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Image of Rishabhanatha at Kundalpur pilgrimage site in Madhya Pradesh, India
Other namesAdinatha, Adish Jina (first conqueror), Adi Purush (first Perfect Man), Ikshvaku
Height500 arc-lengths (800 ells, 1200 feet)[1]
Age8,400,000 purva (592.704 × 1018 years Old)[1][2][3]
Personal information
SpouseSunanda & Sumangala
Children100 sons including Bharata Chakravartin and Bahubali, and 2 daughters: Sundari, Brahmi[4]

Rishabhanatha (also Ṛṣabhadeva, Rishabhadeva, or Ṛṣabha) is the first Tirthankara (ford maker and propagator of Dharma) of Jainism and the founder of Ikshvaku dynasty.[5][6] 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 which translates into "First (Adi) Lord (nātha)",[7] as well as Adishvara (first ishvara), Yugadideva (deva of yuga), Prathamaraja (first king), and Nabheya (son of Nabhi).[8][9] Along with Mahavira, Parshvanatha and Neminatha, Rishabhanatha is one of the four Tirthankaras that attract the most devotional worship among the Jains.[10]

According to Jain traditional accounts, he was born to king Nabhi and queen Marudevi in the north Indian city of Ayodhya, also called Vinita.[4] He had 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 his renunciation, the Jain legends state Rishabhanatha wandered without food for an entire year. The day on which he got his first ahara (food) is celebrated by Jains as Akshaya Tritiya. He is said to have attained Moksha on Mount Asthapada. The text Adi Purana by Jinasena is an account of the events of his life. 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.


According to Jain cosmology, the universe does not have a temporal beginning or end. Its "Universal History"[11] divides the cycle of time into two halves (avasarpiṇī and utsarpiṇī) with six aras (spokes) in each half, and the cycles keep repeating perpetually. Twenty-four Tirthankaras appear in every half, the first Tirthankara founding Jainism each time. In the present time cycle, Rishabhanatha is credited as being the first tīrthaṅkara, born at the end of the third half (known as suṣama-duṣamā ārā).[12][13][14]

According to Jain texts, Rishabhanatha was born in a king's family in the age when there was happiness all around with no one needing to do any work because of Kalpavriksha (miraculous wish-fulfilling trees).[12][15][11] Gradually as the cycle progressed, the efficacy of these trees decreased,[11] people rushed to their king for help.[12][16] 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).[17][18] In other words, he is credited with introducing karma-bhumi (the age of action) by founding arts and professions to enable householders to sustain themselves.[11][19][20] He is, in the Jain belief, the one who organized a social system that created the varna based on professions.[11][21]

Rishabhanatha is credited in Jainism to have invented and taught fire, cooking and all skills needed for human beings to live. In total, Rishabhanatha is said to have taught seventy-two sciences to men and sixty-four to women.[4] According to Paul Dundas, Rishabhanatha in Jain mythology is thus not merely a spiritual teacher but one who founded knowledge in its various forms and a form of culture hero for the current cosmological cycle.[11]

The institution of marriage is stated to have come into existence after he married to set an example for other humans to follow.[12][19] His life is also credited by Jains with starting the institution of charity (daana) from layperson to mendicants, when he received sugarcane juice in his hand from King Shreyansha (his great grandson), to break his fast. This is accepted in the Jain tradition as what started the tradition of alms giving in its various forms, and one that has continued since ancient times in India.[11]


Rishabhanatha is said to be the founder of Jainism of present Avsarpini (a time cycle) by the different Jain sub-traditions.[12][6] Jain chronology places Rishabhanatha in historical terms, as someone who lived 101631 years ago.[7][22] He is stated to have lived for 8,400,000 purva years.[1][2] His height is described in the Jain texts to be 500 arc lengths (800 ells), or about 1,200 feet/366 meters.[1] Such descriptions of non-human heights and age are also found for the next 21 Tirthankaras in Jain texts and according to Kristi Wiley – a scholar at University of California Berkeley known for her publications in Jainism, most Indologists and scholars consider all the first 22 of 24 Tirthankaras to be prehistorical,[23] or historical and a part of Jain mythology.[1][24] However, among Jain writers and some Indian scholars, some of the first 22 Tirthankaras are considered to reflect historical figures, with a few conceding that the inflated biographical statistics are mythical.[25]

According to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a professor of comparative religions and philosophy at Oxford who later became the second President of India, there is evidence to show that Rishabhdeva was being worshipped by the first century BCE. The Yajurveda [note 1] mentions the name of three Tirthankaras – Rishabha, Ajitanatha and Arishtanemi, states Radhakrishnan, and "the Bhāgavata Purāṇa endorses the view that Rishabha was the founder of Jainism".[26]

