24 Tirthankaras of Jainism with Symbols: Features & Five Significant Tirthankaras

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Jainism, one of the world’s oldest religions, holds the concept of Tirthankaras in high regard. The term “Tirthankar” originates from the combination of “Tirtha,” meaning a place of pilgrimage, and “Samsara,” signifying worldly life. A Tirthankara is the founder of a tirtha, symbolizing a navigable canal through the boundless sea of births and deaths.

In Jainism, Tirthankaras are revered as “Jin” or “the conqueror of all tendencies.” There are 24 Tirthankaras in total. According to Jain beliefs, a Tirthankara is a saviour who has successfully crossed life’s stream of rebirths and has paved a path for others to follow.

Understanding the list of 24 Tirthankaras and their significance holds immense importance in various competitive exams, covering a significant part of the Ancient History syllabus and General Studies Paper for the WBCS Prelims and Main Syllabus.

This article will delve into the details of the 24 Tirthankaras of Jainism, exploring their significance in the context of the WBCS and other competitive exams.

24 Tirthankaras of Jainism with Symbols
24 Tirthankaras of Jainism with Symbols
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Who is Tirthankaras?

▪ A Tirthankar is not a divine incarnation but an ordinary soul born as a human. Through rigorous penance, serenity, and meditation, they attain the status of a Tirthankar. They are considered the highest developed state of the soul, not an Avatar or god-incarnate.

▪ Tirthankaras were not religious founders but enlightened teachers who lived at various times in human history. They achieved the ultimate spiritual goal and imparted their wisdom to their contemporaries, guiding them to reach spiritual purity and attain the highest spiritual objective.

List of 24 Tirthankaras of Jainism with Symbols

▪ Over thousands of years, the 24 Tirthankaras have been born and taught the law of Dharma (Righteousness). Each Tirthankara is associated with a significant symbol. Here are the names, birthplaces, symbols, and other details of each of the 24 Tirthankaras:

Sl.NoTirthankara NameSymbolBirthplaceColour
1RishabhanathaBullAyodhyaGolden
2AjitanathaElephantAyodhyaGolden
3SambhavanathaHorseShravastiGolden
4AbhinandananathaMonkeySamet SikharGolden
5SumatinathaHeronAyodhyaGolden
6PadmaprabhaPadmaSamet SikharRed
7SuparshvanathaSwastikaSamet SikharGolden
8ChandraprabhaCrescent MoonChandrapuriWhite
9PushpadantaCrocodileKakandiWhite
10ShitalanathaShrivatsaBhadrak PuriGolden
11ShreyanasanathaRhinocerosSamet SikharGolden
12VasupujyaBuffaloChampapuriRed
13VimalanathaBoarKampilyaGolden
14AnantanathaFalconAyodhyaGolden
15DharmanathaVajraRatnapuriGolden
16ShantinathaAntelope or deerHastinapurGolden
17KunthunathaGoatHastinapurGolden
18AranathaNandyavarta or fishHastinapurGolden
19MāllīnāthaKalashaMithilaBlue
20MunisuvrataTortoiseKusagranagarBlack
21NaminathaBlue lotusMithilaGolden
22NeminathaShankhaDvarakaBlack
23ParshvanathaSnakeKashiBlue
24MahaviraLionKshatriyakundGolden

Features of Tirthankaras

Tirthankaras – Spiritual Leaders in Jainism

▪ Tirthankaras, in Jainism, are revered as supreme beings who establish sacred pilgrimage sites known as Tirthas. These sites hold great significance for Hindus, and many of them are located along riverbanks in India. The Tirthankaras themselves are the founders of these pilgrimage places.

Enlightenment and Teaching

▪ A Tirthankara, born as an ordinary soul, achieves enlightenment through rigorous penance, serenity, and meditation practices. Once enlightened, they become spiritual guides and teach others the path to salvation and self-realization.

Emancipation and Moksha

▪ At the culmination of their human existence, a Tirthankara attains Moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death. They break free from the perpetual cycle of reincarnation and attain ultimate eternal bliss.

