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Rishabha Dev
First tīrthankara
India, uttar pradesh, jina rishabhanatha, 800-900.JPG
Alternate name: Ādinātha, Adish Jin (First conqueror), Adi-deva (First Lord)
Father: Nabhiraja
Mother: Marudevi
Dynasty: Ikshvaku
Birth: Ayodhya
Moksha: Kailash Giri[1]
Color: Golden
Symbol: Bull
Height: 500 dhanush (3000 feet)
Age: 84 purv (84*3) lakh years

Rishabha Dev (Sanskrit: ऋषभदेव), also known as Adinatha, was the first of the twenty four tīrthaṅkaras.[2] Rishabha Deva is the founder of Jainism in the present half-cycle of time.[3] He is conferred with various titles like 'the first world teacher',[4] 'first perfect man' (Adi Purush), first most excellent arranger of things, the support of dharma, the supreme teacher.[5] As per Jain cosmology, he was born at the end of the third era Suṣama-duhṣamā (read as Sukhma-dukhma). He is one of the 63 Śalākāpuruṣas, or the illustrious persons who promote the Jain religion. According to legends, he started the Ikshvaku dynasty of ancient Ayodhya. Ikshvaku was another name of Tirthankara Rishabha.[6] Rishabha is also known as Rikhava and is sometimes called Rishabha of Kosala. He taught the people the skills of farming, commerce, defence, politics and arts (intotal 72 arts for men and 64 arts for women) and organised the people in societies. Therefore, he is known as the father of human civilisation. His son, Bharata was the first chakravartin.[7]


Statue of R̥ṣabha at LACMA

Jains believe that twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras or "ford-makers", teachers who establish the Jain teachings grace each half of the cosmic time cycle indefinitely. Jains trace their history through a succession of these tīrthaṅkaras. They have legendary accounts of their life.[8] Parshvanatha, is the earliest tīrthaṅkara who can be reliably dated; he lived in the 9th century BCE.[9][10] Tradition says that Mahāvīra's parents followed his teachings. However, the current knowledge about the history of India is not enough to say whether Pārśva decisively founded the Jain religion or not.[11] In this regard, Hermann Jacobi, a noted indologist, writes:[12]

There is nothing to prove that Parshva was the founder of Jainism. Jain tradition is unanimous in making Rishabha, the first Tirthankara, as its founder and there may be something historical in the tradition which makes him the first Tirthankara.

In light of the relics found in Harrapan excavations like the standing nude male figures (Jaina Kayotsarga), images in Padmasana and the Bull symbol of Rishabha,[13] some contemporary historians are of the opinion that there exists some link between Rishabha and the Indus Valley Civilization.[14][12][15][16]

In Literature[edit]

There is mention of Rishabha in Hindu scriptures, like Bhagavata Purana & Rig Veda. Rig Veda, X.166 states-

The Bhagavata Purana states that

The eighth incarnation was King Rishabha, son of King Nabhi and his wife Merudevi. In this incarnation the Lord showed the path of perfection, which is followed by those who have fully controlled their senses and who are honored by all orders of life.

—Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.13

In the Skanda Purana (chapter 37) it is stated that "Rishabha was the son of Nabhi, and Rishabha had a son named Bharata, and after the name of this Bharata, this country is known as Bharata-varsha."[17]

Rishabha also finds mention in Buddhist literature. It speaks of several jaina tirthankara which includes Rishabha along with Padmaprabha, Chandraprabha, Pushpadanta, Vimalnatha, Dharmanatha and Neminatha. A Buddhist scripture named Dharmottarapradipa mentions Rishabha as an Apta (Tirthankara).[18]

The Ādi purāṇa, a 10th-century Kannada language text by the poet Adikavi Pampa (fl. 941 CE), written in Champu style, a mix of prose and verse and spread over sixteen cantos, deals with the ten lives of Rishabha and his two sons.[19][20] The life of Rishabha is also given in Mahapurana of Jinasena.[21]


A depiction of Ayodhya town

Rishabha was born to Nabhi Raja and Marudevi at Ayodhya before human civilization was much developed.[22] It is said that Kubera built entire new town of Ayodhya at the time of the birth of Rishabha. People were primitive and illiterate and Rishabha taught them agriculture, tending of animals, cooking, poetry, painting, sculpture and similar arts.[6][23] He introduced karma-bhumi (the age of action).[24] The institution of marriage came into existence, during his time.[25][6] He introduced a total of seventy-two sciences which includes arithmetic, the plastic and visual arts, the art of lovemaking, singing and dancing.[25] He taught people how to extract sugarcane juice. The name for the Ikshvaku dynasty comes from the word ikhsu (sugarcane) because of this event.[26] His kingdom was kind and gentle[25] and he is credited with transforming a tribal society into an orderly one.[27] Like any Tirthankara and other legendary figures of Indian history (who were great warriors), he too was a great warrior with great strength and body. However, he never needed to show his warrior aspect.[25] Rishabha is known for advocating non-violence.[25] He was one of the greatest initiators of human progress.[6]

Rishabha had two wives. One of them was Sunanda and the other is given different names, Yasaswati, Nanda and Sumangala, in different texts. He had one hundred sons and two daughters.[28] Among these, Sunanda was the mother of Bahubali and Sundari whereas Sumangala was the mother of Bharat and Brahmi.[29] Bharata, Rishabha's eldest son, was a chakravartin who later attained moksha and hence is worshipped as a siddha by the Jains. India was named 'Bhāratavarsha' or Bhārata after him.[6][30]


Ranakpur Jain temple dedicated to Rishabhdeva

Rishabha after being appointed as a king, taught six main professions to the householders for livelihood-

Teachings Meaning
Asi Swordsmanship
Masi Writing skills
Krishi Agriculture
Vidya Knowledge
Vanijya Commerce
Shilp Crafts


These professions changed the earth from Bhogbhumi (place of enjoyment) to Karmabhumi (place of action).


