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First Tirthankara
Image of Rishabhanatha at Kundalpur pilgrimage site in Madhya Pradesh, India
Other names Adinatha, Adish Jina (first conqueror), Adi Purush (first Perfect Man), Ikshvaku
Symbol Bull
Height 500 bows (1500 metres)[1]
Age 84 lakh purva (592.704 x 1018 years)[1]
Tree Banyan
Color Golden
Spouse Sunanda and Sumangala
Children Bharata
Succeeded by Ajitanatha
Born Ayodhya
Moksha Mount Kailash

Rishabhanatha (also Ṛṣabhadeva, Rishabhadeva, or Ṛṣabha which literally means "bull") is the first Tirthankara (ford maker) in Jainism.[2][3] A mythical leader, he is believed in Jainism to have lived millions of years ago.[4] He was the first of twenty four teachers in the present half cycle of time in Jain cosmology, and called a ford maker because his teachings helped one across the sea of interminable rebirths and deaths (saṃsāra). He is also known as Ādinātha of Jainism which translates into "First (Adi) Lord (nātha)".[4]

According to Jain traditional accounts, he was born to King Nabhi and Queen Marudevi in Ayodhya. Jain texts talk about his two wives, Sunanda and Sumangala. Sumangala is described as the mother of his ninety-nine sons (including Bharata) and one daughter, Brahmi. Sunanda is depicted as the mother of Bahubali and Sundari. The sudden death of Nilanjana, one of the dancers of Indra, reminded him of the world's transitory nature and he developed a desire for renunciation. After renouncing, the Jain legends state he wandered without food for a whole year. The day on which he got his first ahara (food), is celebrated as Akshaya Tritiya by Jains. He is said to have attained Moksha on Mount Kailash. The Jain mythology Adi Purana includes his legends. His iconography includes colossal statues such as Statue of Ahimsa, Bawangaja and those erected in Gopachal hill. His icons include the eponymous bull as his emblem, the Nyagrodha tree, Gomukha (bull-faced) Yaksha, and Chakreshvari Yakshi.

Founding of Jainism[edit]

Jain cosmology divides the Worldly Time cycle into two halves (avasarpiṇī and utsarpiṇī) with six aras (spokes) in each half. Twenty-four Tirthankaras grace this part of the universe in the fourth period, known as duşamā-suşamā (read as dukhmā-sukhmā), of both halves. The present half cycle (avasarpiṇī) being a special case, Rishabhanatha, the first tīrthaṅkara was born at the end of the third period (known as suṣama-duṣamā) itself.[5][6] This cycle will start reversing at the onset of utsarpinī kāl (next half cycle) with the Dukhama-dukhamā being the first period.[7] According to Jain texts, Rishabhanatha was born in the age when there was happiness all around with no work for men to do.[5][8] Gradually as the cycle moved, and Kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling trees) disappeared, people rushed to their King for help.[5][9] Rishabhanatha is then said to have taught the men six main professions. These were: (1) Asi (swordsmanship for protection), (2) Masi (writing skills), (3) Krishi (agriculture), (4) Vidya (knowledge), (5) Vanijya (trade and commerce) and (6) Shilp (crafts).[10][11] In other words, he is credited with introducing karma-bhumi (the age of action) by teaching these professions to householders to enable them to earn a livelihood.[12][13][14] The institution of marriage is said to have come into existence after he married to set an example for other humans to follow.[5][15][13] In total, Rishabhanatha is said to have taught seventy-two sciences which include: arithmetic, the plastic and visual arts, the art of lovemaking, singing and dancing.[15][16] Jain chronology places the date of Rishabhanatha at an almost immeasurable antiquity in the past.[17]

Rishabhanatha is said to be the founder of Jainism in the present half cycle,[5][3] and is unanimously considered to be so by the Jains. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first Vice President of India wrote:

There is evidence to show that so far back as the first century B.C. there were people who were worshipping Ṛṣabhadeva, the first tīrthaṅkara. There is no doubt that Jainism prevailed even before Vardhamāna or Pārśvanātha. The Yajurveda mentions the name of three Tīrthaṅkaras – Ṛṣabha, Ajitnātha and Ariṣṭanemi. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa endorses the view that Ṛṣabha was the founder of Jainism.


