Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (1) : Lord Vṛṣabhanātha

Published: 21.03.2016

Means of attaining Tīrthaṃkara Status

Lord Vṛṣabhanātha was the founder of the human society and first Fordmaker i.e. Tīrthaṃkara of Jain religion. When 84 lakh pūrvas, eight and half months of the third epoch (araka or ārā) of the present time cycle remained, at that time, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha was born from the womb of Marudevī, wife of the last kulakara Nābhi. Special spiritual purification efforts of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha earlier are the reason for the attainment of the exalted status of Tīrthaṃkara by him. In the Jain Āgama Jṅātādharma story the origin of the Tīrthaṃkara status is considered to accrue from 20 kinds of reflection / instruments (kāraṇas) and their practice namely:

  1. (Worship of) Arihanta,
  2. Siddha,
  3. (Listening to) discourses,
  4. (Worship of) holy teacher,
  5. (Worship of) senior monks / teacher,
  6. (Worship of) scholars and
  7. Of mendicants and service to them,
  8. Consistently gaining knowledge,
  9. Persistent adherence to purity of perception,
  10. Invocation of the virtuous,
  11. Practice of the six essentials as prescribed,
  12. True adherence to modesty and the vows,
  13. Increasing feeling of detachment,
  14. Powerful conduct of penance and (spirit of) sacrifice,
  15. To be a repository of the four-fold congregation,
  16. Service of those following the vows (vratas)
  17. To practise (enhancing of) unique knowledge
  18. Faith in the discourse of the detached ones
  19. Charity towards the deserving and
  20. Preaching / establishing the creed of Jīna / Tīrthaṃkara'.

It is not necessary that all these 20 contemplations/ causes be worshipped. Excellent and assiduous adherence to even one or two of these makes one capable of becoming a Tīrthaṃkara. Tattvārthasūtra and Mahāpurāṇa consider devotion to 16 instrumental concepts / contemplations / causes as being essential, wherein we do not find the Siddha (liberated soul), sthavira (senior ascetics / elders) and tapasvī (ones who undergo severe penance). These are included in the 16 instrumental concepts / contemplations (ṣoḍaśa-kāraṇas). Purity of thought / faith and Humility / modesty is given importance in those texts while in the Jñātādharmakathā humility is given precedence over devotion to the Arihantas. In order to learn about where and in which birth (worldly existence) Lord Vṛṣabhanātha practiced devotion to these contemplations and accrued the Tīrthaṃkara nāma-karma, his past lives are briefly given herein.

Past lives of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha and his spiritual practices therein

In one of his lives Lord Vṛṣabhanātha was born as the merchant - owner of a caravan of merchandise - Dhannā in kṣitipratiṣṭha of Mahā Videha country. Dhannā had abundant riches, and carried on trade in many far-off lands. Once he made an announcement that anyone desirous of going abroad to make money could travel with him. Hearing this, many people went along with him. Ācārya Dharmaghoṣa too, had to reach Vasantapura. Considering this a favourable coincidence to cross a desolate forest, he joined Dhannā along with his group of disciples. The merchant ordered his servants to take care of the ācārya's food and other requirements. The ācārya told the merchant that food specially made for them, intended for them, is prohibited for Śramaṇas.

The rainy season commenced a few days after, and the sky was overcast with thick dark clouds. Seeing this inclement weather the caravan merchant decided to be stationed at a safe place in the forest. Ācārya Dharmaghoṣa too, stayed there at a faultless place. As a result of spending a long time in the forest, the merchant's provisions exhausted and people began to live on roots, tubers and fruits of the forest. At the end of the rainy season Dhannā suddenly remembered the ācārya. Ashamed, he went to the ācārya with some food and pleaded with him to accept the same. The ācārya explained to him the tenets of Śramaṇadharma in accordance with which it was unacceptable for monks / Śramaṇas to consume food filled with imperfections / faults and food such as fruits and other green substances. Gaining knowledge about the right and wrong codes of conduct the merchant presented the ācārya abundant measures of clarified butter (ghee) with great joy and for the first time in life gained true spiritual insight (samyag-darśana).  Thus, leaving out other past lives, this is enumerated as the first incarnation / existence of Vṛṣabhanātha here i.e. of the last 13 bhavas (lives / pre-existences) this is the first.

Getting out of the bhava of Dhannā, the caravan merchant and crossing over various stages of human existence, Vṛṣabhanātha was born as son of physician Suvidhi. This was Vṛṣabhanātha's 9th bhava.  He was named Jīvānanda. Jīvānanda had four close friends - first was the prince Mahīdhara, second was the son of a trader, third was the son of a minister and fourth the son of a merchant. One day when he was talking to his friends at his home a long meditating ascetic came to his house for alms. The ascetic's body was infected with worms of leprosy. Seeing the monk's afflicted state prince Mahīdhara said to Jīvānanda, "Friend, you cure other people but pity you do not seem very keen on doing something for this ascetic." Jīvānanda replied – "to treat this disease three things are needed, a gem-studded blanket, gośīrṣa-sandal (ox-head sandalwood) and lakṣapāka-oil and I have only lakṣapāka oil with me. Without the other two ingredients I won't be able to do anything." Hearing this Mahīdhara started for the marketplace along with his friends to bring those objects and demanded a gem-studded blanket and gośīrṣasandalwood from a wealthy trader of the town. The trader quoted one hundred thousand (1 lakh) gold coins each for the two objects and enquired as to why they were needed. Hearing the reason, impressed by the dedication of the young people, the trader thought he might take advantage of this pious deed of serving an ascetic and so handed over the objects without charging any price for them.

The physician's son, Jīvānanda and his four friends went to the ascetic with the objects. Jīvānanda, after prayers, messaged ascetic's body with lakṣapāka oil the moment the ascetic's body absorbed the oil, the leprosy worms started to wriggle out. Then Jīvānanda covered his body with the gem-studded blanket, upon which the worms got stuck to it. The physician then threw the blanket on the corpse of a cow and those worms were absorbed in the flesh of the dead animal. Finally, Jīvānanda smeared gośīrṣa-sandalwood paste on the ascetic's body. In this way, rubbing the body thrice Jīvānanda cured the ascetic of his disease through his skilful treatment. Through this detached and dedicated devoted service rendered, Jīvānanda and his friends gained great merit. Their hearts melted seeing the ascetic thus cured and healthy. The monk preached detachment to them; hearing which Jīvānanda and his four friends accepted the Śramaṇa-dharma. Subsequently, dutifully adhering to the Śramaṇa-dharma the five friends became worthy of the status of gods in the 12th heaven of Acyuta-kalpa.

After completing his life as a deva Jīvānanda was born in Puṣkalāvatī to the wife of king Vajrasena, Dharaṇī. At the time of conception the mother saw 14 great dreams. Vajrasena named his son Vajranābha, who went on to become a cakravartī (emperor). His four friends were born as his brothers Bāhu, Subāhu, Pīṭha and Mahāpīṭha and became provincial kings. When his father, Tīrthaṃkara Vajrasena, after attaining omniscience (kevalī), started delivering his religious sermons, the cakravartī Vajranābha (due to his past good merits) too accepted initiation (renounced the world). He did penance for a long time and through right devotion of twenty kinds attained Tīrthaṃkara status in that very life, and at the end of his life, became ahamindra deva (chief god) in the anuttara vimāna (highest class of gods) of the sarvārthaSiddha heaven.


After completing his life as Vajranābha, moving from sarvārthasiddha on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Āṣāḍha, under the uttaraṣāḍhā constellation, Vṛṣabhanātha entered into the womb of his mother Marudevī. In the latter half of that night mother Marudevī saw the following 14 auspicious dreams:

  1. elephant
  2. Bull,
  3. Lion
  4. Lakṣmi the goddess
  5. A garland / wreath of flowers
  6. The moon
  7. The sun
  8. A flag
  9. An urn
  10. Lotus pond
  11. An ocean of milk
  12. A vimāna (a heavenly space vehicle)
  13. A heap of gems and
  14. Smokeless fire.