Jain traditional biography[edit]

Rishabhanatha is known by many names among Jains including Adinatha, Adishwara, Yugadeva and Nabheya.[8] Ādi purāṇa, a major Jain text records the life accounts of Rishabhanatha as well as ten previous incarnations.[27]


Janma kalyāṇaka from the Kalpa Sutra, c. 14th–15th Century CE

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.[12][28][29] This is the second auspicious event and is known as Janma Kalyanaka.[30] The association of Rishabhanatha to Ayodhya makes it a sacred town for Jains, as it is in Hinduism for the birth of the Rama.[4]

In Jain tradition, the birth of a Tirthankara is marked by auspicious signs such as certain dreams. 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.[31] On the second day of Ashadha (a month of the Jain calendar) Krishna (dark fortnight), Queen Marudevi is said to have seen fourteen auspicious dreams. King Nabhi explained these dreams to her as a sign of Tirthankara's birth. Rishabhanatha, according to Jain mythology, was born after these dreams.[32]

Marriage and children[edit]

Rishabhanatha had two wives, Sunanda and Sumangala.[12][33] Sumangala was the mother of ninety-nine sons (including Bharata) and one daughter, Brahmi.[12][34] Sunanda was the mother of Bahubali and Sundari.[8]

Rishabhanatha is stated in Jain texts to have taught his daughters Brahmi and Sundari, the Brahmi lipi (ancient Brahmi script) and the science of numbers (Ank-Vidya) respectively.[12] The Pannavana Sutra (2nd century BCE) and the Samavayanga Sutra (3rd century BCE) list many other writing scripts known to the ancient Jain tradition, of which the Brahmi script named after Rishabha's daughter tops the list.[35]

His eldest son Bharata Chakravartin is stated as one who ruled ancient India from an ancient capital of Ayodhya.[36] Bharata is described in Jain texts as a just and kind ruler, who was not attached to wealth or vices.[37]


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

One day, god Indra of the first heaven arranged a dance by celestial dancers in the assembly hall of Rishabhanatha.[38] One of the dancers was Nilanjana.[28][39] While in the midst of a series of vigorous dance movements, she died.[40] The sudden death of Nilanjana reminded Rishabhanatha of the world's transitory nature, triggering him to renounce his kingdom along with his family and material wealth.[38][40] 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).[39] He became an ascetic on the ninth day of the month of Chaitra Krishna (Hindu calendar). According to Jain mythologies, he practiced severe austerities for 1,000 years, then gained enlightenment, became a Jina.[4]

Akshaya Tritiya[edit]

Akshaya Tritya is considered holy and supremely auspicious by Jains. It is believed that Rishabhanatha took his first ahara (alms) after becoming an ascetic on this day. Rishabhanatha, Jains believe, was the first monk of the present half cycle of time (avasarpini).[41] Therefore, people did not know how to offer food (ahara) to monks. King Shreyansa of Hastinapur (Rishabhnatha's great grand son) offered sugarcane juice (ikshu-rasa) to Rishabhanatha. Jains attach great importance to this day as it was only after one year that Rishabhanatha was offered food.[42] The day is celebrated in the Jain tradition on the third day of the bright fortnight of the month Vaishaka (usually April).[43]


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.[44] The 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. Rishabhanatha attracted a large community of followers that included Sramanas, male and female mendicants, sages and disciples.[2]

Nirvana Kalyanaka[edit]

Mount Kailash or Ashtapad, the Nirvana place of Rishabhdeva.

Rishabhanatha is said to have preached Jainism far and wide.[45] At his death, he attained Nirvana[46] (also called Moksha), all four of his ghati karma were destroyed, his soul was liberated from the endless cycle of rebirths, to stay eternally at siddhaloka. His death is believed in Jainism to have occurred on Ashtapada (also known as Mount Kailash)[47] on the fourteenth day of Magha Krishna (Hindu Calendar) at the age of 84 lakh purva years, with three years and eight and a half months remaining of the third ara.[40]

According to medieval era Jain text, Rishabha (Adinatha) performed asceticism for millions of years, then returned to Ashtapada where he fasted to his death (moksha) and then god Indra came, with his fellow gods from the heavens, to cremate his body with sandalwood, camphor, butter and other fire offerings.[48]

In Literature[edit]

The Rishabhanatha iconography is identified by the bull stamped or carved below his feet. On the center of his chest is a shrivatsa.

Vedic Literature[edit]

The Vedas mention the name Rishabha.[56] However, the context in the Rigveda, Atharvaveda and the Upanishads suggests that it means the bull, sometimes "any male animal" or "most excellent of any kind", or "a kind of medicinal plant".[57][note 2] Elsewhere it is an epithet for the Hindu god Shiva (Rudra).[60]

0 Rudra-like Divinity ! do thou produce amongst us, of high descent, a Great God, like Rishabha Deva, by becoming Arhan, which is the epithet of the first World Teacher; let Him become the destroyer of the enemies !

