From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In Jainism, a Tīrthaṅkara is a person who has conquered saṃsāra (the cycle of death and rebirth), and provide a bridge for others to follow them from saṃsāra to moksha (liberation).[1][2]:126 Tīrthankara literally means a "ford-maker" and refers to a jina lord who builds a ford across across the ocean of rebirth and transmigration for others to use.[3][4] According to Jain Agamas, that which helps one to cross saṃsāra is a tīrtha ("ford") and the rare individual who refounds Jainism is a tīrthaṅkara ("ford-maker").[5][6] Tirthankara also organise sangha, a fourfold order of male and female monastics, srāvaka (male followers) and śrāvikā (female followers).[7]

Twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras grace each half of the cosmic time cycle in Jain cosmology. The 24th tīrthankara of the current cycle was Mahavira, who was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha.[2]


Image of Tirthankara Rishabhdev, Ajmer Jain temple

The tīrthaṅkaras' teachings form the basis for the Jain canons. The inner knowledge of tīrthaṅkara is believed to be perfect and identical in every respect and their teachings do not contradict one another. However, the degree of elaboration varies according to the spiritual advancement and purity of the society during their period of leadership. The higher the spiritual advancement and purity of mind of the society, the lower the elaboration required.

While tīrthaṅkaras are documented and revered by Jains, their grace is said to be available to all living beings, regardless of religious orientation.[8]

Tīrthaṅkaras are Arihants who after attaining Kevala Jnana (pure infinite knowledge)[9] preach the true dharma. An Arihant is also called Jina (victor), that is one who has conquered inner enemies such as anger, attachment, pride and greed.[5] They dwell exclusively within the realm of their Soul, and are entirely free of kashayas, inner passions, and personal desires. As a result of this, unlimited siddhis, or spiritual powers, are readily available to them – which they use exclusively for the spiritual elevation of living beings. Through darśana, divine vision, and deshna, divine speech, they help others in attaining kevalajñana, and moksha (final liberation) to anyone seeking it sincerely.

Tīrthaṅkara images are usually seated with their legs crossed in front, the toes of one foot resting close upon the knee of the other, and the right hand lying over the left in the lap.[1]

Five life events (Panch Kalyanak)[edit]

Auspicious dreams seen by Tirthankara's mother during pregnancy

Life of tirthankaras are marked with the following five auspicious events (Kalyanaka)-

  1. Garbh Kalyanaka (conception): When soul of a Tirthankara comes into his mother's womb.[10]
  2. Janma Kalyanaka (birth): Birth of Tirthankara. Indra does an Abhisheka on the Tirthankara on Mount Meru.[11]
  3. Diksha Kalyanaka (renunciation): When Tirthankara renounce all worldly possessions and become an ascetic.
  4. Gyan Kalyanaka: The event when a tirthankara attains Keval Gyan (infinite knowledge). Samavasarana (divine preaching hall) is erected from where he delivers sermons and restores sangha after that.
  5. Nirvana Kalyanaka (liberation): When a tirthankara leaves his mortal body, it is known as Nirvana. It is followed by the final liberation, moksha. Their souls dwells in Siddhashila after that.


Main article: Samavasarana
Samavasarana of Tirthankara

After attaining Kevala Jnana, tirthankara preach path to liberation in a heavenly pavilion, known as Samavasarana. According to Jain texts, the heavenly pavilion is erected by devas (heavenly beings) where devas, humans and animals assemble to hear the tirthankara.[12] Tirthankara speech is intercepted by all humans and animals in their own language. It is believed that during this speech, there is no unhappiness for miles around the site.[13]

Tīrthaṅkaras of present cosmic age[edit]

Jainism postulates that time has no beginning or end. It moves like the wheel of a cart. Jains believe that exactly twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras are born in each half-cycle of time in this part of the universe. The first tīrthaṅkara was Rishabha, who is credited for formulating and organising humans to live in a society harmoniously. The 24th and last tīrthaṅkara was Mahavira (599-527 BC).[14]

In Jain tradition the tīrthaṅkaras were royal in their final lives, and Jain texts record details of their previous lives. Their clan and families are also among those recorded in very early, or legendary, Hindu history. Twenty two tirthankaras belonged to the Ikshvaku dynasty. Two tirthankaras Munisuvrata, the twentieth, and Neminatha, the twenty-second, belonged to the Hari dynasty.[15] Jain canons state that Rishabha, the first tīrthaṅkara, founded the Ikshvaku dynasty.

Twenty tīrthaṅkaras achieved “siddha” status on mount Shikharji. Rishabha attained nirvana on Mount Kailash, Vasupujya at Champapuri in North Bengal, Neminatha on mount Girnar in Gujarat, and Mahavira, the last tīrthaṅkara, at Pawapuri, near modern Patna. Twenty-one of the tīrthaṅkaras are said to have attained moksha in the kayotsarga “standing meditation” posture, while Rishabha, Neminatha and Mahavira are said to have attained moksha in the lotus position.

