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23rd Jain Tirthankara
Image of Tīrthankara Parshvanatha (Victoria and Albert Museum, 6th-7th Century)
Symbol Snake
Height 9 cubits (13.5 feet)[1]
Age 100 years
Color Blue
Spouse Prabhavati[2]
  • Ashvasena (father)
  • Vamadevi (mother)
Preceded by Neminatha
Succeeded by Mahavira
Born 872 BCE
Moksha 772 BCE

Parshvanatha (Pārśvanātha), also known as Parshva (Pārśva), was the twenty-third Tirthankara of Jainism.[3][4] He is the earliest Jain leader (c. 872 – c. 772 BCE) for whom there is reasonable evidence of having been a historical figure.[5][6]


Circumstantial evidence including a description of the teachings of Parshvanatha in the Sayings of the Seers, dictates that Parshvanatha can be viewed as a historical figure.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] Historians like H. Jacobi considers him as historical figure, because his Chaturyama Dharma (four vows) is mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures.[15]


Parshvanatha was born on the tenth day of the dark half of the month of Paush to King Asvasena and Queen Vamadevi of Benaras (now Varanasi).[16][7][17] He belonged to the Ikshvaku dynasty.[18][19] He assumed and began to practice the twelve basic vows of the adult Jain householder when he reached the age of eight.[20] He is said to have married Prabhavati, the daughter of Prasenajit (King of Kusasthala).[21]

Parshvanatha lived as formal prince of Benaras (now Varanasi) and at the age of 30, he renounced the world to become a monk.[22] He meditated for 84 days before attaining Kevala Jnana under a Dhaataki tree near Benaras.[23] His first disciples were his mother and wife.[14] After preaching for 70 years, he achieved moksha at the age of one hundred atop Shikharji,[7][17] which is known today as the Parasnath Hills after him.[24] Parshvanatha was called purisādāṇīya (beloved of men), a name which shows that he must have been a genial personality.[18] He remains beloved among Jains.[25][26]

Previous Births[edit]

  • Marubhuti - Visvabhuti, the prime minister of King Aravinda had two sons, elder one named Kamath and younger one named Marubhuti (Parshvanatha). Kamath killed Marubhuti and died as a criminal.[27]
  • Elephant - He was then reborn as an elephant in the forests of Vindyachal. His name was Vajraghosha (Thundering Voice of Lightening). Meanwhile, King Aravinda, after death of his minister Marubhuti, renounced his throne and was leading an ascetic life. When the elephant came near Aravinda, he recalled his previous human life by the blessings of Aravinda and became calm. Kamath was reborn as a serpent this time.[28] One day, when the elephant went to a river to quench his thirst, the serpent attacked him and he died the peaceful death of absolute renunciation.[29]
  • Sasi-prabha - Vajraghosha was reborn as Sasi-prabha (splendor of the moon) in the twelfth heaven and the serpent went to hell.[29]
  • Agnivega - After spending a luxurious life in heaven, he was reborn as prince Agnivega (strength of fire). He ascended the throne of his father which he later renounced to lead an ascetic life. Kamath was reborn as a serpent again after hell and again killed the ascetic in Himalayas during penance.[30]
  • When he was a prince he saved two snakes that had been trapped in a log in an Kamath's fire. Later, the snakes were reborn as Dharnendra, the lord of the underworld kingdom of the nāgas, and Padmavati. Dharnendra and Padmavati sheltered Parshvanatha from a storm sent by a Meghmali (Kamath reborn).[31]


Sculpture with image of Parshvanatha, Thirakoil, 8th Century

According to the Kalpa Sūtra, a Śvētāmbara text, Parshvanatha had 164,000 śrāvakas (male lay followers) and 327,000 śrāvikās (female lay followers) and 16,000 sādhus (monks) and 38,000 sādhvīs (nuns). He had eight ganadharas (chief monks): Śubhadatta, Āryaghoṣa, Vasiṣṭha, Brahmacāri, Soma, Śrīdhara, Vīrabhadra and Yaśas.[24] After his death, the ganadhara Śubhadatta became the head of the monastic order. He was then succeeded by Haridatta, Āryasamudra and Keśī.[22]