Supreme Spiritual Authority

▪ In Jain beliefs, Tirthankaras are considered beings who have attained the highest state of spiritual purity and transcendence. They lead by example, sharing profound insights into religion, the value of human life, and the means to attain Nirvana or liberation.

Guiding Others to Salvation

▪ A Tirthankara’s mission extends beyond their salvation. They preach and guide sincere seekers on the path to spiritual emancipation. Through their teachings, they help others break free from the cycle of suffering and achieve true liberation.

In conclusion, Tirthankaras are revered as spiritual leaders in Jainism, establishing sacred pilgrimage sites and providing profound teachings to guide others towards self-realization and liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Their noble efforts have a lasting impact on those seeking enlightenment and spiritual growth.

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Significant Tirthankaras of Jainism

There are 5 significant Tirthankaras. The list is discussed below.

Features of Jain Tirthankara Rishabhdev (Adinatha)

Rishabhdev – The First Tirthankara

▪ Rishabhdev, also known as Adinatha, holds the esteemed position of being the First Tirthankara in this time cycle according to Jainism. He was born in the Ikshvaku Kula or clan in Ayodhya and is considered an incarnation of Vishnu in Hinduism.

Royal Lineage and Parentage

▪ Rishabhdev was born to King Nabhi Raja and Queen Marudevi, as recorded in the Bhagavata Purana. He comes from a noble lineage, adding to his significant spiritual significance.

Spiritual Liberation and Role Model

▪ As a Tirthankara, Rishabhdev achieved spiritual liberation by shedding all his karmas becoming a role model for all living beings. His profound teachings serve as a guiding light for spiritual seekers.

Symbol and Nirvana Location

▪ Rishabhdev’s symbol is a bull, and he attained Nirvana on the Himalayan Kailasa summit, according to Digambar canons, and on the Ashtapad mountain, according to Shwetambar canons.

Antiquity and Historical References

▪ Rishabhdev’s existence is believed to predate the Indus Valley Civilization, making him a prominent figure in ancient history. He is mentioned as Lord Vishnu in the Bhagavata Purana and is also referenced in the Vedas.

Family and Legacy

▪ Rishabhdev is known to have sons named Bharata and Bahubali, with the latter being dedicated to a grand statue known as Gomateshwara in Shravanabelagola, Karnataka. Additionally, his daughter Brahmi is believed to have inspired the name of the ‘Brahmi’ script.

In summary, Rishabhdev (Adinatha) is revered as the First Tirthankara, symbolizing spiritual liberation and inspiring seekers of truth. His royal lineage and historical significance add to the rich tapestry of Jainism’s spiritual heritage.

Gomateshwara Statue 

▪ In the city of Shravanabelagola, Karnataka, India, stands the impressive Gomateshwara statue, perched on Vindhyagiri hill. 

▪ This monolithic masterpiece, sculpted from a single block of granite, soars to a height of 57 ft (17 m), making it the tallest of its kind in India and visible from as far as 30 kilometers away.

▪ Dedicated to the revered Jain figure Bahubali, the Gomateshwara statue serves as a profound symbol of Jain principles, embodying ideals such as peace, non-violence, renunciation of worldly matters, and embracing a simple way of life. 

▪ Its construction dates back to the remarkable era of the Western Ganga dynasty, around 983 CE, and was skillfully brought to life under the guidance of Chavundaraya, a distinguished minister and general of the Ganga dynasty.
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Parshvanath

▪ Lord Parshwanath, Jainism’s 23rd Tirthankara, was born to King Ashvasena and Queen Vama of Varanasi.

▪ Renouncing worldly life at the age of 30, he embraced the path of an ascetic, holding immense significance in Jain Dharam.

▪ His serene idol embodies the essence of tranquillity and is a historical figure, as mentioned in the Puranas.

▪ The enlightened Parshwanath achieved Nirvana atop the Sammet Sikhar, now named after him. He established four Ganas, each supervised by a Ganadhar.

▪ Unique among Jain Tirthankars, he is portrayed with a naga’s hood over his head and flanked by Yaksha Dharenendra and Yakshi Padmavati.