List of the 24 tīrthaṅkaras[edit]

Present cosmic age[edit]

Tirthankara Naminath, 12th Century CE, Government Museum, Mathura

In chronological order, the names, emblems and colours of the 24 tīrthaṅkaras of this age are mentioned below:[1][16][17] 1 dhanuṣa (bow) is equal to 6 ft and 4 hatha is equal to 1 dhanuṣa.

No. Name Symbol Colour Height
1 Rishabhadev (Adinatha) Bull Golden 500 dhanuṣa
2 Ajitanatha Elephant Golden 450 dhanuṣa
3 Sambhavanatha Horse Golden 400 dhanuṣa
4 Abhinandananatha Monkey Golden 350 dhanuṣa
5 Sumatinatha Goose Golden 300 dhanuṣa
6 Padmaprabha Lotus Flower Red 250 dhanuṣa
7 Suparshvanatha Swastika Golden 200 dhanuṣa
8 Chanda Prabhu Crescent Moon White 150 dhanuṣa
9 Pushpadanta Crocodile or Makara White 100 dhanuṣa
10 Shitalanatha Shrivatsa Golden 90 dhanuṣa
11 Shreyanasanatha Rhinoceros Golden 80 dhanuṣa
12 Vasupujya Buffalo Red 70 dhanusa
13 Vimalanatha Boar Golden 60 dhanusa
14 Anantanatha Porcupine (Sehi) as per Digambar
Falcon (Baaj) as per Svetambar
Golden 50 dhanuṣa
15 Dharmanatha Thunderbolt Golden 45 dhanuṣa
16 Shantinatha Antelope or deer Golden 40 dhanuṣa
17 Kunthunatha Goat Golden 35 dhanuṣa
18 Aranatha Nandyavarta or fish Golden 30 dhanuṣa
19 Māllīnātha Kalasha Blue 25 dhanuṣa
20 Munisuvrata Tortoise Black 20 dhanuṣa
21 Naminatha Blue lotus Golden 15 dhanuṣa
22 Neminatha Conch shell Black 10 dhanuṣa
23 Parshvanatha Snake Blue 9 hatha
24 Mahavira Lion Golden 7 hatha

Next cosmic age[edit]

As per Jain cosmology, the wheel of time is divided in two halves, Utsarpiṇī or ascending time cycle and Avasarpiṇī, the descending time cycle. 24 Tirthankara are born in each half of this cycle. The 24 Tirthankara of the present age (avasarpinī) are the ones listed above. The names of the next 24, which will be born in utsarpinī age are as follows. [Mentioned in the parentheses is one of the (previous human birth) of that soul.]

  1. Padmanabh (King Shrenik)
  2. Surdev (Mahavira's uncle Suparshva)
  3. Suparshva (King Kaunik's son king Udayi)
  4. Svamprabh (The ascetic Pottil)
  5. Sarvanubhuti (Sravaka Dridhayadha)
  6. Devshruti (Kartik's Shreshti]])
  7. Udaynath (Shravak Shamkha)
  8. Pedhalputra (Shravak Ananda)
  9. Pottil (Shravak Sunand)
  10. Shatak (Sharavak Shatak)
  11. Munivrat (Krishna's mother Devaki)
  12. Amam (Lord Krishna)
  13. Shrinishkashay (Satyaki Rudhra)
  14. Nishpulak (Krishna's brother Balbhadra also known as Balrama)
  15. Nirmam (Shravika Sulsa)
  16. Chitragupt (Krishna's brother's mother Rohini Devi)
  17. Samadhinath (Revati Gathapatni)
  18. Samvarnath (Sharavak Shattilak)
  19. Yashodhar (Rishi Dwipayan)
  20. Vijay (Karna of Mahabharata)
  21. Malyadev (Nirgranthaputra or Mallanarada)
  22. Devachandra (Shravak Ambadh)
  23. Anantvirya (Shravak Amar)
  24. Shribhadrakar (Shanak)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Britannica Tirthankar Definition". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved April 1, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Taliaferro, Charles and Marty, Elsa J. (2010). A Dictionary of Philosophy of Religion. A&C Black. p. 286. ISBN 1441111972. 
  3. ^ Balcerowicz 2009, p. 16.
  4. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 169-170.
  5. ^ a b Sangave 2001, p. 16.
  6. ^ Sangave, Vilas Adinath (2001). Facets of Jainology: Selected Research Papers on Jain Society, Religion, and Culture. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-7154-839-2. 
  7. ^ Balcerowicz 2009, p. 17.
  8. ^ Flügel, P. (2010). The Jaina Cult of Relic Stūpas. Numen: International Review For The History Of Religions, 57(3/4), 389-504. doi:10.1163/156852710X501351
  9. ^ Sangave 2001, p. 164.
  10. ^ Kalyanak
  11. ^ Wiley, Kristi L. (2009). The A to Z of Jainism. Scarecrow Press. pp. 200, 246. ISBN 9780810868212. 
  12. ^ Jain 2015, p. 200.
  13. ^ Pramansagar 2008, p. 39-43.
  14. ^ Vir Sanghvi. "Rude Travel: Down The Sages". Hindustan Times. 
  15. ^ Jain 2015, p. 151.
  16. ^ Jain 2015, p. 181-208.
  17. ^ Tirthankara (EMBLEMS OR SYMBOLS) pdf