Neminatha was the 22nd TIRTHANKARA (Jain saint) of our era, or, more precisely, half-era, as there are always 24 Tirthankaras in each half of a longer era. Unlike the 23rd Tirthankara in our time, PARSHVA-NATH, and the 24th, MAHAVIRA, both historical fig-ures, Neminatha is not a historical figure.
   Neminatha is said to have had his previous incarnation in the celestial abode. He was born to the king Shauripura and his wife, Shiva Devi. His birth was accompanied by many auspicious signs, including the appropriate auspicious markings on his body to indicate his special status. He never undertook the householder life. At the death of own parents he resolved to take up the path of a Jain renunciant, to the acclaim of the gods. He dis-tributed his vast worldly wealth to the indigent.
   As Neminatha ascended his royal palanquin for the last time to go to his place of renunciation, all beings hailed him and shouted their praises and encouragement. He arrived at a park named Revika and there removed all his garlands and ornaments and tonsured himself in the fashion of Jain monks by removing all his hair in five hand-fuls. At that time he took the vow of taking food only once every third day until he entered the order of the wandering monks.
   For 54 days Neminatha lived completely ignoring his body in every way. On the 55th day on top of Mount Ajjinta, after reducing his food to once every fourth day, he attained to supreme knowledge and the status of a kevalin, having unobstructed wisdom. He attained, afterward, the status of a Tirthankara, a crosser of the ford, and omniscience, knowledge of all that occurred in the world at all times.
   At this time he had a community of 18,000 monks, 40,000 nuns, 169,000 laymen, and 369,000 laywomen. With him were 400 monks who had achieved the highest wisdom short of being per-fected and many other monks whose knowledge was developing. They say that Neminatha lived for 300 years as a bachelor, 54 days as a monk, and 700 years as an omniscient being. Thereupon, taking food once every month he fasted until he left his body and achieved NIRVANA. More than 84,000 years has elapsed since this event.
   Further reading: Paul Dundas, The Jains (London: Routledge, 1992); P. S. Jaini, The Jaina Path of Purifica-tion (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990); K. C. Lalwani, Kalpa Sutra (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1979).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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