A Tirthankar is a human being who has attained a highly exalted state due to intense spiritual practices in various lifetimes and signifies the ultimate pure developed state of the soul. Having attained the highest spiritual goal of human life, they help others cross the ocean of Samsara and win freedom against the infinite cycles of birth and death that man has to undergo. In th Digambar tradition, it is believed that Bhagavan Mallinath the 19th Tirthankar was a male while the Shwetambars believe that she was a female.
Birth and childhood
It is said that Mallinath in his previous life was King Mahabal of Vitshoka. He had six other Kings who were very close friends of his. All of them had led a close knit life together and they decided to take up ascetism. They took Diksha from Varadharma Muni and began their spiritual penances sincerely. But Mahabal always wished to be ahead of his friends hence would secretly practise without their knowledge. When asked he would pretend otherwise. Therefore he had to be reborn as a woman due to his deception. But he had reached a very high state of spiritual advancement and hence along with the other six other friends reincarnated in the Anuttar dimension of Gods. But the soul of Mahabal being highly evolved descended into the womb of Queen Prabhavati who was the wife of King Kumbh of Mithila. During the pregnancy the Queen had a desire to smell flowers all the time so she slept on a bed of five different colours of fragrant flowers. On the eleventh day of the bright half of the month of Margashirsh, everyone was surprised to see that the Queen had given birth to a beautiful girl. Overcoming their surprise of the Tirthankar being a woman but bowing to the Supreme Divine Will, they named her Malli Kumari due to the Queen’s yearning for flowers during pregnancy.
Once a famous merchant received a Divine gift of earrings which were gifted to the child. As she grew up her beauty and piety is said to have captivated everyone. Many of the nearby Kings heard stories of her beauty and were keen to see her.
Once a female mendicant named Choksha came to the palace and when she was corrected by Malli Kumari on some spiritual matter she was enraged and decided to take revenge. She went to the six Kings who were Malli’s friends in the earlier birth and awakened in them a desire to marry the Princess Malli Kumari. When all six came outside her palace with their armies, the King did not know what to do to prevent bloodshed. But Malli Kumari being a highly realised soul asked her father to welcome the Kings and leave the rest to her. In the palace garden she got a chamber made with her life size statue which was hollow. She began filling the hollow with food. She constructed six chambers with windows and after many days she invited the six Kings to view the statue from their chambers after locking them inside. From the windows of the chambers the six Kings viewed the statue mistaking it for Malli Kumari. They were smitten by her beauty. Slowly she opened the neck of the statue and the smell of putrid food enveloped the air. Now the six kings began to suffocate when they found themselves locked with the stench and began berating themselves. Malli Kumari then opened their doors and explained to them that the body was only a mass of flesh which was perishable and its beauty was only transient. She then reminded them of their earlier birth and their friendship. The friends immediately awoke to their purpose of life and their spiritual status and returned to their respective kingdoms resolving to follow the path of renunciation.
Malli Kumari soon embraced ascetism and left the Kingdom along with many followers. She began rigorous spiritual penances and soon achieved Omniscience.
She began preaching on equanimity, compassion and Non Violence. The six Kings too took Diksha and embraced ascetism. After spreading the philosophy and the tenets of Right Living, Right Conduct and Right Kowledge Malli Kumari attained Nirvana at Sammet Shikhar on the fourth day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra.
Her symbol is Kalash or jar. Bhagavan Mallinath was born to exhort mankind to strive for liberation giving up attachment and worldly bondage. She proved to the world that the path of Self realisation was open to all irrespective of caste, creed and gender and a mind with determination and one pointedness could lead towards the Ultimate goal of Nirvana. Divine Beings like Bhagavan Mallinath are born to help mankind and their purity has sanctified the sacred land of India rendering it holy and sublime.