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First Tirthankara
Image of Rishabhanatha at Kundalpur pilgrimage site in Madhya Pradesh, India
Alternate name(s) Adinatha, Adish Jina (first conqueror), Adi Purush (first Perfect Man), Ikshvaku
Successor Ajitanatha
Dynasty/Clan Ikshvaku (founder)[1]
Predecessor King Nabhi
Successor Bharata Chakravartin, Bahubali and his 98 other sons
Father Nabhi
Mother Marudevi
Children Bharata
Kalyanaka / Important Events
Chyavana date Jeth Vad 4
Chyavana place Ayodhya
Born Fagan Vad 8
Diksha date Fagan Vad 8
Diksha place Ayodhya
Kevalgyan date Maha Vad 11
Kevalgyan place Ayodhya
Moksha date Posh Vad 13
Moksha place Mount Kailash
Complexion Golden
Symbol Bull[2]
Height 500 bows (1500 metres)[3]
Age 84 lakh purva (592.704 x 1018 years)[3]
Attendant Gods
Yaksha Gomukha
Yakshini Chakreshvari
Ganadhara Pundarika and Brahmi

Rishabhanatha (Sanskrit, lit. "bull lord") (also Rishabha deva) is said to be the first Tirthankara (Teaching God) of the present half cycle of time.[4][5] The word Tīrthankara signifies the founder of a tirtha which means a fordable passage across a sea. The Tirthankara show the 'fordable path' across the sea of interminable births and deaths (saṃsāra). Rishabhanatha is also known as Ādinātha which translates into "First (Adi) Lord (nātha)".


Jain cosmology divides Worldly Time cycle into two halves (avasarpiṇī and utsarpiṇī) with six aras (spokes) in each half. Twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras grace this part of the universe in duşamā-suşamā (read as dukhmā-sukhmā) ara 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 (suṣama-duṣamā) itself.[6] According to Jain texts, he was born in the age when there was happiness all around with no work for men to do.[7] Gradually as the cycle moved, and wish-fulfilling trees disappeared, people rushed to their King for help.[8] 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).[5][9][10] In other words, he is credited with introducing karma-bhumi (the age of action) by teaching these professions to the householders for livelihood.[11][12][13] The institution of marriage came into existence after he married to set an example for other humans to follow.[14][12] In total, Rishabhanatha is said to have taught seventy-two sciences which includes arithmetic, the plastic and visual arts, the art of lovemaking, singing and dancing.[14]


Jaina chronology places the date of Rishabhanatha at an almost immesaurable antiquity in the past.[note 1][15] Hermann Jacobi, a noted indologist, writes:[16]

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


See also: Panch Kalyanaka

Ādi purāṇa, a major Jain text records the life accounts of Rishabhanatha. The text also mention ten previous lives of Rishabhanatha.

Garbha kalyana[edit]

On the second day of Ashadha (month of Hindu calendar) Krishna (dark fortnight), Queen Marudevi saw sixteen auspicious dreams. King Nabhi explained these dreams to her as a sign of Tirthankara's birth. This event is the first Kalyanaka of Panch Kalyanaka (five auspicious events) and is known as garbha kalyana. This means enlivening of the embryo through the descent of the life (soul) in the mortal body. [17]


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.[18] This is the second of Panch Kalyanaka and is known as Janma Kalyanaka.


Rishabhanatha's kingdom was kind and gentle[14] and he is credited with transforming a tribal society into an orderly one.[19] 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.[14] Rishabhanatha is known for advocating non-violence.[14] He was one of the greatest initiators of human progress.[12]

Rishabhanatha 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.[20] Among these, Sunanda was the mother of Bahubali and Sundari whereas Sumangala was the mother of Bharata and Brahmi.[21] He taught his daughters Brahmi and Sundari, the Brahmi-lipi (ancient Brahmi script) and the 'science of numbers' (Ank-Vidya) respectively.[22] Rishabhanatha is said to have lived for 84 lakh pūrva out of which 20 lakh pūrva were spent as youth (kumāra kāla), and 63 lakh pūrva as the King (rājya kāla).[18]


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 Lord Rishabhanatha.[23] One of the dancers was Nilanjana, whose clock of life had only a few moments left to run.[18][24] While in the midst of a process of vigorous dance movements, she stopped, and the next instant her form ‘dissolved’ and she was no more.[25] The sudden fatal death of Nilanjana, reminded Rishabhanatha of the world's transitory nature and he developed a desire for renunciation.[26][25] He gave his kingdom to his 100 sons, of whom Bharata got the city of Vinita (Ayodhya) and Bahubali got the city of Podanapur (Taxila)[27] and became an ascetic on the ninth day of Chaitra Krishna (Hindu calendar). The renunciation is the third of Panch Kalyanaka and is called Diksha Kalyanaka.[19]

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 Digambara monk of the present half cycle of time (avasarpini).[28] Therefore, people didn't knew 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.[29] Jains attach great importance to this day as, it was only after 11 months and 13 days that Rishabhanatha was offered food. It is celebrated on the third day of bright fortnight of the month Vaishaka.[30] He got the name Ikshvaku[12] from the word Ikhsu[31] (sugarcane) and his dynasty became Ikshvaku dynasty.[32]


Rishabhanatha's moving over lotus after attaining omniscience

He spent 1000 years performing austerities and then attained Kevala Jnana (omniscience) on the eleventh day of Falgun Krishna (Hindu calendar). This is the fourth of Panch Kalyanaka and is known as Kevala Jnāna Kalyanaka. According to Jain texts, following is the number of followers of Tirthankara Rishabhanatha:[33]

  • Eighty-four Ganadharas (apostles)
  • Twenty-thousand Omniscient saints.
  • 12,700 saints endowed with Telepathy[34]
  • 9,000 saints with clairvoyance.
  • 4,750 saints śrut-kevali (saints having complete knowledge of Jain Agamas)
  • 20,600 saints with miraculous powers.
  • Three hundred and fifty thousand nuns, headed by Brahmi.[35]
  • Three hundred thousand householders.

