Parshvanatha, the Jain Tirthankara, preached the four vows of non-violence, truthfulness, not stealing and not owning things.
Words: Madhuri Y
Parshvanatha is the twenty-third Jain Tirthankara and is said to have lived during the seventh century which was 250 years before Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Jain Tirthankara.
Parshvanatha was born on the tenth day of Krishna Paksha, that is the dark half of the month of Paush, to the ruler of Varanasi, King Asvasena and Queen Vamadevi. They belonged to the Ikshvaku dynasty.
. A Jain adult householder follows twelve basic vows which Parshvanatha began following as an eight-year old. When he was thirty years old, he renounced the world. Meditating for 84 days, he attained kevala jnana that is, complete knowledge.
When he was a hundred years old, he attained enlightenment atop today’s Parasnath Hills, on which Shikharji is located.
Parshvanatha was believed to have taken many incarnations. As Marubhuti, he had been the son of a Prime Minister. When his brother Kamath set fire to a log, Marubhuti saved two snakes which were trapped in the log. These snakes were later born as Dharnendra and Padmavati and gave shelter to Parshvanatha in his later life when his brother sent a storm to disturb his meditation.
Marubhuti was later killed by his brother. Reborn as the elephant, Vajraghosha, he roamed the forests of Vindhyachal. Once again, his brother from the previous birth, who was now born as a snake, attacked and killed him. After a life as Sasi Prabha in the twelfth heaven, he took birth as prince Agnivega. He went on to rule the kingdom, but later turned into an ascetic. Once again, his brother from the previous births, killed him while he was meditating in the Himalayas.
Parshvanatha preached four of the five Jain principles, that of non-violence, truthfulness, not stealing, not owning things. The principle of chastity was added by Mahavira. Parshvanatha is known to be compassionate. He had eight chief monks, more than a hundred thousand male followers and over three hundred thousand female followers. In addition, 16,000 monks and 38,000 nuns were believed to have followed him.
Parshvanatha Jayanti is celebrated with reverence with worship. Devout jains undertake attham, that is, they undertake a three-day fast. Some undertake a hard fast, eating and drinking nothing. Some drink boiled water. Some have one meal during the day. They recite their holy scriptures and meditate for their own spiritual welfare. They decorate their houses and give donations to the poor. Grand fairs take place, particularly in Shankheshwar.
over 900 temples on the mountain
Parshvanatha temple in Khajuraho is believed to have been built during the 10th century. Originally, the idol seems to have been of Adinatha, the first tirthankara. Parshvanatha’s idol was installed in 1860.
With over 900 temples on the mountain, Palitana near Bhavnagar in Gujarat is an important Jain pilgrimage centre. Devout Jains hope to climb to the top of the mountain at least once in their lifetime. They must neither eat food nor carry it with them. No one can remain atop the mountain during the night. Adinatha is said to have meditated on the Shatrunjaya hill on which more than 3000 temples are located today. Of these, the main shrine of the Digamber Jain temple holds the idol of Bhagwan Shantinatha. Apart from this, it also holds two idols of Parshvanatha.
Palitana is the world’s first vegetarian city by law. It is illegal to engage in the business of non-vegetarian food, including eggs, or to undertake fishing or hold animals for the purpose of food.
Shikharji in Jharkhand is located in the Parasnath Hills. It is believed that twenty jain tirthankaras, including Parshvanatha gained moksha here.
The Jain Narayana temple in Pattadakal was built by the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta. The principal deity is Parshvanatha.
The Parshvanatha Basadi, that is temple, in Halebidu was built by Boppana, son of a minister in King Vishnuvardhana’s court in 1133 AD.
The 18-foot tall Parshvanatha idol is made of black granite. Statues of Dharnendra and Padmavati too are present.
Parshvanatha Basadi in Shravanabelagola holds an 18-foot tall statue of Parshvanatha in standing posture.
Parshvanatha temple in Calcutta was built by Rai Badridas Bahadoor Mookim in 1867. The ghee lamp in the sanctum sanctorum has been burning since the temple initiation.
Akkana Basadi, that is, temple of the elder sister, was built by Hoysala king Veera Ballala II in 1181 AD. Construction was undertaken by Achala Devi, the wife of a minister.
The Nakoda Parshvanatha temple is near Mewar in Rajasthan. The tirthankara’s idol is in black and in padmasana position.
Shankheshwar in Patan of Gujarat is home to the Parshvanatha temple. The original temple was built in 1099 AD by Sajjan Shah.
Muslim invaders destroyed it in the 14th century and a new temple was built in the 16th century of the Vikram era.
In 1704 AD, a six-foot high statue of Parshvanatha in padmasana posture was reinstalled.
Lodrawa in Jaisalmer of Rajasthan was the capital of the Bhatti dynasty. Lord Parshvanatha’s temple was destroyed in 1152 AD by Mohammed Ghori and was reconstructed in 1615.
The 61-foot tall statue of Parshvanatha is in the Navagraha Jain Temple at Varur near Hubli in Karnataka. The idol is in standing (kayotsarga) posture.
Shree Shankheshwar Parshvanatha Jain temple is in East Godavari of Andhra Pradesh. During construction of the national highway in 1977, statues of Parshvanatha and other tirthankaras were found in the ardha padmasana position. It was ascertained that they belonged to the Mauryan era and were 2000 years old.
A 47-foot statue of the tirthankara in padmasana posture is found in the Gopachal hill which is home to rock-cut statues.
A 31-foot statue is found in the Vahelna temple.
The Naugaza Digambar Jain temple holds a smaller statue of Parshvanatha.