- Rishabha was the first Jain TIRTHANKARA (saint) of our half-era (see JAINISM). He was followed by 23 others, the last of whom was MAHAVIRA.Rishabha’s life was marked by four auspicious events, which all took place when the Moon was in conjunction with the same star: he entered the womb after a previous life in a heavenly realm, he was born into the world, he left the life of a house-holder, and he attained infinite knowledge.In the land of Kosala, he entered the womb of Marudevi, wife of Nabhi, a member of a warrior class family on the fourth day in the dark half of the month of Ashadha (June–July). His mother, as was customary for those who would bear a future ARHAT, an enlightened being, had had 14 auspi-cious dreams, such as seeing a white elephant and an ox. In the eighth day of the dark half of the month of Chaitra (March–April), he was born. Gods, goddesses, animal divinities, and others descended to greet this great birth and showered down jewels, gold, and silver.Rishabha lived as a prince and as a monarch for thousands of years. Even as a monarch he was known for his many virtues and for his great teachings of the various arts. In his kingly life his children included the famed BHARATA and BAHUBALI.In the month of Chaitra (March–April), he gave away all his wealth, mounted his kingly palanquin for the last time, and went to his place of renunciation to become a monk. He sat under a sacred tree; took off all his clothes, finery, and ornaments; and pulled out all his hair in five tufts, as was the custom for one who was to become a Jain monk.For 1,000 years Rishabha ignored his body in every way, enduring every hardship without complaint or acknowledgment. He would walk very slowly, talk very quietly, and move about very lightly so as not to harm any being visible or invis-ible. He saw offal and gold as the same and would accept only that which had not been prepared specially for him.Rishabha spent 1,000 years contemplating himself and doing penance in right conduct on the road to liberation. Finally, taking water only once every four days, he sat under a tree and reached the ultimate insight of full knowledge. Thereupon he became a spiritual victor, a jina, and became omniscient. At this time the gods and all other beings went to listen to him preach the Jain doctrine in an awesome and beautiful pavilion they built.It is said that the Tirthankara Rishabha had 84 disciples who were very close to him and another 84 who assisted him. He had a total of 84,000 monks and 300,000 nuns. He remained seating in a lotus position, omniscient, for 100,000 years. Finally he met his death and his soul ascended to the top of the universe to exist there in eternal effulgence and bliss.Further reading: Champat Rai Jain, Rishabha Deva, the Founder of Jainism (Allahabhad: Indian Press, 1929); P. S. Jaini, The Jaina Path of Purification (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990); K. C. Lalwani, Kalpa Sutra (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1979).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.