Mothers of Tīrthaṃkara who gain the nāma-karma of Tīrthaṃkara coming from the hell worlds dream of a palace in place of a vehicle whereas mothers of those coming from the deva-loka (abode of gods) dream of a vehicle. As per numbers mothers of cakravartīs and Tīrthaṃkara see 14 dreams. In the Digambara tradition we find, in addition, a pair of fish and throne to make it 16 dreams.

Here it is worth remembering that mothers of all the Tīrthaṃkara' first see an elephant entering their mouths, whereas Marudevī first saw a bull entering into her mouth. Awakened by the dream Marudevī went to king Nābhi and explained to him the dreams. With his experiential knowledge king Nābhi explained the fruit of the dreams. When the delivery period ended happily Marudevī gave birth to her son on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the Caitra month on the day of Kṛṣņāṣṭamī under the constellation uttaraṣāḍhā. At some places the birth occurs on a navamī (ninth) instead of aṣṭamī (eighth) which is perhaps based on the time of rising or setting. Even the religious scripture of the Vedic tradition, Śrīmad Bhāgavata mentions the birth of Nābhi from the descendant of the first manu Svāyaṃbhuva, Agnīdhra, and that of Vṛṣabhanātha from Nābhi. Thus even in the scriptures of the Vedic tradition in close similarity with the Jain āgamas, not just the scion of the Raghukula Śrī Puruṣottama Rāma but his ancestors Sāgara, etc. and many years before him, the birth of Vṛṣabhanātha is mentioned. At the time of the birth of Vṛṣabhanātha peace prevailed in all directions, the whole world became illuminated. For a moment even the denizens of hell also experienced comfort.

When a great soul, with the virtues /merits of becoming a Tīrthaṃkara and to be venerated by the entire humanity, is born; at that time the thrones of 56 diśākumārīs and 64 devendras begin to tremble. Learning through their clairvoyant knowledge (avadhijṅāna) of the birth of a Tīrthaṃkara; the celestial beings, diśākumārīs and devendras celebrate the birth in the form or anointment, etc. with customary pomp and wealth as is due to their status, at the birthplace of the Tīrthaṃkara as well as at Mount Merū and the island of Naṃdīśvara, as has been done since the beginning less time. This is an eternal rule for all times. As per these norms, the devas and devendras celebrated the Lord's birth by giving him the holy bath (abhiṣeka) and celebrated eight days of great festivities (aṣṭāhnikā). King Nābhi and his subjects too celebrated the Lord's birth with a lot of gaiety.

Naming(Ceremony),lineage(vaṃśa) and status (gotra)

At the time of conception Marudevī had first dreamt of a beautiful bull, and the child had the auspicious insignia of a bull on his thigh, his parents named him Vṛṣabhanātha. According to the writer of Śrīmadbhāgavata he was named Vṛṣabhanātha by his father Nābhi on account of his good qualities such as a beautiful body, bounteous fame, strength, glory and valiance. In the Digmabara texts we find the name Vṛṣabhanātha. Vṛṣabhanātha is the foremost in the universe, and the best. He showers the nectar of religion on the world for its welfare. That is why Indra named him Vṛṣabhanātha.

When young Vṛṣabhanātha was about a year old, one day the king of gods, Indra came to him. He had a sugarcane stalk in his hand at that time. The child extended his hands for the sugarcane which Indra gave him. The Lord sucked this sugarcane juice. Perhaps this is why his lineage got the name "Ikṣvāku" and the gotra (clan) came to be known as "Kāśyapa". The birthplace of the Lord came to be hailed as "Ikṣvākubhūmi".

When Lord Vṛṣabhanātha entered his mother's womb, Kubera had showered gold and hence he was also named Hiraṇyagarbha. Lord Vṛṣabhanātha was the first one who propounded the religion and its conduct; hence he was hailed as "Ādinātha" by Jain ācāryas and historians. As a consequence, since centuries Lord Vṛṣabhanātha is more popular as Ādinātha.

The young boy Vṛṣabhanātha's food

From the commentary literature of the āgamas such as Niryukti, Bhāṣya, Cūrṇi, etc., and texts such as Kahāvali, we get to know that the baby - tīrthaṃkara was not breast-fed. Right from birth the devas-devendras had placed nutritious and delicious nectar in his thumb. Whenever the baby Vṛṣabhanātha was hungry he would place his thumb in his mouth and drink various kinds of nutritious juices. As Lord Vṛṣabhanātha grew up the celestial beings / gods produced for him adequate quantities of desirable fruits and so on. According to the Kahāvali, before becoming a mendicant, as a householder, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha only consumed the fruits of devakuru and uttarakuru (regions) and waters from the kṣīrasāgara(milky ocean).

Unprecedented event

The childhood sports of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha used to be unique, and would fill people with joy, overwhelm and stupefy them. People would throng to have a glimpse of his beauty which was a delight to the eyes. At every sweet smile of the Lord and every childhood sport of his, his mother Marudevī and father Nābhirāja would become overwhelmed and glide along like waves in an ocean of happiness.

Even as people were enjoying the childhood-sports of the Lord, an unprecedented and unheard of event for that time, took place. A pair of twins (male-female) was playing in the forest. Suddenly a fruit from the tāla-tree fell on the boy and he died. This unforeseen incident filled people with terror. Seeing the girl alone in the forest, the astonished twins took her to Nābhirāja and told him of the strange incident. Nābhirāja told them this incident was meant to be a mere message that the times were changing. Nābhirāja took the girl under his care and said she would marry Vṛṣabha kumāra in good time. She was named Sunandā. Sunandā too stayed with Vṛṣabhakumāra and Sumaṃgalā and played around like a child.

Tīrtheśo Jagatāṃ Guruḥ

All Tīrthaṃkaras possess mati (mind-based), śruta (verbal testimony and reasoning) and avadhijṅāna (clairvoyance) even at the time of their conception in their respective mothers' wombs. Lord Vṛṣabhanātha too possessed these three kinds of knowledge from the time of his descent from the sarvārthasiddha vimāna. With his knowledge of his destiny, he was fully aware of his past lives. Hence he did not need to educate himself from any ācārya or guru. He was himself a preceptor par excellence and repository of all skills and all arts.

Marriage of Lord Vŗşabhanātha

With time, after indulging in child-sports the Lord stepped on to the threshold of youth. When Indra noticed that Lord Vṛṣabhanātha has become a youth, he consulted with Nābhirāja and decided to arrange his marriage with both Sumaṃgalā and Sunandā. In those days marriage was both a fresh and intriguing event. Hence Indra and Indrāṇīs took charge of all the work. Prior to this marriage in the time of the twins, male and female children were born from the same mother's womb and with time would turn into husband and wife. To see this new and first marriage of the epoch, a huge gathering of twins assembled at Nābhirāja's place. He introduced the system of marriage in the interest of humankind to curb the increasing sensual indulgences within marital relationships and prevent people from falling into the furnace of sensual enjoyment.

The marriage ceremony carried on for many days and the atmosphere was one of cheer. Nābhirāja and Marudevī were thrilled with delight seeing their son Vṛṣabhakumāra in the form of a bridegroom with two new brides. After the completion of the marriage ceremony, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha commenced his married life with Sumaṃgalā and Sunandā.