▪ Various symbols, including the snake, chaitya tree-dhava, Yaksha-Matang, and Yakshani-Kushmadi, are intricately linked with Parshwanath’s teachings. These elements harmoniously contribute to the embodiment of calm and spiritual wisdom found in Lord Parshwanath’s eternal legacy.

Mahavira

▪ Lord Mahavir, the 24th and final Tirthankara of the Jain religion, was known by various names, including Vira of Viraprabhu, Sanmati, Ativira, Gnatputra, Arugan, Arugadevan, and Nigantha Nataputta in different manuscripts and traditions.

▪ Born as Prince Vardhamana to King Siddhartha and Queen Trishala of the Ikshvaku Dynasty, he adopted the name Bhagwan Mahaveer.

▪ At 30, Vardhamana left his home to pursue spiritual knowledge, engaging in intense penance for twelve and a half years.

▪ At 42, under the Sal tree, he attained Kaivalya, a state of wisdom. For the next thirty years, he travelled barefoot across India, imparting timeless truths to people from all walks of life, including rich and poor, monarchs and commoners, men and women, princes and priests, touchable and untouchables.

▪ Lord Mahavir divided his disciples into four groups: Monks (Sadhu), Nuns (Sadhvi), Laymen (Shravak), and Laywomen (Shravika), collectively known as Jains. His teachings aimed at liberating people from the cycle of birth, life, pain, misery, and death, leading them to a state of permanent joy and freedom known as Liberation, Nirvana, perfect freedom, or Moksha.

▪ In addition to the four restraints advocated by Parshvanath (Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, and Aparigraha), Mahavir Swami established the fifth abstinence, “Brahmacharya.” He emphasized that the combination of good faith (samyak-darshan), right knowledge (samyak-jnana), and right behaviour (samyak-charitra) would pave the way to self-liberation.

▪ At the age of 72 (527 BCE), Lord Mahavira attained complete Nirvana, achieving the status of Siddha—a pure consciousness and a liberated soul, eternally blissful. In his honour, people celebrated the Festival of Lights (Deepavali) on the night of his salvation at Pavapuri.

Mallinath

▪ Mallinath, the 19th Tirthankara in Jain tradition, was the only female Tirthankara. Born in Mithila, she was also known by the name Malli.

Neminatha

▪ Neminatha, the 22nd Tirthankara, shares a significant relationship as the cousin of Lord Krishna, a prominent Hindu deity.

▪ Various paintings portray Neminatha with a dark complexion. Additionally, he was commonly referred to by the name Nemi.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1. What is the meaning of Tirthankara?

A Tirthankara is a spiritual teacher in Jainism who has attained liberation from the cycle of birth and death. They are considered saviours who have shown others how to achieve liberation. The word “Tirthankara” literally means “ford-maker” or “path-maker.” This refers to Tirthankaras showing others how to cross the samsara river, the cycle of birth and death.

Q2. Who was Jainism’s last Tirthankar?

Mahavira was the last Tirthankara in Jainism. This means that there will be no more Tirthankaras in the future. However, Jains believe Mahavira’s teachings will continue to guide people toward liberation.

Q3. Who is the famous Jains’ Tirthankara?

The most famous Tirthankara in Jainism is Mahavira. He is the 24th and final Tirthankara. Mahavira lived in the 6th century BCE. He is considered to be the most important figure in Jainism after Rishabhanatha.

Q4. Who is Jainism’s first Tirthankara?

The first Tirthankara in Jainism is Rishabhanatha. He is also known as Adinath, the “First Lord.” Rishabhanatha is said to have lived millions of years ago. He is considered to be the founder of Jainism.

Q5. How many Tirthankaras are there in Jainism?

There are 24 Tirthankaras in Jainism.
Adinatha, Ajita, Sambhava, Abhinandana, Sumati, Padmaprabha, Suparshva, Chandraprabha, Suvidhi, Shital, Shreyansa, Vasupujya, Vimala, Ananta, Dharma, Shanti, Kunthu, Ara, Malli, Muni Suvrata, Nami, Nemi, Parshva, Mahavira are the 24 Tirthankara of Jainism.

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