Birth and lineage
He appeared in the womb of Marudevi, the wife of King Nabhi. The King underwent many severe austerities and penance to please Vishnu to get a son like Vishnu. Vishnu accepted his plea and thus appeared as Rishabha, son of King Nabhi and Marudevi.
He followed the orders of his guru and accepted a wife named Jayanti, who had been given to him by the king of heaven, Indra. He begot a hundred sons by Jayanti.
Of his hundred sons, the eldest was known as Jadabharata, who became a Chakravartin. Since his reign, the Indian subcontinent has been called Bharatavarsa. Rsabha's other sons were headed by Kusavarta, Ilavarta, Brahmavarta, Malaya, Ketu, Bhadrasena, Indrasprk, Vidarbha and Kikata. There were also other sons named Kavi, Havi, Antariksa, Prabuddha, Pippalayana, Avirhotra, Drumila, Camasa and Karabhajana. Instead of ruling the kingdom, these nine became mendicant preachers, following the religious precepts of the Bhagavata Purana. It is written that they were "Shramana vatarashana", or Shramanas clothed in the wind. Their characteristics and activities are described in the Eleventh Canto of the Bhagavata Purana during the talks between Vasudeva and Narada at Kuruksetra. To teach the general populace, Rishabha performed many sacrifices and taught his sons how to rule the citizens. Thus Rishabha was an ideal father, who gave apt instructions to his sons. The instructions of Rishabha to his sons are present in Canto 5, Chapter 5 of the Bhagavata Purana.
Reference in scriptures
Rishabha Rishi is also mentioned in the Markandeya, Vayu, Brahmanda, Skanda, and Vishnu Puranas.
Commentaries on some Puranas also clearly mention Rishabha.
O Lord! the soul of this universe! When you appeared from the ritual fire in the middle of the sacrifice, the priests extolled you and prayed for a son equal to yourself for their king Nabhi. (Sriman Narayaneeyam)
Rishabha wanted to put a limit to materiality on Earth.
He became a mendicant. His practices were the oath of silence, and yoga. Through yoga he obtained siddhi powers.
Leaving Brahmavarta without any clothes on his body, he wandered through various countries as a blind, and deaf-mute. He was looked down upon and in some instances even abused but he never lost the control of his yogic mind.
In the end of his life, he traveled to South Indian lands like Konka, Venkata, Kutaka, and Daksina Karnataka.
His most important lesson he taught mankind was that material possessions cause envy and unhappiness.
Relation to Shiva
Several scholars have connected Rishabha to Lord Shiva, especially through the Indus Valley Civilization's iconography such as the meditative pose of a yogin who is also called by many as the Pasupati form of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is also known as Gopati-Rishabha.
Many epithets that have been applied to Lord Shiva have also been applied to Rishabha; these include Aghora, Ishana, Sadyojata, and Vamadeva. The influence of Lord Shiva is clearly noticeable on the Mahapurana, in as much as the Puranakara has called Lord Rishabha as tripurari, trilochana, trinetra, tryambaka, and tryakshna.
In one legend, there is a Saint Rishabh who came to Bhadrayuva unexpectedly, and taught him a great mantra called the Shivakavacha.
In the "Brahmottara-candam" section of the Brahma Purana, the narrator Suta describes many matters relating to Shaivism and in the 16th portion, there is a story about Bhadrabahu receiving instructions in a mantra from Rishabha yogi.
The Linga Purana mentions that in every kali yuga, Lord Shiva has incarnated, and that in one kali yuga he was a Yogeshwara (one of His 28 incarnations) named Rishabha.
Relation to Vishnu
This claim is also confirmed by Jain Acharya Jinasena who claims in his Adipurana that Rishabha is indeed Krishna and Vishnu. Jainism may have made the claim of Rishabha being Krishna and Vishnu before Vaishnavism, as the composition of the Bhagavata Purana is some time between the first part of the 6th century to the 9th century.
Relation to Jainism
Jain are in conformity with the Vedas in reference to both the Vedas' and Jainism' acceptance of the 24 tirthankaras.Of Rishabha, as a Tirthankara, is written:
But Risabha went on, unperturbed by anything till he became sin-free like a conch that takes no black dot, without obstruction ... which is the epithet of the First World-teacher, may become the destroyer of enemies—Rig Veda, X.166
It claims that Rishabha was the first human to achieve Moksha in the present age, the release from rebirths. In Jainism, there is no beginning or end for souls. So Rishabha is the first tirthankara for this cycle, which ended with Mahavira. There were tirthankaras before and will be after Rishabha.
- Matchett, Freda (2001). Krishna, Lord or Avatara?: the relationship between Krishna and Vishnu. 9780700712816. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-7007-1281-6.
- The Vishnu Purana Book II By H.H. Wilson
- Bhagvata Purana. Canto 5, Chapter 4 Summary
- P. 281, Srimannarayaneeyam of Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri: quintessence of Srimad Bhagavata Mahapuranam : English version of Bhaktaranjini Malayalam commentary containing the original text in Devanagari, transliteration, anvaya, word-by-word meaning and a detailed commentary in English, Volume 1
- A Study of the Bhagavata Purana: Or, Esoteric Hinduism By Pūrṇendu Nārāyana Siṁha
- P. 175 Actes, Volume 3, Part 1 By Oriental philology
- P. 119 Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Volume 54, Indian History Congress
- P. 99 100 Stories: Stories from Indiann Mythology: Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda By Avadhoota Datta Peetham, Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji
- P. 88, Madras Journal of Literature and Science, Volume 11 By Madras Literary Society and Auxiliary of the Royal Asiatic Society
- P. 16 Linga Purana By Vinay. The list is in order is: Shweta, Sutara, Madana, Suhotra, Kanchana, Lokakshee, Jagishavya, Dadhivahana, Rishabha, Muni, Ugra, Atri, Vali, Gautama, Vedashrira, Gokarna, Guhavasi, Shikhandabhriti, Jatamali, Attahasa, Daruka, Langali, Mahakaya, Shuli, Mundishvara, Sahishnu, Somasharma, and Jagadguru.
- Adipurana pt. i, ch. 14, v. 51, p. 309;P. 31 Jainism In Early Medieval Karnataka By Ram Bhushan Prasad Singh
- Estimated dates given by some notable scholars include: R. C. Hazra – 6th century, Radhakamal Mukherjee – 9th–10th century, Farquhar – 10th century, Nilakanta Sastri – 10th century, S. N. Dasgupta – 10th century Kumar Das 2006, pp. 172–173
- P. 101 Agni Purana By B. K. Chaturvedi