Some of the scriptures mention that a dancer named Nilanjana was sent by Indra for the purpose of awakening Rishabha to renounce the world.[32] Indra staged the dancer's sudden death in order to awaken Rishabha and make him preach Jainism.[33] The sudden fatal death of Nilanjana, made Rishabha understand the world's transitory nature and developed a desire for renunciation.[34]

Ascetic life[edit]

Depiction of the meditation by Rishabhdeva

Rishabha gave his kingdom to his two sons Bharata and Bahubali. Bharata received the northern half of his kingdom with Ayodhya as the capital whereas Bahubali received the southern half with the city Podanapur.[35] He then became an ascetic. His aim was to cause less harm to others and keep no possessions.[27]

Rishabha was the first human to attain enlightenment. He traveled far and wide and preached Jainism.[36] While traveling, he came across a mountain named Ashtapada, which is famously known as mount Kailash. Gods created a divine preaching hall known as samavasarana at this mountain for Rishabha.[36] He attained liberation on Mount Kailasa at the age of 84 purva (5,92,704) lakh years ; where one purva equals (84*3).[24] His preachings were recorded in fourteen scriptures known as Purva.[37]

Akshaya Tritiya[edit]

Akshaya Tritya is considered holy and supremely auspicious by Jains. It is believed that Rishabha took his first ahara (alms) as an ascetic on this day. He was the first monk of the Avsarpinī era, and people didn't knew how to offer food (ahara) to Jain monks. King Shreyansa of Hastinapur town recollected his past life experiences and offered him sugarcane juice. Jains attach great importance to this day as, it was only after 11 months and 13 days that Rishabha was offered food. It is celebrated on the third day of bright fortnight of the month Vaishaka.[38]


17th-century painting showing Rsabha's royal consecration from the Pancakalyanaka of Rsabha series

Rishabha is usually depicted in lotus position or kayotsarga, a standing posture of meditation. The distinguishing mark of Rishabha is his long locks of hair which fall on his shoulders and an image of a bull in his sculptures.[39] His paintings usually depict various important events of his legend. Some of these include his marriage and the Hindu god Indra marking his forehead. He is shown presenting a bowl to his followers and teaching them the art of pottery, painting a house, weaving textile. The visit of his mother Marudevi is also shown extensively in painting.[40]

Legends in photos[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "To heaven and back - Times Of India". Articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com. 2012-01-11. Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  2. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 208-09.
  3. ^ Rai 2008, p. xiv.
  4. ^ Rai 2008, p. 53.
  5. ^ Rai 2008, p. iii.
  6. ^ a b c d e Jain 1991, p. 5.
  7. ^ Rai 2008, p. 112.
  8. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 220.
  9. ^ Jain 1991, p. 12.
  10. ^ Charpentier 1922, p. 153
  11. ^ Glasenapp 1999, p. 24.
  12. ^ a b Sangave 2001, p. 131
  13. ^ Puruṣottama Bilimoria; Joseph Prabhu; Renuka M. Sharma (2007). Indian Ethics: Classical traditions and contemporary challenges, Volume 1 of Indian Ethics. Ashgate Publishing Ltd. p. 315. ISBN 9780754633013. 
  14. ^ Vir Sanghvi. "Rude Travel: Down The Sages". Hindustan Times. 
  15. ^ Gupta 1999, p. 133
  16. ^ Rankin 2010, p. 44
  17. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 106
  18. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 105
  19. ^ History of Kannada literature
  20. ^ Students' Britannica India, Volumes 1-5. Popular Prakashan. 2000. p. 78. ISBN 0-85229-760-2. 
  21. ^ Gupta 1999, p. 133.
  22. ^ Jain 1929, p. 88
  23. ^ Jain 1929, p. 89
  24. ^ a b Sangave 2001, p. 103
  25. ^ a b c d e Rankin 2010, p. 43.
  26. ^ Shah 2004, p. 15.
  27. ^ a b Rankin 2010, p. 44.
  28. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 105.
  29. ^ Shah 1987, p. 112
  30. ^ Jain 1929, p. 159
  31. ^ Rai 2008, p. x.
  32. ^ Cort 2010, p. 25
  33. ^ Titze 1998, p. 8.
  34. ^ Cort 2010, p. 25.
  35. ^ Titze 1998, p. 8
  36. ^ a b Cort 2010, p. 115.
  37. ^ Shah 1998, p. 12.
  38. ^ Titze 1998, p. 138
  39. ^ Shah 1987, p. 113
  40. ^ Jain & Fischer 1978, p. 16