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22nd Jain Tirthankara
Arishtanemi or successor
Image of Neminatha at a Jain temple in Bateshwar, Uttar Pradesh
Other names Arishtanemi
Venerated in Jainism
Predecessor Naminatha
Successor Parshvanatha
Symbol Shankha
Height 10 bows (98 feet)[1]
Age 1000 years
Color Black
Personal Information
Born Dwarika
Moksha Mount Girnar

Neminatha (Devanagari: नेमिनाथ) is the twenty-second Tirthankara (ford-maker) in Jainism, an Indian religion.[2] He is also known simply as Nemi, or as Aristanemi which is an epithet of the sun-chariot. Along with Mahavira, Parshvanatha and Rishabhanatha, Neminatha is one of the four Tirthankaras that attract the most devotional worship among the Jains.[3]

According to Jain beliefs, Neminatha lived 84,000 years before the 23rd Tirthankara, Parshvanatha. He is one of the 24 Tirthankaras in Jain theology, in the avasarpini cycle of Jain cosmology. He is a legendary figure, who lived for 1,000 years,[1] and was the youngest son of King Samudravijaya and Queen Shivadevi. He is believed in Jainism to be the cousin of Hindu god Krishna,[2] and his iconography includes the same conch as found with Vishnu.[4] He was born at Sauripura (Dvaraka) in the Yadu lineage, like Krishna.[5] His birth date is the 5th day of Shravana Shukla in the Hindu calendar. He herded cattle and became fond of animals.[5] According to Jain mythology, on his wedding day Neminatha heard the cries of animals being killed for the marriage feast,[6] and moved by the sorrow he renounced the world – a scene found in many Jaina artwork.[2][7][8] He attained moksha on Girnar Hills near Junagadh, a pilgrimage center for Jains.[2]

According to Long, the Jain legends state that Neminatha taught Krishna the knowledge that he shared with Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, a historic reason that has led Jains to accept, read and cite the Bhagavad Gita as a spiritually important text, celebrate Krishna related festivals and intermingle with Hindus as spiritual cousins.[9]


The name Neminatha consists of two Sanskrit words, Nemi which means "rim, felly of a wheel" or alternatively "thunderbolt",[10] and Natha which means "lord, patron, preotector".[11] According to the Jain text Uttarapurana, as well as the explanation of Hemachandra, it was the ancient Indian deity Indra who named the 22nd Tirthankara as Neminatha, because he viewed the Jina as the "rim of the wheel of dharma". In Svetambara Jain texts, his name Aristanemi came from a dream his mother had when he was in the womb, where she saw a "wheel of Arista jewels".[12]

Neminatha is the 22nd Tirthankara in Jain tradition, and his name is spelled close to the 21st Tirthankara Naminatha. According to Jain history, there was a gap of 500,000 years between the two.[6]


The birth of Aristanemi, Kalpa Sūtra

Neminatha was the twenty-second tirthankara (ford-maker) of the avasarpini (present descending cycle of Jain cosmology).[13][14] According to Jain beliefs, he lived 84,000 years before the 23rd Tirthankara, Parshvanatha.[15] His full name was Aristanemi which is an epithet of the sun-chariot.[16][17] He was the youngest son of King Samudravijaya and Queen Shivadevi.[18] He was born at Sauripura (Dvaraka) in the Yadu lineage, grew up in cattle herding family and grew fond of animals.[5] Jain legends place him in the Girnar-Kathevad (Saurashtra region)[5] of Gujarat.[19][20] His birth date is the 5th day of Shravana Shukla in the Hindu calendar.[14]

Neminatha temple complex on Girnar hills near Junagadh, Gujarat.

Neminatha was born with a dark-blue skin complexion,[21] very handsome but a shy young man.[18] On being taunted by Satyabhama, the wife of Krishna, Neminatha blew Panchajanya, the mighty conch of Krishna. According to Jain texts, no one could lift Vishnu's conch except Krishna, let alone blow it. After this event, Jain Puranas state that Krishna decided to test Neminatha's strength and challenged him for a friendly duel. Neminatha, being a Tirthankara, defeated Krishna without any effort.[22] In the war between Krishna and Jarasandha, Neminatha participated alongside Krishna.[23]

Depiction of wedding procession of Neminatha. His legend states that he renounced after hearing animal cries while they were being sacrificed to prepare his wedding feast.[4]