Śvētāmbara texts explain that a sage named, Keśī was born about 166 to 250 years after the death of Parshvanatha met the Indrabhuti Gautama, the chief disciple of Mahavira and asked him twelve questions.[32] One of the question as mentioned in Śvētāmbara text was "The Law taught by Parsva, recognizes but four vows, whilst that of Vardhamana enjoins five". Therefore, according to Śvētāmbara texts, Parshvanatha taught four vows instead of the presently famous five vows (mahavratas).[33] The four vows are Ahimsa (Jainism), Aparigraha, Achaurya and Satya.[34] This view is however not accepted by the Digambaras. PK Modi rejects the theory of difference in Parshvanatha and Mahavira's teachings.[35] On this, Champat Rai Jain in his essay titled "The Origin of The Swetambara Sect" wrote:

The first question Kesi put to Gautam was why did Mahavira insist upon the observance of five vows when Parashvanath did not mention five but only four, excluding celibacy? But the question would have had a point if it could be shown that salvation could be obtained without the observance of celibacy. So far as I understand Swetambara books themselves insist upon an observance of this vow, and it is not possible that two omniscient teachers, i. e., Parashvanath and Mahavira could teach different things.

In literature[edit]

Parsva with Padmavati and Dharnendra, Kalpa Sūtra


Parsvanath Image, Badami caves, Karnataka

Parshvanath is the most popular tirthankar of Jain devotion. He is closely associated with compassion, although he is free from the world of rebirth like all Tirthankaras and therefore unable to aid his devotees personally. Parshvantha is usually depicted in Lotus position or Kayotsarga posture. Statues of Parshvanath have snake crown on head and The snake emblem of Parshvanath is usually carved below the legs of the Tirthankara. Paintings of Parshvanatha usually depict as him protected by Dharnendra and Padmavati[39][page needed][40]

Colossal statues[edit]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ Sarasvati 1970, p. 444.
  2. ^ "Parshvanath-the 23rd tirthankar", 
  3. ^ Fisher 1997, p. 115.
  4. ^ Sanghvi, Vir, "Rude Travel: Down The Sages", Hindustan Times 
  5. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 183.
  6. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 103.
  7. ^ a b c Dundas 2002, p. 30.
  8. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 128.
  9. ^ Charpentier 1922, p. 153.
  10. ^ Ghatage 1951, p. 411-412.
  11. ^ Deo 1956, pp. 59–60.
  12. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 182-183.
  13. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 220.
  14. ^ a b George 2008, p. 318.
  15. ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991, p. 11.
  16. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 184.
  17. ^ a b Sangave 2001, p. 104.
  18. ^ a b Ghatage 1951, p. 411.
  19. ^ Deo 1956, p. 60.
  20. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 196.
  21. ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991, p. 12.
  22. ^ a b von Glasenapp 1999, pp. 24–28.
  23. ^ Danielou 1971, p. 376.
  24. ^ a b Kailash Chand Jain 1991, p. 13.
  25. ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991, pp. 12-13.
  26. ^ Schubring 1964, p. 220.
  27. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 186-187.
  28. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 189.
  29. ^ a b Zimmer 1953, p. 190.
  30. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 191.
  31. ^ "Parshvanatha". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  32. ^ von Glasenapp 1999, p. 35.
  33. ^ Chatterjee, Asim Kumar (2000). A Comprehensive History of Jainism. ISBN 978-81-215-0931-2. 
  34. ^ George 2008, p. 319.
  35. ^ Umakant Premanand Shah 1987, p. 5.
  36. ^ Champat Rai Jain. The Change of Heart. p. 102–103. 
  37. ^ Upadhye, Dr. A. N. (2000). Mahāvīra His Times and His philosophy of life. Bharatiya Jnanpith. p. 46. 
  38. ^ Dasam Granth, S.S. Kapoor, Page 17
  39. ^ Bowker 1997.
  40. ^
  41. ^ Hubli gets magnificent 'jinalaya'. The Hindu, 6 January 2009.
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^