Rishabhanatha (also Ṛṣabhadeva, Rushabhadeva,
Rishabhadeva, or Ṛṣabha which literally means "bull") is the first
Tirthankara (ford maker) in Jainism. Jain legends depict him as
having lived millions of years ago. He was the first of twenty
four lords 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
Jainism which translates into "First (Adi) Lord
(nātha)", as well as Adishvara (first ishvara), Yugadideva (deva
of yuga), Prathamaraja (first king), and Nebheya (son of Nabhi).
Along with Mahavira,
Parshvanatha and Neminatha,
Rishabhanatha is one
of the four Tirthankaras that attract the most devotional worship
among the Jains.
According to Jain traditional accounts, he was born to King
Marudevi in north Indian city of Ayodhya, also called Vinita.
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 renouncing, the Jain legends state he wandered
without food for a whole year. The day on which he got his first ahara
(food), is celebrated as Akshaya Tritiya by Jains. He is said to have
attained Moksha on Mount Kailash. The text
Adi Purana by
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,
Nyagrodha tree, Gomukha (bull-faced) Yaksha, and Chakreshvari
2.1 Vedic literature
3 Biography per Jain traditions
3.2 Marriage and children
3.4 Akshaya Tritiya
3.6 Nirvana kalyanaka, death
4 In literature
5.2 Colossal statues
7 See also
According to Jain cosmology, the universe does not have a temporal
beginning or end. Its "Universal History" 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 ara, the first Tirthankara
Jainism each time. In the present time cycle, Rishabhanatha
is credited as being the first tīrthaṅkara, born at the end of the
third ara (known as suṣama-duṣamā).
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). Gradually as the cycle progressed, the efficacy of
these trees decreased, people rushed to their king for
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). 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. He is, in the
Jain belief, the one who organized a social system that created the
varna based on professions.
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. According to Paul Dundas,
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.
The institution of marriage is stated to have come into existence
after he married to set an example for other humans to follow.
His life is also credited by Jains with starting the institution of
charity (daana) from layperson to mendicants, when he received
surgarcane juice in his hand from king Sreyamsa, 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.
Rishabhanatha is said to be the founder of
Jainism by the different
Jain sub-traditions. Jain chronology places
ahistorical terms, as someone who lived millions of years ago.
He is stated to have lived for 8,400,000 purva years. His height
is described in the Jain texts to be 500 arc lengths (800 ells), or
about 1,200 feet. 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, or ahistorical and a part of Jain mythology.
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 as
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 Ṛṣabhadeva, the
first tīrthaṅkara, was being worshipped by the first century BC.
The Yajurveda[note 1] mentions the name of three Tīrthaṅkaras –
Ajitanatha and Arishtanemi, states Radhakrishnan, and "the
Bhāgavata Purāṇa endorses the view that Ṛṣabha was the founder
The Vedas mention the name Rishabha. However, the context in the
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".[note 2] Elsewhere it is an epithet
for the Hindu god
Shiva (Rudra). Later Hindu mythical texts such
Bhagavata Purana include Rishabha Jina as an avatar of
Biography per Jain traditions
Rishabhanatha is known by many names among Jains including Adinatha,
Adisvara, Yugadeva and Nabheya. Ādi purāṇa, a major Jain text
records the life accounts of
Rishabhanatha as well as ten previous
Marudevi § Birth of Rishabhanatha
See also: Panch Kalyanaka
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. This is the second auspicious event and is known
as Janma Kalyanaka. The association of
Rishabhanatha to Ayodhya
makes it a sacred town for Jains, as it is in Hinduism for the birth
of Lord Rama.
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.  On the second day of
Ashadha (a month of the Hindu
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.
Marriage and children
Rishabhanatha had two wives, Sunanda and Sumangala. Sumangala
was the mother of ninety-nine sons (including Bharata) and one
daughter, Brahmi. Sunanda was the mother of
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. The Pannavana Sutra
(2nd century BCE) and the Samavayanga Sutra (3rd century BCE) list
many other writing scripts known to the ancient Jaina tradition, of
Brahmi script named after Rishabha's daughter tops the
His eldest son
Bharata Chakravartin is stated as one who ruled ancient
India from an ancient capital of Ayodhya. Bharata is described in
Jain texts as a just and kind ruler, who was not attached to wealth or
Statuary representing meditation by
Rishabhanatha in Kayotsarga
Ajmer Jain temple)
One day god
Indra of the first heaven arranged a dance by celestial
dancers in the assembly hall of Rishabhanatha. One of the dancers
was Nilanjana. While in the midst of a series of vigorous
dance movements, she died. 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. 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). He became an ascetic on the ninth day of the
Chaitra Krishna (Hindu calendar). According to Jain
mythologies, he practiced severe austerities for 1,000 years, then
gained enlightenment, became a Jina.