As an Omniscient, Tirthankara Rishabhanatha is said to have preached, for 1 lakh pūrva less 1000 years (kevalakāla).[25]


Rishabhanatha traveled far and wide preaching Jainism.[36] He attained Moksha on fourteenth day of Magha Krishna(Hindu Calendar). While traveling, he came across a mountain named Ashtapada, which is famously known as mount Kailash. Deva (heavenly beings) created a divine preaching hall known as samavasarana at this mountain for Rishabhanatha.[36] He attained Moksha on Mount Kailasa at the age of 84 lakh purva (592.704 x 1018 years).[3][37] His preachings were recorded in fourteen scriptures known as Purva.[38]

In literature[edit]

There is mention of Rishabhanatha in Hindu scriptures, like Bhagavata Purana.[39] Rishabhanatha also finds mention in Buddhist literature. It speaks of several tirthankara which includes Rishabhanatha along with Padmaprabha, Chandraprabha, Pushpadanta, Vimalnatha, Dharmanatha and Neminatha. A Buddhist scripture named Dharmottarapradipa mentions Rishabhanatha as an Apta (Tirthankara).[20]

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 Rishabhanatha and his two sons.[40][41] The life of Rishabhanatha is also given in Mahapurana of Jinasena, Trisasti-salaka-purusa-caritra of Hemachandra, Kalpa Sutra and Jambudvipa-prajnapti.[39][42]

Bhaktamara Stotra by Acharya Manatunga is one of the most prevalent hymns of Rishabhanatha.[43]


Rishabhanatha is usually depicted in lotus position or kayotsarga, a standing posture of meditation. The distinguishing mark of Rishabhanatha is his long locks of hair which fall on his shoulders and an image of a bull in his sculptures.[44] His paintings usually depict various important events of his legend. Some of these include his marriage and Indra performing a ritual called abhisheka. He is sometimes shown as 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.[45]



  • Kulpakji Jain temple
  • Bawangaja, where the tallest idol of Lord Rishabhanatha is situated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The date of Rishabhanatha is given in the Jain texts but is too methodical in its computations.


  1. ^ C.R. Jain 1929, p. 106.
  2. ^ Jain 1998, p. 46.
  3. ^ a b c Sarasvati 1970, p. 444.
  4. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 208-09.
  5. ^ a b Jain 1998, p. 47.
  6. ^ Champat Rai Jain 2008, p. xiv.
  7. ^ Jain 2015, p. 78.
  8. ^ Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 88.
  9. ^ Champat Rai Jain 2008, p. x.
  10. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 103.
  11. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 21.
  12. ^ a b c d Kailash Chand Jain 1991, p. 5.
  13. ^ C.R. Jain 1929, p. 89.
  14. ^ a b c d e Rankin 2010, p. 43.
  15. ^ Champat Rai Jain 2008, p. xv.
  16. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 131
  17. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 195.
  18. ^ a b c Jain 2015, p. 181.
  19. ^ a b Rankin 2010, p. 44.
  20. ^ a b Sangave 2001, p. 105.
  21. ^ Umakant Shah 1987, p. 112.
  22. ^ Jain 1998, p. 47-48.
  23. ^ Cort 2010, p. 25
  24. ^ Titze 1998, p. 8.
  25. ^ a b c Jain 2015, p. 182.
  26. ^ Cort 2010, p. 25.
  27. ^ Titze 1998, p. 8
  28. ^ B.K. Jain 2013, p. 31.
  29. ^ Champat Rai Jain 2008, p. 86.
  30. ^ Titze 1998, p. 138.
  31. ^ Champat Rai Jain 2008, p. 76-77.
  32. ^ Shah 2004, p. 15.
  33. ^ Champat Rai Jain 2008, p. 126-127.
  34. ^ Champat Rai Jain 2008, p. 126.
  35. ^ Champat Rai Jain 2008, p. 127.
  36. ^ a b Cort 2010, p. 115.
  37. ^ Sangave 2001.
  38. ^ Shah 1998, p. 12.
  39. ^ a b Jaini 2000, p. 326.
  40. ^ "Kamat's Potpourri: History of the Kannada Literature -II". kamat.com. 
  41. ^ Students' Britannica India, Volumes 1-5, Popular Prakashan, 2000, p. 78, ISBN 0-85229-760-2 
  42. ^ Gupta 1999, p. 133.
  43. ^ "Shri Bhaktamara Mantra (भक्तामर स्त्रोत)". 
  44. ^ Umakant Shah 1987, p. 113
  45. ^ Jain & Fischer 1978, p. 16