Rishabhanatha is known by many names among Jains including Adinatha, Adisvara, Yugadeva and Nabheya.[19] Ādi purāṇa, a major Jain text records the life accounts of Rishabhanatha as well as ten previous incarnations.[20]


See also: Panch Kalyanaka
Janma kalyāṇaka from the Kalpa Sutra, c. 14th–15th Century CE

Garbha kalyanaka is the first auspicious event out of five auspicious events (Panch Kalyanaka). It means enlivening of the embryo through the descent of the life (soul) in the mortal body. [21] On the second day of Ashadha (a month of the Hindu calendar) Krishna (dark fortnight), Queen Marudevi is said to have seen sixteen auspicious dreams. King Nabhi explained these dreams to her as a sign of Tirthankara's birth.[22]

Rishabhanatha was born to King Nabhi and Queen Marudevi in Ayodhya, on the ninth day of the dark half of the month of Chaitra-caitra krişna navamĩ.[5][23][24] This is the second auspicious event and is known as Janma Kalyanaka.[25]


Rishabhanatha's kingdom was kind and gentle and he is credited with transforming a tribal society into an orderly one.[26] Like all tīrthaṅkara and other legendary figures of Indian history who were great warriors, he too was one with great bodily strength. However, he never needed to show his warrior aspect.[15] Rishabhanātha is known for advocating non-violence,[15] and is said to be one of the greatest initiators of human progress.[13]

Rishabhanatha had two wives, Sunanda and Sumangala.[5][27] Sumangala was the mother of ninety-nine sons (including Bharata) and one daughter, Brahmi.[5][28] Sunanda was the mother of Bahubali and Sundari.[19] He taught his daughters Brahmi and Sundari, the Brahmi-lipi (ancient Brahmi script) and the science of numbers (Ank-Vidya) respectively.[5] Rishabhanatha is said to have lived for 84 lakh (840 million) pūrva[a] (592.704 x 1018 years) of which 20 lakh pūrva were spent as a youth (kumāra kāla), and 63 lakh pūrva as the King (rājya kāla).[23][1]


Statuary representing meditation by Rishabhanatha in Kayotsarga posture. (Photo:Ajmer Jain temple)

One day Indra of the first heaven arranged a dance by celestial dancers in the assembly hall of Rishabhanatha.[29] One of the dancers was Nilanjana, whose clock of life had only a few moments left to run.[23][30] While in the midst of a series of vigorous dance movements, she stopped, and the next instant her form 'dissolved' and she was no more.[31] The sudden fatal death of Nilanjana reminded Rishabhanatha of the world's transitory nature and he developed a desire for renunciation.[29][31] He gave his kingdom to his hundred sons, of whom Bharata got the city of Vinita (Ayodhya) and Bahubali got the city of Podanapur (Taxila)[30] and became an ascetic on the ninth day of the month of Chaitra Krishna (Hindu calendar). The renunciation is the third of Panch Kalyanaka and is called Diksha Kalyanaka.[32]

Akshaya Tritiya[edit]

King Shreyansa giving ahara to Rishabhanatha

Akshaya Tritya is considered holy and supremely auspicious by Jains. It is believed that Rishabhanatha took his first ahara (alms) as an ascetic on this day. Rishabhanatha was the first monk of the present half cycle of time (avasarpini).[33] Therefore, people did not know how to offer food (ahara) to Digambara monks. King Shreyansa of Hastinapur town recollected his past life experiences and offered sugarcane juice (ikshu-rasa) to Rishabhanatha.[34] Jains attach great importance to this day as it was only after 6 months that Rishabhanatha was offered food. It is celebrated on the third day of the bright fortnight of the month Vaishaka.[35] He got the name Ikshvaku[13] from the word Ikhsu (sugarcane)[36] and his dynasty became Ikshvaku dynasty.[37]


Rishabhanatha's moving over lotus after attaining omniscience

Rishabhanatha spent a thousand years performing austerities and then attained Kevala Jnana (omniscience) on the 11th day of Falgun Krishna (Hindu calendar) under a banyan tree.[38] According to Jain texts, Devas (heavenly beings) created a divine preaching hall known as samavasarana. This is the fourth of Panch Kalyanaka and is known as Kevala Jnāna Kalyanaka. According to Jain texts, the following is the number of followers of Tirthankara Rishabhanatha:[39]

  • 84 Ganadharas (apostles)
  • 20,000 omniscient saints.
  • 12,700 saints endowed with telepathy[40]
  • 9,000 saints with clairvoyance.
  • 4,750 saints śrut-kevali (saints having complete knowledge of Jain Agamas)
  • 20,600 saints with miraculous powers.
  • 350,000 nuns, headed by Brahmi.[41]
  • 300,000 householders.

As an Omniscient, Tirthankara Rishabhanatha is said to have preached for 1 lakh pūrva less thousand years (kevalakāla).[31]


Kailash Parvat Rachna, Hastinapur

Rishabhanatha is said to have preached Jainism far and wide.[42] He attained Moksha (liberation from the cycle of births and deaths) at Ashtapada (famously known as Mount Kailash)[42] on the fourteenth day of Magha Krishna (Hindu Calendar) at the age of 84 lakh purva when three years and eight and a half months were remaining of the third ara.[31][1] His preachings were recorded in fourteen scriptures known as Purvas.[43]

In literature[edit]