Main article: Akshaya Tritiya § In Jainism
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).
Therefore, people did not know how to offer food (ahara) to monks.
King Shreyansa of
Hastinapur 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. The day
is celebrated in the Jain tradition on the third day of the bright
fortnight of the month Vaishaka (usually April).
Rishabhanatha's moving over lotus after attaining omniscience
Rishabhanatha spent a thousand years performing austerities and then
Kevala Jnana (omniscience) on the 11th day of
(Hindu calendar) under a banyan tree. The Devas (heavenly beings)
created a divine preaching hall known as samavasarana. This is the
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.
Nirvana kalyanaka, death
Rishabhanatha is said to have preached
Jainism far and wide. At
his death, he attained Nirvana kalyanaka (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) 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.
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.
Rishabhanatha iconography is identified by the bull stamped or
carved below his feet. On the center of his chest is a shrivatsa mark
identifier of Jain statues.
The Ādi purāṇa, a 9th-century
Sanskrit poem, and a
10th-century Kannada commentary on it 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. The life of
Rishabhanatha is also detailed in
Mahapurana of Jinasena, Trisasti-salaka-purusa-caritra by the scholar
Kalpa Sutra a
Jain text containing the biographies of the
Jain Tirthankaras, and Jambudvipa-prajnapti.
Bhaktamara Stotra by
Manatunga is one of the most prominent
prayers mentioning Rishabhanatha.
There is mention of Rishabha in Hindu texts, such as in the Rigveda,
Vishnu Purana and
Bhagavata Purana (in 5th canto). In the
ancient Hindu texts, the term means "bull" and not the Rishabhanatha.
In later texts, such as the Bhagavatapurana, he is described as an
avatar of Vishnu, a great sage, known for his learning and
Rishabhanatha is also mentioned in Buddhist literature. It speaks of
several tirthankara and includes
Rishabhanatha along with:
Padmaprabha, Chandraprabha, Pushpadanta, Vimalanatha, Dharmanatha, and
Buddhist scripture named Dharmottarapradipa mentions
Rishabhanatha as an Apta (Tirthankara).
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. Paintings of him
usually depict legendary events of his life. Some of these include his
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. He is also associated with his Bull
Nyagrodha tree, Gomukha (bull-faced) Yaksha, and
Shrine with Four Jinas Rishabhanatha, Parshvanatha, Neminatha, and
Mahavira at LACMA, 6th century
Rishabhanatha at Mathura Museum,
Uttar Pradesh (circa 6th
Image depicting Rishabhanatha, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 7th
8th century, Ethnological Museum of Berlin
Rishabhanatha (Maharaja Chhatrasal Museum) dated 10th
Chandela period, Guimet Museum, 10th-11th
Rishabhanatha idol from Gurupura at Shivappa Nayaka palace,
Shivamogga, 12th century
Rishabhanatha with 23 additional Jinas, Ethnological Museum of Berlin,
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. 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.
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. The site has a Rishabanatha
statue carved from a volcanic rock.
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.
Statue of Ahimsa, Maharashtra, 108 feet (33 m)
Bawangaja, Madhya Pradesh, 84 feet (26 m)
Siddhachal Jain Temple, Gopachal Hill, Madhya Pradesh, 58.4 feet
Rishabhanatha is one of the four most devotionally revered
Tirthankaras, along with Mahavira,
Parshvanatha and Neminatha.
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. 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. In Jain texts,
Kunti and the five Pandava brothers of the Hindu Epic
to the hill top to pay respects, and consecrated an icon of Rishabha
Important Rishabha temple complexes include:
Ranakpur Jain temple, Ranakpur, Rajasthan
Adinatha temple, Khajuraho
Dilwara Temples, Mount Abu, Rajasthan
Sanghiji Jain temple, Sanganer, Rajasthan
Nasiyan Ji Jain temple, Ajmer
Nareli Jain Temple, Ajmer
Adishwar Temple, Palitana
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rishabhanatha.
