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In Jainism, a Tīrthaṅkara (Sanskrit: तीर्थंकर) are the teachers and revivers of the Jain philosophy. Tīrthankaras are literally the ford makers who show the way across the ocean of rebirth and transmigration. They like Arihants conquer samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth. They are also called Jina (conqueror of inner enemies such as attachment, pride and greed). They preach the true dharma and provide a bridge for people to follow them from samsara to moksha (liberation).:126 According to Jain texts, that which helps one to cross samsara is a tīrtha ("ford") and a person who fills that role is a tīrthaṅkara ("ford-maker"). Tirthankaras organise sangha, a fourfold order of śramana (monks), śramani (nuns), srāvaka (male followers) and śravaika (female followers).
The tīrthaṅkaras' teachings form the basis for the Jain canons. The inner knowledge of tīrthaṅkara is believed to be perfect and identical in every respect and their teachings do not contradict one another. However, the degree of elaboration varies according to the spiritual advancement and purity of the society during their period of leadership. The higher the spiritual advancement and purity of mind of the society, the lower the elaboration required.
While tīrthaṅkaras are documented and revered by Jains, their grace is said to be available to all living beings, regardless of religious orientation.
Tīrthaṅkaras dwell exclusively within the realm of their Soul, and are entirely free of kashayas, inner passions, and personal desires. As a result of this, unlimited siddhis, or spiritual powers, are readily available to them – which they use exclusively for the spiritual elevation of living beings. Through darśana, divine vision, and deshna, divine speech, they grant their own state of kevalajñana, and moksha, final liberation to anyone seeking it sincerely.
At the end of his human life-span, a tīrthaṅkara achieves siddha status, ending the cycle of infinite births and deaths.
Jainism postulates that time has no beginning or end. It moves like the wheel of a cart. Jains believe that exactly twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras are born in each half-cycle of time in this part of the universe. The first tīrthaṅkara was Rishabha, who is credited for formulating and organising humans to live in a society harmoniously. The 24th and last tīrthaṅkara was Mahavira (599-527 BC).
Five life events
Life of tirthankaras are marked with the following five auspicious events (Kalyanaka)-
- Garbh (conception) Kalyanaka: When soul of a Tirthankara comes into his mother's womb.
- Janma (birth) Kalyanaka: Birth of Tirthankara. Indra does an Abhisheka on the Tirthankara on Mount Meru.
- Diksha Kalyanaka: When Tirthankara renounce all worldly possessions and become an ascetic.
- Keval Gyan (omniscience) Kalyanaka: The event when a Tirthankara attains Keval Gyan (absolute knowledge). Samavasarana (divine preaching hall) is erected from where he delivers sermons and restores sangha after that.
- Nirvana (moksha) Kalyanaka: When a Tirthankara leaves his mortal body, it is known as Nirvana. It is followed by final liberation, Moksha. There soul dwells in Siddhashila after that.
After attaining Kevala Jnana, tirthankara preach path to moksha in a religious hall, known as Samavasarana. According to Jain texts, this religious hall is made by devas and can't be compared to any other religious hall in loka. Tirthankara speech is intercepted by all humans and animals in their own language. It is believed that during this speech, there is no unhappiness for miles around the site. 
In Jain tradition the tīrthaṅkaras were royal in their final lives, and Jain traditions record details of their previous lives, usually as royalty. Their clan and families are also among those recorded in very early, or legendary, Hindu history. All but two of the Jains are ascribed to the Ikshvaku dynasty. Munisuvrata, the twentieth, and Neminatha, the twenty-second, were of the Harivamsa. Jain canons state that Rishabha, the first tīrthaṅkara, founded the Ikshvaku dynasty.
Twenty tīrthaṅkaras achieved “siddha” status on Shikharji. Rishabha attained nirvana on Mount Kailash, Vasupujya at Champapuri in North Bengal, Neminatha on Girnar in Gujarat, and Mahavira, the last tīrthaṅkara, at Pawapuri, near modern Patna. Twenty-one of the tīrthaṅkaras are said to have attained moksha in the kayotsarga “standing meditation” posture, while Rishabha, Neminatha and Mahavira are said to have attained moksha in the lotus position.
List of the 24 tīrthaṅkaras
In chronological order, the names, emblems and colours of the 24 tīrthaṅkaras of this age are mentioned below:
|9||Pushpadanta||Crocodile or Makara||White|
|14||Anantanatha||Bear, hawk or ram||Golden|
|16||Shantinatha||Antelope or deer||Golden|
|18||Aranatha||Nandyavarta or fish||Golden|
Tīrthaṅkara images are usually 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.
Next era tīrthaṅkaras
As per Jain cosmology, the wheel of time is divided in two half, Utsarpiṇī or ascending time cycle and Avasarpiṇī, the descending time cycle. 24 tirthankaras are born in each half of this cycle. The 24 tirthankaras of the present era (Avasarpinī) are the ones listed above. The names of the next 24, which will be born in utsarpinī era are as follows. [Mentioned in the parentheses is one of the (previous human birth) of that soul.]
- Padmanabh (King Shrenik)
- Surdev (Mahavir's uncle Suparshva)
- Suparshva (King Kaunik's son king Udayi)
- Svamprabh (The ascetic Pottil)
- Sarvanubhuti (Shravak Dridhayadha)
- Devshruti (Kartik's shreshti)
- Udaynath (Shravak Shamkha)
- Pedhalputra (Shravak Anand)
- Pottil (Shravak Sunand)
- Shatak (Sharavak Shatak)
- Munivrat (Krishna's mother Devaki)
- Amam (Lord Krishna)
- Shrinishkashay (Satyaki Rudhra)
- Nishpulak (Krishna's brother Balbhadra also known as Balrama)
- Nirmam (Shravika Sulsa)
- Chitragupt (Krishna's brother's mother Rohini)
- Samadhinath (Revati Gathapatni)
- Samvarnath (Sharavak Shattilak)
- Yashodhar (Rishi Dwipayan)
- Vijay (Karna of Mahabharata)
- Malyadev (Nirgranthaputra or Mallanarada)
- Devachandra (Shravak Ambadh)
- Anantvirya (Shravak Amar)
- Shribhadrakar (Shanak)
- Balcerowicz 2009, p. 16.
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