Rishabhanatha venerated by Digambara monk and others, 18th century CE


Bilahari Adinath with Ashtamangala

Rishabhanatha is usually depicted in the lotus position or kayotsarga, a standing posture of meditation. The distinguishing features of Rishabhanatha are his long locks of hair which fall on his shoulders, and an image of a bull in sculptures of him.[51] Paintings of him usually depict legendary events of his life. Some of these include his marriage, and Indra performing a ritual known as abhisheka (consecration). He is sometimes shown presenting a bowl to his followers and teaching them the art of pottery, painting a house, or weaving textiles. The visit of his mother Marudevi is also shown extensively in painting.[52] He is also associated with his Bull emblem, the Nyagrodha tree, Gomukha (bull-faced) Yaksha, and Chakreshvari Yakshi.[53]


Colossal statues[edit]

Statue of Ahimsa, carved out of a single rock, is a 108 feet (33 m) tall (121 feet (37 m) including pedestal) statue of Rishabhanatha and is 1,840 sq feet in size. It is said to be the world's tallest Jain idol.[54] It is located 4,343 feet (1,324 m) above from sea level, near Mangi-Tungi hills in Baglan taluka. Officials from the Guinness Book of World Records visited Mangi Tungi and awarded the engineer of the 108 ft tall Rishabhdeva statue, C R Patil, the official certificate for the world's tallest Jain idol.[55][56]

Bawangaja (meaning 52 yards) is a 84 feet (26 m) high statue of Rishabhanatha in Madhya Pradesh, India.[57] This monolithic statue of Adinatha was built in 12th century.[58]

The 58.4 feet (17.8 m) Rishabhanatha Statue at Gopachal Hill, Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh. Thousands of Jain idols including 58.4 foot idol of Rishabhanatha were carved in the Gopachal Hill idol from 1398 A.D. to 1536 A.D. by rulers of Tomar dynasty rulers — Viramdev, Dungar Singh and Kirti Singh.[59]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ 1 purva is equal to square of 840 million i.e. 70.56 X 1012


  1. ^ a b c d Sarasvati 1970, p. 444.
  2. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 208-09.
  3. ^ a b Sangave 2001, p. 131.
  4. ^ a b Britannica 2000.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jaini 2000, p. 327.
  6. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. xiv.
  7. ^ Dalal 2010, p. 27.
  8. ^ Vijay K. Jain 2015, p. 78.
  9. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 88.
  10. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. x.
  11. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 103.
  12. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 21.
  13. ^ a b c d Kailash Chand Jain 1991, p. 5.
  14. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 89.
  15. ^ a b c d Rankin 2010, p. 43.
  16. ^ George 2008, p. 318.
  17. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. xv.
  18. ^ Radhakrishnan 1923, p. 287.
  19. ^ a b Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 112.
  20. ^ a b Upinder Singh 2016, p. 26.
  21. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 195.
  22. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 76-79.
  23. ^ a b c Vijay K. Jain 2015, p. 181.
  24. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 83.
  25. ^ Jaini 1998, p. 7.
  26. ^ Rankin 2010, p. 43–44.
  27. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 64–66.
  28. ^ a b Sangave 2001, p. 105.
  29. ^ a b Cort 2010, p. 25.
  30. ^ a b Titze 1998, p. 8.
  31. ^ a b c d Vijay K. Jain 2015, p. 182.
  32. ^ Rankin 2010, p. 44.
  33. ^ B.K. Jain 2013, p. 31.
  34. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 86.
  35. ^ Titze 1998, p. 138.
  36. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 76–77.
  37. ^ Natubhai Shah 2004, p. 15.
  38. ^ Krishna & Amirthalingam 2014, p. 46.
  39. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 126–127.
  40. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 126.
  41. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 127.
  42. ^ a b Cort 2010, p. 115.
  43. ^ Natubhai Shah 2004, p. 12.
  44. ^ Popular Prakashan 2000, p. 78.
  45. ^ "Kamat's Potpourri: History of the Kannada Literature -II". 
  46. ^ a b Jaini 2000, p. 326.
  47. ^ Gupta 1999, p. 133.
  48. ^ "Shri Bhaktamara Mantra (भक्तामर स्त्रोत)", 
  49. ^ Rao 1989, p. 13.
  50. ^ Doniger 1999, p. 549.
  51. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 113.
  52. ^ Jain & Fischer 1978, p. 16.
  53. ^ Tandon 2002, p. 44.
  54. ^ "Amit Shah felicitated by Jain community", The Statesman, Nashik, PTI, 14 February 2016 
  55. ^ "Guinness Book to certify Mangi Tungi idol", The Times of India, 6 March 2016 
  56. ^ "108-feet Jain Teerthankar idol enters "Guinness book of records"", The Hindu, 7 March 2016 
  57. ^ Bhattacharyya 1977, p. 269.
  58. ^ Katariya, Adesh, Ancient History of Central Asia, p. 347 
  59. ^ "On a spiritual quest", Deccan Herald, 29 March 2015