He is mentioned as the cousin of Krishna in the Jain Puranas,[8] and Trishashti-salaka-purusha-charitra.[24][25] It is further mentioned that Neminatha's marriage was arranged with Rajulakumari or Rajimati, the daughter of King Ugrasena of Dvaraka. According to Jain legends, Neminatha heard the animal cries as they were beings slaughtered for the marriage feast. He was taken by sorrow that his marriage is the cause of so much pain, gave up the idea of getting married, became monk and went to Mount Girnar to lead a mendicant's life.[26][27][6] His bride-to-be followed him, became a nun and joined the ascetic order.[25] According to Kalpasutras, he led an ascetic life there by eating only once every three days,[28] meditated for 55 days, and then obtained omniscience on Mount Raivataka, under a Mahavenu tree.[21] After a life of about 1,000 years,[29] he is said to have attained moksha (nirvana) on Mount Girnar.[25][27] Of these 1,000 years, he spent 300 years as a bachelor, 54 days as an ascetic monk and 700 years as an omniscient being.[28]


Unlike the last two Tirthankaras, historians consider Neminatha and all other Tirthankaras to be legendary characters.[2] Jains consider Neminatha to be the son of Samudravijaya, brother of Krishna's father Vasudeva, therefore the cousin of Hindu god Krishna (avatar of Vishnu).[24]


Brooklyn Museum - Page 65 from a manuscript of the Kalpasutra recto Neminatha's initiation verso text
  • A palm leaf manuscript on the life of Neminatha, named Neminatha-Charitra, was written in 1198-1142 AD. It is now preserved in Shantinatha Bhandara, Khambhat.[32]
  • Rajul's love for Neminatha is described in the Rajal-Barahmasa (an early 14th-century poem of Vijayachandrasuri).[33]


The largest statue of Neminath with height of 16 meters at Tirumalai built in 12th century


Neminatha is believed in the Jaina tradition to be Krishna's cousin and has the same dark-bluish colored skin.[34] Painting depicting his life stories generally identify him as dark colored. His iconographic identifier is a conch carved or stamped below his statues. Sometimes, as with Vishnu's iconography, a chakra is also shown near him, as in the 6th-century sculpture found at the archeological site near Padhavali (Madhya Pradesh).[35] Artworks showing Neminatha sometimes include Ambika yakshi, but her color varies from golden to greenish to dark-blue, by region.[36]



See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Sarasvati 1970, p. 444.
  2. ^ a b c d e Arishtanemi: JAINA SAINT, Encyclopaedia Britannica
  3. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 40.
  4. ^ a b Jain & Fischer 1978, pp. 16–17.
  5. ^ a b c d Ramchandra C Dhere (2011). Rise of a Folk God: Vitthal of Pandharpur. Oxford University Press. pp. 193–196. ISBN 978-0-19-977759-4. 
  6. ^ a b c von Glasenapp 1925, pp. 317-318.
  7. ^ Sehdev Kumar 2001, pp. 143–145.
  8. ^ a b Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 165-166.
  9. ^ Long 2009, p. 42.
  10. ^ Monier Monier-Williams, Nemi, Sanskrit English Dictionary with Etymology, Oxford University Press, page 569
  11. ^ Monier Monier-Williams, Natha, Sanskrit English Dictionary with Etymology, Oxford University Press, page 534
  12. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 164-165.
  13. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 224.
  14. ^ a b Tukol 1980, p. 31.
  15. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 226.
  16. ^ a b Jain & Fischer 1978, p. 17.
  17. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 225.
  18. ^ a b Doniger 1993, p. 225.
  19. ^ Upinder Singh 2008, p. 313.
  20. ^ Cort 2001, p. 23.
  21. ^ a b Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 164.
  22. ^ Doniger 1993, p. 226.
  23. ^ Beck 2012, p. 156.
  24. ^ a b Helen 2009, pp. 1–266.
  25. ^ a b c Sangave 2001, p. 104.
  26. ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991, p. 7.
  27. ^ a b Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 165.
  28. ^ a b Jones & Ryan 2006, p. 311.
  29. ^ Melton & Baumann 2010, p. 1551.
  30. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 239.
  31. ^ Upinder Singh 2016, p. 26.
  32. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 253.
  33. ^ Kelting 2009, p. 117.
  34. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 164-168.
  35. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 164-170.
  36. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 264-265.
  37. ^ TNN (24 November 2008), Singular pre-Portuguese monument crumbling from neglect Paul Fernandes finds that the Jain basti at Bandora requires conservation, Goa: The Times of India 
  38. ^ Shenoy, Balaji (11 February 2015), Ruins of Neminath Jain Basti at Bandora, The Navhind Times 
  39. ^ Kerkar, Rajendra; TNN (31 October 2014), Jain heritage dwindles as govt sits pretty, The Times of India 


Further reading[edit]

  • World Parliament of Religions Commemoration Volume: Issued in commemoration of the World Parliament of Religions held at Sivanandanagar, Rishikesh, in April, 1953, Published The Yoga-Vedanta Forest University Press, 1956
  • Jain Journal, Volumes 2-3, Published by Jain Bhawan 1967