The Conjunction period of
Bhogabhūmi(enjoying sensual pleasures) and Karmabhūmi
(era and place of efforts)

While times had started to change even from the time of the first kulkara, yet at the time of Nābhirāja the situation had changed completely as the time came close to the conjunction between the end of bhogabhūmi and the rise of karmabhūmi. Very few wish fulfilling (kalpavŗkṣa) trees remained and people humankind began to plead deliverance from hunger and deficiency. Until then without efforts people were enjoying things, but it was impossible now to get food or water without making any effort. Distressed by hunger and deficiency people went to Nābhirāja and informed him of their plight. Nābhirāja was well aware of the intelligence and extraordinary qualities of his son Vṛṣabha kumāra. He asked his son to show the path to the people thus troubled.

Calming and reassuring the people Prince Vṛṣabhanātha said to them - apart from the fruits from kalpavŗkṣa, consume sugarcane and other food that grows in the forests, drink sugarcane juice. He said to them it was possible to satiate the pangs of hunger by consuming fruits, tubers, flowers and leaves, etc. available in the forest and also introduced to them some of the edible varieties of the forest. Now people carried on their lives as per the path shown by Lord Vṛṣabhanātha and began to see him as the desire-fulfilling kalpavŗkṣa.

In this way, besides depending on fruits and roots they also began to cultivate coarse grain which led to complaints of indigestion and stomach problems for some people. When they shared this with Vṛṣabhakumāra he told them to consume sugarcane, grains etc. after removing the outer skin and finely pounding some of them. This was fine until they were using coarse unripe grains, but when it came to ripened grains again a problem arose. The prince then told them to drain ripe grain in water first, and after a while to soak them in water and if they ate it this way there would be no problem. Again for a while this helped but after sometime, eating food thus heated developed indigestion and pains and he taught them the art of producing fire by rubbing wooden sticks and using fire to cook.

The author of the Cūrṇi wrote that one day because of the friction between bamboo trees on a windy day a fire started suddenly. It consumed dry grass and leaves on the ground. The twins, believing the flame to be the light of some gems, tried to hold it in their hands, but burnt their hands in the process. They threw the burning charcoal and ran to Vṛṣabhakumāra and told him the whole story. Vṛṣabhanātha told them this was fire and if they use this same fire to cook their food before eating, they would have no trouble with stomachs. He then taught them to make pots out of wet earth / clay and to cook using these as utensils; the congenital pairs (yugalas) began to consider him god and ruler of men and spent their lives peacefully under his shadow seeking his guidance from time to time. In this way in the transition period between the bhoga-yuga (period of sensual enjoyment without effort) and karmayuga (time of living with effort) Vṛṣabhanātha looked after the twins like a kulakara. That is why Vṛṣabhanātha is eulogised in āgama commentaries by ācāryas as "jaiyā kira kulakaro usabho."

Lord Vṛṣabhanātha's progeny

When Vṛṣabhanātha turned more than 6 lakh years old, Sumaṃgalā gave birth to twins Bharata and Brāhmī. Soon after this, Sunandā too gave birth to Bāhubalī and Sundarī. With time, Sumaṃgalā conceived 49 times and gave birth to 49 twins. Sumaṃgalā gave birth to 99 sons and 1 daughter and Sunandā became the mother of a son and a daughter. Lord Vṛṣabhanātha thus had 100 sons and two daughters, 102 children in all. All of them were endowed of perfectly symmetrical bodies and perfectly set bones and muscles like a rock (vajra) i.e. extremely beautiful and strong bodies. Ācārya Jinasena of the Digambara tradition notes that Lord Vṛṣabhanātha had 101 sons.

Devī Sumaṃgalā saw 14 great dreams at the time of her first pregnancy. Following this she went to Vṛṣabhanātha's bedroom and expressed inquisitiveness to learn about the significance of the dreams. Vṛṣabhanātha told her it seems from the dreams that she would give birth to a son of great merit with the ultimate body who would one day become the emperor (cakravartī) of the entire universe. Devī Sumaṃgalā gave birth to Bharata and Brāhmī. Bharata's feet had the insignia of 14 gems.

Training of the Progeny

The omniscient Lord Vṛṣabhanātha knew the end of bhoga-yuga was near and karma-yuga was to commence where there would be deficiency of conveniences and human society would need to toil for a living. He thought if the hundred sons including Bharata and two daughters Brāhmī and Sundarī were given comprehensive training in all the useful arts and skills these would be of great use to humanity at the appropriate time. At that time all my children would go to far-off places and give people the information they need to make their lives easier and happy.

With this foresight the Lord first taught Brāhmī 18 kinds of scripts with his right hand, and with this left, taught mathematics to Sundarī. Thereafter, he taught 72 arts of the men to Bharata and to Bāhubalī he imparted the knowledge of living beings. He then taught the two daughters all the 64 womanly skills. In this manner, in the form of original disciples of the declining happiness  era Bharata and his brothers, and sisters Brāhmī and Sundarī learnt with great devotion at the feet of their original teacher, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha the arts and skills of writing, painting, music, āyurveda (medical science), economics, sculpture, war skills, etc. and gained expertise in these.

The coronation of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha

The form of nature began to change at great speed. The bounties of nature, such as kalpavŗkṣa trees, etc. and other kinds of conveniences began to disappear gradually. The yield of fruits, roots, tubers, crops, etc. declined and became inadequate. The extraordinary power inherent in medicines and the vegetable world began to lose its effect. Thus with decline in the quantity of necessities of life a situation of deficiency developed. Due to deficiency the number of complainants increased. Criminal tendencies began to develop in the minds of people struck by deficiency, jostling and fighting started, and so did mutual quarrels. People's peaceful character changed and they became harsh. Consequently, even the dhikkāra (admonition) method of the final kulakaras became ineffective and fruitless and lost its impact. Worried by these difficult times, twins went to their benefactor, the preceptor Vṛṣabhanātha and apprising him of the situation, and appealed to him to bring an end to the disturbance, quarrels, plunder and criminal tendencies that had developed among people through his guidance.

Reassuring the twins Vṛṣabhanātha said – "Now karmayuga (a time of effort / action) has commenced on this earth, as a result of which you have to work very hard to manage your lives." The twins saw a light of hope in their otherwise dark future. Their sense of despair vanished and with a firm determination they said – "Lord! We are ready to do the toughest work at your behest." Hearing this Vṛṣabhanātha told them they would be successful in making their lives happy and prosperous.

In order to curb crime a code of punishment is necessary which is managed by a king. A king is established on the throne by the elders of the kingdom, and other subject and it is he who preserves and amends that code according to the circumstances. Hearing this yugalas cried with joy and said – "you are our king. We shall right away arrange your coronation." To this prince Vṛṣabha said – "King Nābhi is our respected elder. You may all please request him". The twins presented themselves before Nābhi and placed the facts before him. After listening to them king Nābhi said – "I am old now. It would be better if you made Vṛṣabhanātha your king. In fact he alone is competent in all ways in delivering you all from this difficult situation and worthy of the seat of the king from all angles." The yugalas were very happy to gain the approval of Nābhi. They went immediately to Vṛṣabhanātha and in excited voices said to him - "King Nābhi has granted permission to establish you on the throne, hence we shall consecrate you at once with pure water" and happily they went to the lake Lotus (Padma).

Just then a huge gathering of twins (yugalas) reached Vṛṣabhanātha with the waters from the Padma Lake. They could not contain their happiness seeing the Lord seated on the royal throne. They consecrated Vṛṣabhanātha pouring the Padma water on his feet. The atmosphere was agog with the cries of "hail the king of kings Vṛṣabhanātha!" Seeing their politeness the god Śakra ordered Kubera to construct on that land of Ikṣvāku a magnificent city and named it Vinītānagarī which on account of it being impregnable, unconquerable later became famous as Ayodhya.