List of Jain Tirthankaras
God in Jainism
History of Jainism
^ a non-Jain, Hindu text
^ For example: ऋषभं मा समानानां
सपत्नानां विषासहिम् ।
हन्तारं शत्रूणां कृधि
विराजं गोपतिं गवाम् ॥१॥ –
Rigveda 10.166.1 Other examples of Rishabha appearing in the Vedic
literature include verses 6.16.47 of Rigveda, 9.4.14-15 of
Atharvaveda, 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 of Taittiriya Brahmana, etc.
^ a b c d e von Glasenapp 1925, p. 16.
^ a b c Jacobi 1968, pp. 284–285.
^ Saraswati 1908, p. 444.
^ a b c d e f Dalal 2010, p. 311.
^ Zimmer 1953, p. 208-09.
^ a b Sangave 2001, p. 131.
^ a b c Britannica 2000.
^ a b c Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 112.
^ Varadpande 1983, pp. 26–27.
^ a b Dundas 2002, p. 40.
^ a b c d e f g Dundas 2002, p. 21.
^ a b c d e f g h i Jaini 2000, p. 327.
Champat Rai Jain
Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. xiv.
^ Dalal 2010, p. 27.
^ Vijay K. Jain 2015, p. 78.
Champat Rai Jain
Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 88.
Champat Rai Jain
Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. x.
^ Sangave 2001, p. 103.
^ a b Kailash Chand Jain 1991, p. 5.
Champat Rai Jain
Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 89.
^ Jaini 2000, pp. 340–341.
Champat Rai Jain
Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. xv.
^ Wiley 2004, p. xxix.
^ Jestice 2004, p. 419.
^ Sangave 2001, pp. 103-104.
^ Radhakrishnan 1923, p. 287.
^ Prioreschi 1996, p. 205.
^ Rishabha, Monier Monier-Williams,
Sanskrit English Dictionary and
Etymology, Oxford University Press, page 226, 3rd column
^ ऋग्वेद: सूक्तं १०.१६६, Rigveda,
^ Bloomfield 1906, p. 293.
^ Dalal 2010, p. 88.
^ Hudson 2008, pp. 19–22.
^ a b
Upinder Singh 2016, p. 26.
^ a b Vijay K. Jain 2015, p. 181.
Champat Rai Jain
Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 83.
^ Jaini 1998, p. 7.
^ Zimmer 1953, p. 195.
Champat Rai Jain
Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 76-79.
Champat Rai Jain
Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 64–66.
^ a b Sangave 2001, p. 105.
^ Salomon 1998, p. 9 with footnotes.
^ Dalal 2010, p. 42.
^ Wiley 2004, p. 54.
^ a b Cort 2010, p. 25.
^ a b Titze 1998, p. 8.
^ a b c Vijay K. Jain 2015, p. 182.
^ B.K. Jain 2013, p. 31.
^ Jestice 2004, p. 738.
^ Titze 1998, p. 138.
^ Krishna & Amirthalingam 2014, p. 46.
^ Cort 2010, p. 115.
^ Dalal 2010, pp. 183, 368.
^ Cort 2010, pp. 115, 135.
^ Cort 2010, pp. 121-122.
Popular Prakashan 2000, p. 78.
^ "Kamat's Potpourri: History of the Kannada Literature -II".
^ a b Jaini 2000, p. 326.
^ Gupta 1999, p. 133.
^ "Shri Bhaktamara Mantra (भक्तामर
^ Rao 1989, p. 13.
^ Doniger 1999, p. 549.
^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 113.
^ Jain & Fischer 1978, p. 16.
^ Tandon 2002, p. 44.
^ "Amit Shah felicitated by Jain community", The Statesman, Nashik,
PTI, 14 February 2016
^ "Guinness Book to certify Mangi Tungi idol", The Times of India, 6
^ "108-feet Jain Teerthankar idol enters "Guinness book of records"",
The Hindu, 7 March 2016
^ Bhattacharyya 1977, p. 269.
^ Sengupta 1996, pp. 596–600.
^ "On a spiritual quest", Deccan Herald, 29 March 2015
^ a b Cort 2010, pp. 143-144.
^ Cort 2010, pp. 144-145.
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God in Jainism
Arihant ; Siddha ; Pañca-Parameṣṭhi
Simandhar Swami (other world)
John E. Cort
Champat Rai Jain
Jeffery D. Long
Digambar Jain Mahasabha
Vishwa Jain Sangathan
Dynasties and empires
Statue of Ahimsa
Jain terms and concepts
List of Jains
List of Jain temples
List of Jain ascetics
List of Digambar Jain ascetics
Topics List (index)
Monks & nuns