— Rig Veda, X.12.166


According to the Bhagavata Purana text, Rishabha is an avatar of Vishnu. According to D. Dennis Hudson, this interpretation of Rishabha as an Avatar might have developed during the same period when the details and stories of Jina Rishabha were constructed.[62] India was named "Bhāratavarsha" or "Bhārata" or "Bharata-bhumi" after his son.[63][64] In the Hindu text, Skanda Purana (chapter 37) it is stated that "Rishabhanatha was the son of Nabhiraja, and Rishabha had a son named Bharata, and after the name of this Bharata, this country is known as Bharata-varsha."[65]

The Vayu Puranas says he who conquers the whole of Bharata-varsha is celebrated as a samrāt (Vayu Purana 45, 86) however in some puranas, the term 'Bharat' refers to the whole Earth as Emperor Bharata is said to have ruled the whole Earth.[citation needed]

According to the Puranas, India is known as Bharatavarsha after his eldest son Bharata Chakravartin. This has been mentioned in Vishnu Purana (2,1,31), Vayu Purana,(33,52), Linga Purana(1,47,23), Brahmanda Purana (14,5,62), Agni Purana ( 107,11–12), Skanda Purana, Khanda (37,57) and Markandeya Purana (50,41) it is clearly stated that this country is known as Bharata Varsha.[66]

Vishnu Purana mentions:

ऋषभो मरुदेव्याश्च ऋषभात भरतो भवेत् भरताद भारतं वर्षं, भरतात सुमतिस्त्वभूत्

Rishabhanatha was born to Marudevi, Bharata was born to Rishabh, Bharatvarsha (India) arose from Bharata, and Sumati arose from Bharata — Vishnu Purana (2,1,31)[67]

ततश्च भारतं वर्षमेतल्लोकेषुगीयते भरताय यत: पित्रा दत्तं प्रतिष्ठिता वनम (विष्णु पुराण, २,१,३२)

This country is known as Bharatavarsha since the times the father (Rishabhanatha) entrusted the kingdom to the son Bharata and he himself went to the forest for ascetic practices —Vishnu Purana (2,1,32)[68]


उत्तरं यत्समुद्रस्य हिमाद्रेश्चैव दक्षिणम् । वर्षं तद् भारतं नाम भारती यत्र संततिः ।। – Vishnu Purana (2.3.1)

"The country (varsham) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bharatam; there dwell the descendants of Bharata."[70]


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.[71] 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.[72] He is also associated with his Bull emblem, the Nyagrodha tree, Gomukha (bull-faced) Yaksha, and Chakreshvari Yakshi.[73]


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.[74] It is located 4,343 feet (1,324 m) above from sea level, near Mangi-Tungi hills near Nashik (Maharashtra). 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.[75][76]

In Madhya Pradesh, there is the Bawangaja (meaning 52 yards (156 ft)) hill, near Barwani with a Gommateshvara figure covered on the top of it. This site is important to Jain pilgrims particularly on the full moon day in January.[77] The site has a Rishabanatha statue carved from a volcanic rock.[78]

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.[79]


Rishabhanatha is one of the four most devotionally revered Tirthankaras, along with Mahavira, Parshvanatha and Neminatha.[10] Various Jain temple complexes across India feature him, and these are important pilgrimage sites in Jainism. Mount Shatrunjaya, for example, is a hilly part of southern Gujarat, which is believed to have been a place where 23 out of 24 Tirthankaras preached, along with Rishabha.[80] Numerous monks are believed to have attained their liberation from cycles of rebirth there, and a large temple within the complex is dedicated to Rishabha commemorating his enlightenment in Ayodhya. The central Rishabha icon of this complex is called Adinatha or simply Dada (grandfather). This icon is the most revered of all the murtipujaka icons, believed by some in the Jain tradition to have miracle making powers, according to John Cort.[80] In Jain texts, Kunti and the five Pandava brothers of the Hindu Epic Mahabharata came to the hill top to pay respects, and consecrated an icon of Rishabha at Shatrunjaya.[81]

Important Rishabha temple complexes include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a non-Jain, Hindu text
  2. ^ For example: ऋषभं मा समानानां सपत्नानां विषासहिम् । हन्तारं शत्रूणां कृधि विराजं गोपतिं गवाम् ॥१॥ – Rigveda 10.166.1[58] Other examples of Rishabha appearing in the Vedic literature include verses 6.16.47 of Rigveda, 9.4.14–15 of Atharvaveda, and of Taittiriya Brahmana, etc.[59]



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