This way, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha became the first king of the declining happiness cycle. He ended the kulakara system that was in vogue until then and established a new order. The moment the Lord took over the reins of the kingdom the karmayuga commenced and the bhogabhūmi now transformed itself into a karmabhūmi. King Vṛṣabhanātha now invited his subjects to step onto this karmabhūmi and took over the charge of the great new work. Lord Vṛṣabhanātha was 20 lakh pūrvas of age at the time of his consecration.

Building a Strong Nation

After his coronation king Vṛṣabhanātha firstly set up a security department with a security team to establish a good system in place. The person in-charge of this department was called Ugra. He then set up a team of ministers for advice on political affairs and gave each of those ministers charge of their respective departments / sections. The higher officials of different departments were called Bhoga. Thereafter the entire kingdom was divided into 52 janapadas (principalities or districts) and able persons were crowned as smaller rulers to manage those principalities. Under these rulers, several smaller kingdoms were constituted and vassals were placed on the thrones of these kingdoms.

Explaining their duties to those smaller rulers he said –"In the same way as the sun through its rays sucks little quantities of water in the form of vapour from many water sources, without hurting any of these, people may be taxed very little in order to manage the kingdom; and in the same way as the vapours thus drawn by the sun is returned by clouds in the form of rain everywhere, the taxes drawn from people may be spent on activities for the welfare of the people."

Thus after establishing kingdoms king Vṛṣabhanātha set up an advisory committee of kings for the purposes of sharing ideas on government. He gave those kings titles such as Mahāmāṇḍalika, Māṇḍalika, Rājanya, Kṣatriya, etc. For the protection of the kingdom king Vṛṣabhanātha set up four kinds of armies and placed commanders as high level officials in charge of these.

For the sake of prevention of crime, besides the strict rules, the following penal code was put in place:

  1. Paribhāṣaṇa: to punish those guilty of petty crimes in harsh, angry words
  2. Maṇdalī banḍha: to hold the guilty for a stipulated number of days in a place, province
  3. Cāraka banḍha: to imprison the guilty
  4. Chaviccheda: to pierce body parts of the those guilty of crimes against humanity, sedition, or the hardened, regular offenders

Some ācāryas aver that the last two of these four kinds of punishments were prevalent in the time of Bharata cakravartī, but the author of the niryuktis, Ācārya Bhadrabāhu opines that bandha nīti (imprisonment) and ghāta nīti(inflicting injury) became operational right from the time of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha.

Various officials were appointed to track and punish criminals.

Training of People / Subjects, Establishment of Towns, etc.

Having set up a system of law and order and prevention of crime, king Vṛṣabhanātha made a plan for his subjects to become self-sufficient in the affairs of the karmabhūmi (the mundane world of action). For the welfare of subjects he trained them in asi (art of government / military occupation), masi (writing) and kṛṣi (farming) and a hundred crafts. Among the craftspeople, he first taught pottery, then weaving for clothes, architecture for constructing homes, and thereafter painting; and for hair and nails, the craft of the barber. From these basic crafts, there emerged hundred kinds of other crafts / skills in groups of 20. Vṛṣabhanātha had already trained his 100 sons in these crafts / skills and agriculture, so it helped in imparting training to common people. People were strong and hardy, they laboured hard. They ploughed fields and sowed seeds. It rained at regular intervals and the fields were a verdant lush green. Man hitherto dependent purely on nature, danced in joy looking at the outcome of his sweat and labour. King Vṛṣabhanātha, his sons and daughters and the craftspeople and artists trained under them were determined to build a nation as beautiful as paradise itself.

Conditions of common People, knowledge of the Arts and Crafts and people's welfare

King Vṛṣabhanātha also introduced common people to various beneficial activities as a leader and elder of the state. His status then was the equivalent of a householder's. So, even if he understood the ignoble aspects of (material) possession, he had not yet sacrificed it. He taught asi, masi and kṛṣi to the human society, thus saving them from consuming the inedible / inconsumable, leading a sātvika (pure) life and explained to them that if necessity led them to take up a faulty vocation, in that case, knowing it to be sin, their aim should be to move towards a virtuous life – this was indeed samyak darśana (right view of reality / true spiritual path).

This way, teaching them the art of leading a happy life at the onset of the karmayuga (epoch of action) he saved humankind from straying. This is his great favour to humankind. For the welfare of humanity he taught 72 skills / crafts to men through his sons. At the same time, he considered it important for women to be useful and endowed with education. Through his daughter Brāhmī he gave the knowledge of writing and alongside, he also taught the 64 useful womanly skills.

Establishing of the caste system by Lord Vṛṣabhanātha

First and foremost, by inculcating in people the feeling of mutual coexistence, cooperation, compassion, tolerance, security, cordiality and camaraderie, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha gave birth to a feeling of brotherhood among people. According to the guṇa-karmas (determining the quality of their vocation) he stratified castes, not by giving importance to birth and explaining to people to behave with others lovingly, by doing their own work and not showing contempt towards anyone. Prior to Lord Ādinātha there was no caste system in India. People had just one caste / race– humanity without any hierarchy. Every person was equal in strength, intellect and wealth. Everyone was content with and loved what they had. When disparity increased among people and greed and attachment spread, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha created the caste system. He laid the foundation of a social order suitable in all respects, teaching men a lesson in co-existence, in order to lead a beautiful, happy and peaceful life. People who were physically very strong and powerful were appointed for the task of people's security, them he denomination of Kṣatriya. Those who proved to be experts in farming, livestock rearing, buying and selling and trading, were given the denomination of vaiśya. Those who showed interest in service of people by taking up work that other people expressed distaste for, were given the nomenclature of śūdra. Thus in Vṛṣabhanātha's time, only three castes were created– Kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra.

The kingdom of our first king Vṛṣabhanātha was steeped in the feelings of people's well-being. There was not even a trace of covetousness for position in king Vṛṣabhanātha. People had made him king, and he had single-handedly taken the responsibility for people's well-being and welfare to create an obedient, self-sufficient and civilized society. When those children of nature lost the benevolent shade of kalpavŗkṣa Vṛṣabhanātha placed his right hand (of protection) over them and taught them 100 crafts and asi, masi and kṛṣi on his own and also with the help of his sons and as a result with growing experience man consistently moved ahead in great speed. The happy consequence of all this was that our country's land brimmed with verdant fields, expansive gardens, proper pathways for transport, mansions kissing the skies, palaces, etc. Gradually, not a trace of deficiency-accusations remained on this earth.

Resolve to Renunciation, meritorious charity, withdrawal from mundane Life, Initiation into monkhood

In this manner Vṛṣabhanātha ruled the kingdom and looked after the subjects lovingly and judiciously as the first king for 63 lakh pūrvas. Thereafter, in order to obtain permanent peace and live a pious life, he decided to embrace the path of yoga. He believed that man can never obtain permanent peace unless he took to spiritual practice. With this in mind, making his eldest son Bharata the successor to his kingdom and giving the remaining 99 sons the charge of several smaller kingdoms he withdrew from a householder's life and resolved to walk the path of self-discipline.

Sensing this decision the lokāntika gods did their duty by requesting the Lord to manifest the dharma-tīrtha (holy path) for the well-being of the entire world. Hearing the gods' request, the Lord started the process of meritorious charity and every day at the auspicious hour of the morning, donated a crore (ten million) and 8 lakh (one hundred thousand) gold coins. The Lord gave this charity continuously for a year. Thus he gave in charity a sum total of 3 billion, 88 crores and 80 lakh gold coins at the end of a year. Through this charity he instilled the thought in people's minds that the importance of wealth is not in its enjoyment but in its sacrifice.

