Tanduka Yakshet and
Manavi; or
Isvara and
Gauri
Kasyapa;
Dharani
XII. Vasupujya Pranatadevaloka Champapuri;
Sammet Shikharji
Vasupujya
by Jaya
ruddy female buffalo 70 dhanusha 7,200,000 years Patala
(Bignonia suaveolens)
Kumara and
Chanda; or
Gandhari
Subhuma;
Dharani
XIII. Vimalnath Mahasaradevaloka Kampilyapura;
Sammet Shikharji
Kritavarmaraja
by Syama
golden pig 60 dhanusha 6,000,000 years Jambu
(Eugenia jambolana)
Shanmukha and
Vidita; or
Vairo[t.]i)
Mandara;
Dhara
XIV. Anantnath Pranatadevaloka Ayodhya;
Sammet Shikharji
Simhasena
by Suyasah
or Sujasa
golden porcupine 50 dhanusha 3,000,000 years Asoka
(Jonesia asoka)
Patala and
Ankusa; or
Anantamati
Jasa ;
Padma
XV. Dharmanath Vijayavimana Ratnapuri;
Sammet Shikharji
Bhanuraja
by Suvrita
golden vajra 45 dhanusha 1,000,000 years Dadhiparna
(Clitoria ternatea)
Kinnara and
Kandarpa;
or Manasi
Arishta;
Arthasiva
XVI. Shantinath Sarvarthasiddha Gajapura or Hastinapuri;
Sammet Shikharji
Visvasena
by Achira
golden deer 40 dhanusha 100,000 years Nandi
(Cedrela toona)
Garuda and
Nirvani; or
Kimpurusha and
Mahamanasi
Chakrayuddha;
Suchi
XVII. Kunthunath Sarvarthasiddha Gajapura;
Sammet Shikharji
Suraraja
by Srirani
golden goat 35 dhanusha 95,000 years Bhilaka Gandharva and
Bala; or
Vijaya
Samba;
Damini
XVIII. Aranath Sarvarthasiddha Gajapura;
Sammet Shikharji
Sudarsana
by Devirani
golden fish or
Pisces
30 dhanusha 84,000 years Amba
(Mango)
Yaksheta and
Dhana; or
Kendra and
Ajita
Kumbha;
Rakshita
XIX. Mallinath Jayantadevaloka Mathura;
Sammet Shikharji
Kumbharaja
by Prabhavati
blue jar or Kalasa 25 dhanusha 55,000 years Asoka Kubera and
Dharanapriya;
or Aparajita
Abhikshaka;
Bandhumati
XX. Munisuvrata Aparajita-devaloka Rajagriha;
Sammet Shikharji
Sumitraraja
by Padmavati
black tortoise 20 dhanusha 30,000 years Champaka
(Michelia champaka)
Varuna and
Naradatta; or
Bahurupini
Malli;
Pushpavati
XXI. Nami Natha Pranatadevaloka Mathura;
Sammet Shikharji
Vijayaraja
by Viprarani
yellow;
or emerald
blue water-lily or blue lotus 15 dhanusha 10,000 years Bakula
(Mimusops elengi)
Bhrikuti and
Gandhari; or
Chamundi
Subha;
Anila
XXII. Neminatha Aparajita Sauripura and Ujjinta (Ujjain);
Mount Girnar (Girnarji)
three
by Senamata
black conch ten dhanusha 1,000 years Vetasa Gomedha and
Ambika; or
Sarvahna and
Kushmandini
Varadatta;
Yakshadinna
XXIII. Parshva Pranatadevaloka Varanasi;
Sammet Shikharji
Asvasenaraja
by Vamadevi
blue snake nine hands or cubits 100 years Dhataki
(Grislea tomentosa)
Parsvayaksha or
Dharanendra
and Padmavati
Aryadinna;
Pushpachu[d.]a
XXIV. Mahavira Pranatadevaloka Kundagrama or Chitrakuta;
Rijupaluka
Siddhartharaja,
Sreyansa or
Yasasvin
by Trisala
Vidchadinna
or Priyakarini
yellow lion seven hands or cubits 72 years teak Matamga and
Siddhayika
Indrabhuti;
Chandrabala

Notes

  1. Jains do not see Mahavira as the founder of their religion but as the twenty-fourth Tirthankara in a long history of spiritual masters.

References

  • Dundas, Paul. The Jains (Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices). Routledge; 2 edition, 2002. ISBN 978-0415266055
  • Jain, Jyotindra and Eberhard Fischer, Jaina Iconography: The Tirthankara in Jaina Sculptures, Art and Rituals. Brill Academic Publishers, 1997. ISBN 978-9004052604
  • Shah, Bharat S. An Introduction to Jainism. BookSurge Publishing, 2002. ISBN 978-0962367472

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