Jainism is one of the oldest existing religions in the world, with some scholars tracing its origin to the pre-Vedic, Indus Valley Civilisation. Going by this view, Jainism’s birth is stated by some to preceed even Hinduism, making it world’s most antique religion. Followers of Jainism may be numerically small today, but they exert an influence which is far greater than their population.
Who Is A Tirthankar?
Jainism is about simple living and non-violence (Ahimsa). Jainism is a way of life based on the teachings of 24 Tirthankaras, of whom Lord Mahavira was the last and most prominent The word Tirthankara signifies the founder of a tirtha which means a fordable passage across the sea of interminable births and deaths (called sa?s?ra). Tirthankaras are variously called "Teaching Gods", "Ford-Makers", "Crossing Makers" and "Makers of the River-Crossing.
|1||Rishabhanatha (Adinatha)||Bull||Ayodhya||Golden||84,00,000 Purva|
|4||Abhinandananatha||Monkey||Samet Sikhar||Golden||50,00,000 Purva|
|6||Padmaprabha||Padma||Samet Sikhar||Red||30,00,000 Purva|
|7||Suparshvanatha||Swastika||Samet Sikhar||Golden||20,00,000 Purva|
|8||Chandraprabha||Crescent Moon||Chandrapuri||White||10,00,000 Purva|
|11||Shreyanasanatha||Rhinoceros||Samet Sikhar||Golden||84,00,000 Years|
|16||Shantinatha||Antelope or deer||Hastinapur||Golden||1,00,000 Years|
|18||Aranatha||Nandyavarta or fish||Hastinapur||Golden||84,000 Years|
|21||Naminatha||Blue lotus||Mithila||Golden||10,000 Years|
Jains celebrate five major events in the life of a Tirthankar. They are called Kalyanak (auspicious events). They are:
- Chyavana Kalyanak - This is the event when the Tirthankar's soul departs from its last life, and is conceived in the mother’s womb.
- Janma Kalyanak - This is the event when the Tirthankar's soul is born.
- Diksha Kalyanak - This is the event when the Tirthankar's soul gives up all his/her worldly possessions and becames a monk/nun. (Digambar sect does not believe that women can become Tirthankar or be liberated.)
- Kevaljnana Kalyanak - This is event when Tirthankar’s soul destroys the four ghati karmas completely and attains the Kevaljnana (absolute knowledge). Celestial angels set Samavsaran for Tirthankars from where he/she delivers the first sermon. This is the most important event for the entire Jain order as the Tirthankar reinstates Jain Sangh and preaches the Jain path of purification and liberation.
- Nirvana Kalyanak - This event is when a Tirthankar’s soul is liberated from this worldly physical existence forever and becomes a Siddha. On this day, the Tirthankar’s soul destroys the four aghati karmas completely, and attains salvation, the state of eternal bliss.
There are other significant events also in the final life of a Tirthankars. When a Tirthankar’s soul is conceived, his/her mother has fourteen dreams (some texts mention sixteen dreams). A Tirthankar’s soul, while even in mother’s womb, has three types of knowledge, namely Matijnan, Shrutjnan, and Avadhijnan. One year before the time of renunciation, a group of celestial angels come to pay homage to the future Tirthankar. They remind him/her that the time to renounce the world is arriving. When a Tirthankar renounces the worldly life, he attains Manahparyavjnan, the fourth type of the knowledge, which enables him/her to know people’s thoughts.