Eventually, after spending a householder's life for 83 lakh pūrvas on the ninth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Caitra under the constellation uttaraṣāḍhā Vṛṣabhanātha resigned from the mundane life to get initiated into monkhood. He left all the royal splendour and family and renounced all sensual indulgences and leaving Vinītānagarī with a large group of gods and men in steeped austerity, under the Aśoka tree, accepted initiation into monkhood with the Siddhas as witness saying – "I renounce all impure activities", that is violence, and other impure acts are prohibited, hence I renounce them forever. He started to pull out his hair in fistfuls; after four fistfuls he said just like these strands of hair we need to remove impurities / sins from their very root. Upon Indra's request, he let one fistful of hair remain (on his head).

The huge congregation of gods, demons and men were left awe-struck seeing this mighty sacrifice of the Lord. Seeing his renunciation, 4000 other princes of the Kṣatriya caste also became mendicants. Śrī Vṛṣabhanātha did not initiate them into mendicancy, but on their own accord they followed the Lord, pulled their hair, etc., and started to move along with the Lord as monks. In this way, with the resolve of pure discipline Vṛṣabhanātha became venerable first as a monk, mendicant and monk. This day of the Lord's initiation is celebrated even today as "Kalyāṇaka divasa".

Emergence of Vidyādharas (beings with extraordinary powers/skills)

When Lord Vṛṣabhanātha began to wander about, having adopted the attitude of pure sacrifice and detachment, two princes, Nami and Vinami, sons of Kaccha and Mahākaccha, appeared in service of the Lord and said, "Lord, you have given everyone something appropriate, please grant us, too, something." Having placated him thus, they stayed close to the Lord. Once when Indra went to the Lord, he saw the boys pleading thus. He told the princes that the Lord is devoid of passion, it is not right to plead with him this way. So that your services are not fruitless, I grant you 48,000 vidyās, which are accomplished by mere recitation, among which are the mahāvidyās, gaurī, gaṃdhārī, Rōhiṇī, and Prajñapti. With their help, establish your respective cities and live happily as Vidyādharas. Nami and Vinami obeyed the king of gods, Indra and within the south and north boundaries of the Vaitāḍhya Mountain, settled 50 and 60 cities, respectively, and invited civilized people from various countries to reside there. This way, Nami and Vinami divided classes of 8 each through the effect of their vidyās (skills), moved around with pleasure, enjoying like the gods and thus emerged the tradition of "Vidyādaras".

The first fast-breaking (pāraṇā) of the Lord

In the Tiloyapaṇṇatti of the Digambara tradition we find reference to the Lord observed six fasts. According to Ācārya Jinasena, he observed 6 months fast and in the Śvetāmbara tradition, observed two days fast(belā) is referred to. After becoming a Śramaṇa, for a long time Vṛṣabhanātha visited village after village with a stoic vow of silence, with a feeling of detachment, seeking alms, but he would not get any, as people had no knowledge about this method. The 4000 Śramaṇas with him waited that the Lord would make some arrangements for them. When the Lord did not say anything for a long time, pained by hunger and thirst, they became heretics adorning garments made of tree barks. They did not go back to their homes but in the absence of tolerance to hardships and the sense of discrimination, they fell from the path of the right discipline / conduct as renouncers, spent their lives in the forest consuming fruits, roots, etc.

As he was devoid of passion, Lord Ādinātha continued to wander, with equanimity and unaffected by the situation. Emotionally charged devotees would feel delighted to see him, request him to accept their offerings of valuables, clothes and jewellery, chariots, fruits, etc., but none of them would think of offering alms in the right method. As a result, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha would return empty-handed, leaving those unacceptable gifts. Thus more than a year passed since he had started to wander for alms, yet there was no sense of despair in his mind. Thus wandering, the Lord once reached the Kurūprovince of Hastināpura. The prince there was the grandson of Bāhubalī and son of king Somaprabha. He dreamt that night – "the Sumeru mountain has lost its sheen, I have made it shine, sprinkling it with nectar." Merchant Subuddhi dreamt that the Sun's thousand rays had left their places but Śreyāṃsa had replaced them in the Sun as a result of which the Sun shone with even more brilliance. King Somaprabha dreamt that Śreyāṃsa had helped a certain person during a battle with the enemies and with that support this person was able to defeat them. The next day the three of them reflected on their respective dreams and concluded that Śreyāṃsa was going to benefit in some way. The same day, by good fortune, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha reached Hastināpura. People were very happy to see the Lord. Walking along the way, the moment Śreyāṃsa kumāra saw Lord Vṛṣabhanātha he was filled with curiosity and with subsidence cum destruction of his knowledge obscuring karmas (kṣayopaśamā), he could visualise his past lives. Through his past life knowledge he understood that he (Lord Vṛṣabhanātha) was the original unattached renouncers who must be offered faultless food.

By a coincidence just at that moment the servants of the palace reached there with a jar full of sugarcane juice. Extremely delighted at this, Śreyāṃsa kumāra moved about seven-eight steps close to the Lord, circumambulator him and with folded hands, following the rules of faultless alms, trikaraṇa-śuddhi(purity of mind, body and speech), said to the Lord, "Lord, whatever is appropriate?" The Lord extended his palms, held out like a bowl and Śreyāṃsa poured the sugarcane juice into his palms. The Lord had palms imperforated, not a drop of juice fell to the ground. Śreyāṃsa was very happy. The gods showered a rain of water from five kinds of flowers and the sky reverberated with the cries of "aho dānaṃ, aho dānaṃ"(ah! the gift / charity!).

If Lord Ādinātha was the first to teach the world about penance, Śreyāṃsa kumāra was the first to teach humankind about charity – dāna. Since the inexhaustible event of the Lord's fast-breaking happened on the third day of the bright fortnight of the Vaiśākha month, the day became popular as "akṣaya –tṛtīyā" or "Ākhā-tīja". Even today, this day is considered "sarvajana-viśruta-parva". Bharata cakravartī went to the palace of Śreyāṃsa kumāra and congratulated him saying, "Son, you are the founder of the practice of charity in this declining happiness cycle, hence salutations to you!"

It may be questioned that if Lord Vṛṣabhanātha  accepted mendicancy on the eighth day of the dark half of the Caitra month through 'belā' or 'ṣaṣṭhabhakta' penance and if the next year he broke his fast on the third day of the bright fortnight of the Vaiśākha month, then this would be his penance for 13 months and not a year. In such an event, the reference in SamavāyāṃgaSūtra to "saṃvacchareṇa bhikkhā ladhā usaheṇa loganāheṇa" does not seem to correspond, according to which the first penance of Ādinātha is called "saṃvatsara tapa". In fact, this is a very old and widely discussed question and as an appropriate solution to this it can only be said that at various places in the Sūtras (canon), following the criteria of the compendium in calculating the time-period, where the shorter duration is present along with the longer duration, only the longer time-period is referred to.

In fact, at the time of initiation, the 'belā' penance of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha continued for well over 12 months and when Śreyāṃsa kumāra offered food, the event was referred to as "saṃvacchareṇa bhikkhā ladhā usaheṇa loganāheṇa", following the compendiums of Sūtra lakṣaṇa. This is in fact a part of convention. In this convention since the time of more than a year does not add too much, as a round figure it is mentioned as "saṃvatsara" (one year). From the time of initiation to the time of accepting food, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha remained without water and food for 13 months and 10 days, which has been called saṃvacchara in canonical convention. It is possible that the form, language of the convention with time also began to be known as "varṣītapa". In connection with the first penance of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha, it is to be remembered always that the penance that the Lord accepted after initiation was in the Śvetāmbara tradition 'belā' and in Digambara tradition 6 months of penance. Although there are differences of opinion about the number of days, the date / time of fast-breaking is unanimously accepted as the third day of the bright fortnight of Vaiśākha month and from the time of initiation – Caitra, ninth day of the dark fortnight of Caitra month, it amounts to 13 months and 10 days.

