Jain Tirthankaras - Important Facts for UPSC

In Jainism, Tirthankaras are called the Jina or the conquerors of all instincts. There are 24 Tirthankaras. The term, ‘Tirthankara’ is a combination of ‘Teertha and ‘Samsara’. Teertha is a pilgrimage site and samsara is the worldly life. The one who has conquered the samsara and understood the true nature of the self to attain Kevala Jnana is a Tirthankara. For history preparation in the IAS Exam, it is important to know 24 Tirthankaras’ names and the related information.

Aspirants would find this article very helpful in framing their preparation strategy for IAS Exam.

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Definition of a Tirthankar

A Tirthankar is referred to as ‘teaching god’ or ‘Ford Maker’ in Jainism. A few points of discussions about Tirthankaras are:

  1. In Jainism, it is believed that each cosmic age produces 24 Tirthankaras.
  2. The Tirthankaras in the art are shown in the Kayotsarga pose (dismissing the body).
  3. The other famous pose to depict tirthankar in art is a mediation pose where he is seated cross-legged on a lion throne.
  4. The 24 Tirthankaras are distinguished with each other by the symbolic colours or emblems.
  5. The names of 24 Tirthankaras are inspired by the dreams their respective mothers had before their birth or related circumstances surrounding their births.
  6. Kalpasutra is a religious text of Jains which mentions the life histories of 24 Tirthankaras. (It is apparently compiled by Digambara sect Jain Muni Bhadrabahu 150 years after Mahavir’s Nirvana.)
  7. Kalpasutra mentions the first Tirthankara to be Rishabhnath.

Also read, Difference between Hinduism and Jainism

List of 24 Tirthankaras for UPSC Prelims

The names of 24 Tirthankaras along with their symbols, emblems and colours are mentioned in the table below:

Tirthankara Name

Meaning Symbols/Emblems

Colours

Rishabhanatha/Adinath Lord Bull/Lord First Bull Golden
Ajith Invincible one Elephant Golden
Shambhava Auspicious Horse Golden
Abhinandana Worship Ape Golden
Sumati Wise Heron Golden
Padmaprabha Lotus-Bright Lotus Red
Suparshva Good-sided Swastika Golden
Chandraprabha Moon-bright Moon White
Suvidi/Pushpadanta Religious Duties/Blossomed-toothed Dolphin/Sea Dragon White
Shitala Coolness Shrivatsa Golden
Shreyamsha Good Rhinoceros Golden
Vasupujya Worship with offerings of possessions Buffalo Red
Vimala Clear Boar Golden
Ananta Endless Hawk/Bear Golden
Dharma Duty Thunderbolt Golden
Shanti Peace Antelope/Deer Golden
Kunthu Heap of Jewels Goat Golden
Ara Division of time Nandyavarta/Fish Golden
Malli Wrestler Water Jug Blue
Suvrata/Munisuvrata Of good vows Tortoise Black
Nami/Nimin Bowing Down/Eye Winking Blue Lotus Golden
Nemi/Arishtanemi The rim of whose wheel is unhurt Conch Shell Black
Parshvanath Lord serpent Snake Green
Vardhamana Mahavira Prospering great hero Lion Golden

Ancient History-related articles:

Facts about Most Prominent Tirthankaras

  1. Rishabhnath:
    • He is said to exist before Indus Valley Civilization
    • It is mentioned that in Bhagavata Purana, he is referred to as Lord Vishnu.
    • Vedas also mention the name of Rishabhnath. (Read about types of Vedas in the linked article.)
    • He had many sons including – Bharat and Bahubali (Note: The Gomateshwara Statue is dedicated to Bahubali; and is the tallest statue of the world. It is located in Shravanabelagola in Karnataka.)
    • It is also believed that the name of the script ‘Brahmi’ is inspired by his daughter’s name.
  2. Mallinath:
    • Malli was the 19th Tirthankara.
    • It is often debated that Malli was a woman however, some Digambara sect Jains believe that she was reborn as a man and then became a Tirthankara.
  3. Neminatha:
    • He is the 22nd Tirthankara.
    • He is stated to be the cousin of Lord Krishna (A Hindu God.)
    • In paintings, he is depicted to adorn dark complexion.
  4. Parsvanath:
    • Parsvanath was the 23rd tirthankar.
    • It is believed that he existed two centuries before Vardhamana Mahavira.
    • He was apparently born in Banaras (Uttar Pradesh) around 817 BCE.
    • He is said to have propounded Jain religion which was later revived by Mahavira.
    • He attained Kaivalya on Mount Sammeta (Parasnath) in Jharkhand.
    • According to Svetambaras Sect (White-Clad Sect of Jainism); Parsvnath founded four-fold restraints:
      1. Ahimsa
      2. Satya
      3. Asteya
      4. Aparigraha (The fifth one, ‘Brahmacharya’ was added by Mahavira.)
    • Navagraha Jain Temple in Karnataka houses the tallest statue of Parsvanath.
  5. Mahavira
    • He was the 24th Tirthankara of Jain religion.
    • He was the son of Siddhartha and Trishla.
    • He was born in Bihar.
    • He was a contemporary of Gautam Buddha.
    • At the age of 30, he left his worldly possessions and sought ascetic life towards Kevala Gnan.
    • He attained Kaivalya under a Sal tree.
    • He attained Nirvana in Pavapuri, Bihar.

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Frequently Asked Question – List of Tirthankaras for UPSC

Q.1. Who is the First Tirthankara?

Ans. Rishabhanatha, called “Lord Bull” in Sanskrit, the first of the 24 Tirthankaras (“Ford-Makers,” i.e., saviours) of Jainism, a religion of India.

Q.2. Who is famous Tirthankara of Jains?

Ans. Lord Mahavira is the most famous Tirthankaras of Jains.

Q.3. Who was the last Tirthankara of Jainism?

Ans. Lord Mahavira was the last Tirthankara of Jainism, his predecessor, Parshvanatha, lived about 250 years earlier.

Q.4. What are the 24 tirthankaras?

Ans. The 24 tirthankaras during this present age are: Adinatha, Ajita, Sambhava, Abhinandana, Sumati, Padmaprabha, Suparshva, Chandraprabha, Suvidhi, Shital, Shreyansa, Vasupujya, Vimala, Ananta, Dharma, Shanti, Kunthu, Ara, Malli, Muni Suvrata, Nami, Nemi, Parshva and Mahavira.

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