In fact, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha has done a great favour to humankind. Growing up in the lap of nature, and remaining dependent on it for every need, when the nature withdrew its hand from the twins, the original world leader Vṛṣabhanātha imparted to them the knowledge of the arts to become self-sufficient and self-dependent. After making them happy and prosperous in the material world, he taught them discipline to free themselves of the cycle of birth, decay and death through the true path. Through his discipline, after gaining pure knowledge (kevalajñāna) he established eth dharma-tīrtha through which humankind becomes capable of releasing itself from the grind of birth and death that it has suffered since the beginning of time.

Lord Vṛṣabhanātha created a human civilisation full of feelings of mutual co-existence, universal brotherhood and other lofty humane qualities which are beneficial in both this world and the other world. As a result, Lord Ādinātha / Vṛṣabhanātha came to be venerated by humankind. He has the same ecumenical place in all the ancient Indian scriptures as in the Jain scriptures. Ancient texts such as Ṛgveda and Atharvaveda celebrate him. Śrīmadbhāgavata, Śivapurāṇa, Kūrma Purāṇa, Brahmaṇḍapurāņa, Manusmṛti, the Buddhist text "Ārya Maṃjuśrī", Sūrasāgara, etc. celebrate Nābhi's son Vṛṣabhanātha and in the Purāṇas he is considered the 8th avatāra (reincarnation) of the god. Akṣaya-tṛtīyā, related to his fast-breaking event, has the same kind of importance and is equally the symbol of devotion and faith and harbinger of merit (puṇya) in the Vedic tradition.

Attainment of Pure knowledge (Omniscience)

After taking to mendicancy, the Lord wandered through villages for 1000 years and manifested his true form through this penance. Eventually, at the garden named Śakaṭamukha outside of Purimatāla city, at dawn on the eleventh day of the dark fortnight of Fālguna month, under the constellation Uttarāṣāḍha, with aṣṭamatapa he went into meditation and destroying the four ghātī-karmas (karmas that pollute the quality of the soul), obtained pure knowledge and kevaladarśana (pure perception). He attained the pure knowledge under a banyan tree hence the banyan is considered Lord Ādinātha's caitya-vṛkṣa and banyan tree is treated with respect and pride across the country. Attaining pure knowledge Lord Vṛṣabhanātha became Arihanta and the 12attributes (guṇas) of Arihanta became manifest in him.

The Characteristics of Tīrthaṃkara

In contrast to the ordinary omniscient's, Tīrthaṃkara have some special characteristics which are known as extra ordinary signs or 'atiśayas' and which are called 'cotīsaṃ buddhāisesā' and 'paņatīsaṃ saccavayaṇāisesā paṇṇatā' in the Samavāyāṃgasūtra. Even if the numbers are common to both Digambara and Śvetāmbara traditions, yet there is a difference. In Śvetāmbara tradition, the 34 atiśayas are divided into 4 basic parts–apāyāpagamātiśaya, jṅānātiśaya, pūjātiśaya and vāgatiśaya whereas in the Digambara tradition, these are categorised into 3 parts: the ten atiśayas of birth, 10 atiśayas of pure knowledge and 14 devakṛta atiśayas.

In the Śvetāmbara text Samavāyāṃga Tīrthaṃkara' food intake is said to be invisible and carried out in privacy, whereas the Digambara tradition does not believe in the intake of any basic food by the tīrthaṃkara. From the 6th atiśaya of the fly-whisk (Ākāśagata cakra) to the 11th of the Aśoka tree in the Samavāyāṃga is not found in the Digambara tradition. In their place, the 7 atiśayas of nirmala diśā, clear sky, golden lotus under the feet, divine sound in the sky, pleasing to the living beings, the dharmacakra moving in the sky, aṣṭamaṃgalas are the7 atiśayas.

In place of the radiant aura behind the head (bhāmaṇḍala) the Digambara tradition considers the caturmukha atiśaya at the time of the omniscient status. The body without a shadow, moving in the skies, and eyes that do not blink found in the Digambara tradition are not found in the Samavāyāṃga or Śvetāmbara tradition. This way, leaving aside doubtful, liberal and popular differences in the points of view, both traditions consider the Tīrthaṃkara as endowed with 34 atiśayas. At the same time, at the Samavaśaraṇa, the speech of the Lord Tīrthaṃkara flows incessantly and this is along with the 35 atiśayas, which can be called the 35 guṇas (supernatural powers) of the Tīrthaṃkara's speech ("Tīrthaṃkara kī vāṇī ke 35 guṇa").

The discretion of Bharata

The entire world was lit with the radiance of knowledge when Lord Vṛṣabhanātha attained pure knowledge. When emperor Bharata received news of the Lord's pure knowledge he was also informed by the messenger about the occurrence of the cakra in his royal weaponry. According to Ācārya Jinasena he also received news of the birth of his son at the same time.

Hearing three good news at the same time put the emperor Bharata in a dilemma as to which one of these auspicious events called for a great ceremonious celebration but based on his right discretion, he decided that obtaining a cakra jewel or a son are outcomes of kāma (desire), both these attainments are transient, destructible and worldly but the Lord's pure knowledge is the outcome of dharma and is permanent. Hence devotion to and worship at the feet of the Lord is important first because pure knowledge is the original and greatest merits among all the Kalyāṇaka. Thinking thus, cakravartī Bharata left to perform worship at the feet of the Lord.

First instructions/sermon and establishing of the Tīrtha

The place where the Lord gave the first instructions / sermon after obtaining the light of knowledge via pure knowledge in the presence of people, gods-goddesses, community of revered ones, is called Samavaśaraṇa. Ācāryas interpret Samavaśaraṇa as a congregation of monks (male –female), Saṃgha (the order), etc. or an assembly of discourse. The gathering at the Tīrthaṃkara's sermon is also called Samavaśaraṇa. Even if Lord Vṛṣabhanātha could have attained liberation following attainment of pure knowledge becoming vītarāga (devoid of passion / attachment) in solitary meditation, yet he gave the sermon. The foremost reason for this being that the Tīrthaṃkara nāma-karma is not fulfilled unless the dharma tīrtha (creed or holy path) is not established. Secondly, as is mentioned in the Praśnavyākaraṇa Sūtra the Lord gave his sermon to safeguard, and out of compassion for, all living beings. Hence Lord Vṛṣabhanātha is considered the first preacher in the scriptures and the preceptor of the ten-fold dharmain Vedic literature.

The day of the first sermon of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha was the eleventh day of the dark fortnight of the Fālguna month. On that day, expounding the scriptural (śruta) and caritra (conduct) dharma(scripture and conduct related), he preached not to eat after dark, ahiṃsā (non-killing), truthfulness, non-stealing, brahmacarya (chastity) and non-possession. The Lord explained that the objective of human life is not enjoyment but yoga (contemplation / discipline); not attachment but non-attachment; not lust but realisation; not the killing of instincts but quelling of these through knowledge.

Hearing the Lord's speech, full of thoughts of sacrifice and detachment, which was like a shower of ambrosia the emperor Bharata's 500 sons including Vṛṣabhasena and 700 grandsons took initiation in the order of monks and 500 women including Brāhmī in the order of female-monks. King Bharata became a samyakdarśī śrāvaka (lay follower of the right faith). Thousands of outstanding men such as Śreyāṃsa kumāra and women such as Subhadrā entered into the fold of the laity, accepting the right faith. This way, a four-fold congregation was established consisting of monks, female monks, votaries (śrāvakas) and female-votaries (śrāvikās). Because of the establishment of the religious order Lord Vṛṣabhanātha came to be considered the 1st Tīrthaṃkara.

Vṛṣabhasena became an ascetic and through three question (pṛcchās) and gained knowledge of the 14 pūrvas. Vṛṣabhasena became the first Gaṇadhara among the 84 Gaṇadharas of the Lord.

When the 4000 men, who had become mendicants out of fear of hardships, listened to the Lord speak on the dharma-tīrtha after attaining pure knowledge came into the Lord's service and mingled with the monk's congregation, becoming ascetics, barring Kaccha and Mahākaccha.

Mother Marudevī's Liberation / Mokṣa, Seeing the Lord

Mother Marudevī was pining to see her son Vṛṣabhanātha since ages. Even after 1000 years following his renunciation she did not see her dear son even once. Her eyes were brimming with tears every moment in his memory. Looking at the expansion of Bharata's kingdom she would always tell him tauntingly that you are enjoying endless wealth but I do not know where my darling Vṛṣabhanātha is wandering around. Hence when Bharata got news of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha's omniscience he immediately entered in the presence of his mother Marudevī and gave her the good news of his entry into the Purimatāla city and his attainment of pure knowledge. Hearing this mother Marudevī was filled with excessive joy and went along with Bharata to see the Lord.

When mother Marudevī approached the Samavaśaraṇa and saw the worship of Vṛṣabhanātha she started thinking that I used to assume my son would be in hardships, but here I see him submerged in an ocean of bliss. In the course of these thoughts, there was a transformation in the direction of her thinking. She went into deep meditation and absorption and within moments she moved beyond the sheath of karmas i.e. obscuring knowledge - (Jñānāvaraṇīya), perception (darśanāvaraṇīya), antarāya(obstacles in experiencing bliss) and deluding (mohanīya) karma towards pure knowledge and pure intuition. With the time of her demise approaching, very soon, totally destroying the remaining four no obscuring-karmas (karmas relating to embodiment), remaining astride the elephant, she attained liberation (mōkṣa).

Some ācāryas believe that she attained liberation while listening to the religious sermon of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha. She holds the position of the first person in this declining happiness cycle to attain liberation.

The Religious Congregation of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha

While the household of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha was huge, his religious family was also very large. In fact there would hardly be someone who had not benefited from him or not had faith in him, hearing Lord Vṛṣabhanātha's speech free from passion. But here his religious congregation is elucidated keeping in mind those who took the vows. According to Jambūdvīpa Prajñapti Sūtra, the number of Gaṇadharas etc. in Vṛṣabhanātha's dharma Saṃgha (congregation) was as follows:

Gaṇadharas 84, omniscient's monks 20000, omniscient female-monks 40000, manaḥparyayajṅānī (telepaths or ones who were aware of the thought forms of others without the aid of mind or senses) 12650, avadhijṅānī (clairvoyants or those with intuitive knowledge) 9000, 14pūrvadhārīs (those who had the knowledge of the fourteen prior canons) 4750, vādīs 12650, vaikriya-labdhidhārīs 20600, those to be born in anuttara palaces 22900, monks 84000, female-monks 300000, śrāvakas (laymen) 350000, śrāvikās (laywomen) 554000. Out of this congregation of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha 20,000 monks and 40,000 female-monks; a total of 60,000 monks and female-monks attained liberation having destroyed completely the eight karmas. Many mendicants, infernal beings and celestial beings used to move about in contemplation, thereby purifying their souls.

The Kalyāṇaka (auspicious events) in the life of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha

Five Kalyāṇaka of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha occurred under the constellation Uttaraṣāḍhā and the sixth under Abhijita. The Kalyāṇaka under Uttaraṣāḍhā constellation are: Descent from sarvārthasiddha (into the womb of Marudevī), birth, coronation, renunciation of householder status and becoming mendicant, and attainment of pure knowledge. Destruction of 8 karmas and liberation took place under Abhijita constellation.

Attaining Liberation

Lord Vṛṣabhanātha wandered across India for a thousand years less than one lakh pūrvas as a Tīrthaṃkara. He traveled to Bahalī, Aṃḍabaillāaṭtaka region, Arabia, Greece, Persia, Svarṇabhūmi, etc. and preached dharma to the people there. It was the result of Lord Ādinātha's preaching that the Jain religion was established as a universal religion in different parts of the country. Vṛṣabhanātha remained a bachelor youth for 20 lakh pūrvas, a king for 63 lakh pūrvas that is, for a total of 83 lakh pūrvas as a householder. The, remained a mendicant, as chadmastha (in a state of partial bondage) for 1000 years. He remained a Tīrthaṃkara, after attaining pure knowledge for 1000 years less than one lakh pūrvas. Totally, he followed the Śramaṇa dharma for 1 lakh pūrvas. Finally, sensing the end of his lifespan, he undertook pādapopagamana fast with his retinue of 1000 monks on the Aṣṭāpada Mountain. There, in the forenoon of the 13th day of the dark fortnight of Māgha month under the constellation Abhijita, Lord Vṛṣabhanātha attained nirvāṇa. The ten thousand monks who had fasted along with the Lord also became liberated. At that point, 89 pakṣa, that is, three years, 8 months and 14 days remained for the 3rd Āraka to end.

The minutest division of an epoch, which is time, has an original rule that at one time, only two beings, with excellent understanding can become Siddhas (liberated beings), but Lord Vṛṣabhanātha of excellent understanding of 500 dhanuṣa, along with him his retinue of 107 – in all, 108 – beings attained liberation at the same  time. This can be called one of the āścaryas (extraordinary events) of the 10 extraordinary events of the transitory declining happiness cycle. The 9893 remaining monks who fasted with the Lord attained liberation within moments of each other the same day. Among these Śramaṇas were the Lord's Gaṇadharas, sons, grandsons and others.

The Nirvāṇa Celebration

As soon as Lord Vṛṣabhanātha attained nirvāṇa the seats of 64 Indras, including that of the king of gods, Indra trembled. All of them reached the Aṣṭāpada Mountain along with their respective family of gods. At the command of the king of gods, Indra, three funeral pyres and three litters were constructed. Indra himself bathed the Lord's earthly body with water of the ocean of milk and anointed it with gośīrṣa sandal paste. Other gods similarly bathed and anointed the bodies of Gaṇadharas and monks. Those earthly bodies were placed on very beautiful litters / palanquins, Indra brought the Lord's litter and devas the litters of the Gaṇadharas' and monks' to the funeral pyres to the accompaniment of divine musical instruments and the tumultuous chants of "Jai-ho; Jai-ho or hail! hail!" In that process the bodies were placed on their funeral pyres constructed for the purpose as part of the rites. At Śakra's command the Agnikumāras called forth the fire elements on to the pyres and Vāyukumāras lit the pyres with fire. This way completing the cremation ceremonies of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha and his retinue those pyres were quelled with the water of the milk ocean. Thereafter, at the command of the king of gods, Indra, caitya-stūpas were constructed at the place of the funeral pyres. Āvaśyaka-niryukti refers to the constructed caitya-stūpas. Vedic literature speaks of the emergence of Ādideva in the form of Śivaliṃga (sign) on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Māgha. This seems to correspond with the obtaining of the Śiva- pada (nirvāṇa) of Lord Ādinātha. It is possible that the stūpa which was constructed on the funeral pyre of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha became popular later on as Śivaliṃga.

Vṛṣabhanātha in non-Jain Literature

Just as in Jain literature, there is extensive reference to Vṛṣabhanātha in Vedic literature as well. We find references to him in Buddhist literature too.

With reference to Vṛṣabhanātha the Purāṇas say that Brahmājī created the first Svāyaṃbhuva Manu from his own body. Priyavrata from Svāyaṃbhuva, Āgnīghra from Priyavrata, and thus ten sons were created. Nābhicame from Āgnīdhra and Vṛṣabhanātha from Nābhi. From the womb of Nābhi's love Marudevī was born an extraordinarily brilliant haloed son who was named Vṛṣabhanātha. Vṛṣabhanātha riled the kingdom righteously and performed various sacrifices (yajṅas) then, leaving his kingdom to his son, Bharata, went to do penance in Pulahāśrama. From the time Vṛṣabhanātha bequeathed his kingdom to Bharata, this part of the snow-capped region became popular as Bharatavarṣa.

Śrīmadbhāgavata considers Vṛṣabhanātha a half-reincarnation of Viṣṇu. According to this text, in order to gain the love of Nābhi, the Lord emerged from the womb of Marudevī as an entity to reveal the Śramaṇa dharma. From the time of his birth, Vṛṣabhanātha's body had the insignia of thunderbolt, aṃkuśa, etc. which is Viṣṇu's sings. King Nābhi called him Vṛṣabhanātha (par excellence) on account of his beautiful body, exceeding brilliance, strength, wealth, valour and courage.

Śrīmadbhāgavata considers Vṛṣabhanātha Śiva himself. There is reference to his marriage with Indra's daughter and a hundred sons born to her from him. Brahmadatta Purāṇa mentions that he imparted the Ādhyātma-jňāna (spiritual knowledge) to his sons and then became an avadhūta (lit. fearful in form) mendicant. The essence of his teachings in Śrīmadbhāgavata are as follows – "ordinary people cannot understand the secret of my avatāra – body. Pure substance is my body and dharma resides therein. I have left adharma (non-righteousness) way behind; hence good men call me Vṛṣabhanātha. Sons! You serve all the elements with pure knowledge, considering them to be my body; this is true service to me." Śrīmadbhāgavata also says – Vṛṣabhanātha placed Bharata on the throne to serve the earth. He became a renouncer to preach dharma. He only retained the body while leaving all the rest at home. Due to penance he had become emaciated and his arteries and veins began to show. In the end, placing a piece of stone in his mouth, in his naked state, he departed. Śivapurāṇa refers to Śiva taking incarnation as the Ādi-tīrthaṃkara Vṛṣabhanātha.

Buddhist literature mentions that Nābhi's son Vṛṣabhanātha and Vṛṣabhanātha's son Bharata are counted among the original emperors. He was strict in adherence to dharma. He attained salvation on the snow-capped Himālaya Mountain. Dhammapada refers to Vṛṣabhanātha as the most excellent hero. Besides Ādinātha, Vṛṣabhanātha is also known by many names such as Hiraṇyagarbha, Prajāpati, Lokeśa, Caturānana Nābhija, Sraṣṭā, Svayaṃbhū, etc. All these are names of Brahmā in the Purāṇa as. Hence at some places there is reference to the fact that Brahmā and Vṛṣabhanātha are not two separate entities but one and the same.

The kind of devotion which the Jain texts show in highlighting the magnificent personality of Lord Vṛṣabhanātha the same devotion is seen in sacred scriptures of nearly all ancient Indian religions in the exposition of his world-wide glory. The path he showed to make not only this world but the other worlds better and more beautiful, were boons beneficial not merely for humankind but all living beings. The social norms and polity manifested through him was not meant to benefit any particular class but for the welfare of all, in the same way the religious order he established was for the well-being of all. The religious order established by him was for the spiritual uplift of the entire world. This is the reason hat in the ancient texts Lord Vṛṣabhanātha is given the titles of Lord (dhātā), the builder of destiny (bhāgya vidhātā), god (bhagavāna), etc.

Views of some historians concerning the time of Vṛṣabhanātha are given below:

Rāmadhārī Siṃha 'Dinakara' says: "From the point of view of the belief among many Jain scholars that in spite of being referred to in the Vedas, yet Vṛṣabhanātha is prior to the Vedas is not contradictory." (Ājakala, March 1962, p. 8)

Dr. Jimbhara writes:

"The first tīrthaṃkara was Vṛṣabhanātha who taught the lesson of civilisation to humankind."

(The Philosophies of India, p. 217)

Reference to Lord Vṛṣabhanātha and emperor Bharata are also found in Vedic mantras, non-Jain Purāṇas, Upaniṣads, etc.

It becomes naturally clear from the dignified references in India's ancient religious sculptures Vedas, Vaiṣṇava Bhāgavata, 10 Purāṇas of the Śaiva tradition, Manusmṛti and Buddhist scriptures Ārya Maṃjuśrī, etc. that the entire mankind of yore accepted Lord Vṛṣabhanātha as their universal leader, religious preceptor and universal Lord par excellence ruling the hearts. The social order established by Lord Vṛṣabhanātha became popular in the entire universe as 'Viśvadharma' (world religion) and 'śāśvata dharma' (eternal religion) whereby Viśvadharma meant, sans adjectives, simply, dharma.


Title: Jain Legend: Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (1)
Acharya Hasti Mala
Shugan C. Jain
Publisher: Samyakjnana Pracaraka Mandala, Jaipur
Edition: 2011
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. ASI
  2. Abhiṣeka
  3. Adharma
  4. Ahamindra
  5. Ahiṃsā
  6. Antarāya
  7. Anuttara Vimāna
  8. Arihanta
  9. Arihantas
  10. Asi
  11. Atiśaya
  12. Aura
  13. Ayodhya
  14. Aśoka
  15. Aṣṭāpada
  16. Bandha
  17. Bharata
  18. Bharatavarṣa
  19. Bhava
  20. Bhāmaṇḍala
  21. Bhāṣya
  22. Body
  23. Brahmacarya
  24. Brāhmī
  25. Cakra
  26. Caritra
  27. Chadmastha
  28. Chaviccheda
  29. Clairvoyance
  30. Contemplation
  31. Cooperation
  32. Crore
  33. Cāraka
  34. Cūrṇi
  35. Darśana
  36. Darśanāvaraṇīya
  37. Deva
  38. Devakuru
  39. Devas
  40. Dhammapada
  41. Dharma
  42. Dhikkāra
  43. Digambara
  44. Discipline
  45. Dāna
  46. Equanimity
  47. Fear
  48. Gaṇadhara
  49. Ghee
  50. Gotra
  51. Greed
  52. Guru
  53. Guṇa
  54. Guṇas
  55. Hastināpura
  56. Indra
  57. Jambūdvīpa
  58. Jinasena
  59. Jñānāvaraṇīya
  60. Kalyāṇaka
  61. Karma
  62. Karmabhūmi
  63. Karmas
  64. Kevaladarśana
  65. Kevalajñāna
  66. Kevalī
  67. Kulakara
  68. Kāma
  69. Lakh
  70. Lakṣaṇa
  71. Manu
  72. Meditation
  73. Mohanīya
  74. Mokṣa
  75. Nirvāṇa
  76. Niryukti
  77. Omniscient
  78. Pakṣa
  79. Prajñapti
  80. Pride
  81. Purāṇa
  82. Purāṇas
  83. Puṇya
  84. Pādapopagamana
  85. Pāraṇā
  86. Rāma
  87. Samyak Darśana
  88. Science
  89. Siddha
  90. Soul
  91. Space
  92. Sūtra
  93. Tapa
  94. Tattvārthasūtra
  95. Time Cycle
  96. Tolerance
  97. Tīrtha
  98. Tīrthaṃkara
  99. Upaniṣads
  100. Uttarakuru
  101. Vedas
  102. Vedic
  103. Vimāna
  104. Violence
  105. Vṛṣabhanātha
  106. Yoga
  107. siddhas
  108. Ācārya
  109. Ācāryas
  110. Āgama
  111. Āgamas
  112. Āyurveda
  113. ācāryas
  114. āgama
  115. Śreyāṃsa
  116. Śruta
  117. Śrāvaka
  118. Śrāvakas
  119. Śvetāmbara
  120. śramaṇa
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