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.
Birth and childhood
Munisuvrata was the 20th Tirthankar of the present age. All the Tirthankars were highly realised souls spiritually evolving through a number of births. Munisuvrata in his earlier incarnation was said to be the King of Champa city in Mahavideha area named Surshreshta. He led a very pious life and later on took up ascetism. He underwent rigorous penances and reached a highly exalted state due to which he reincarnated in the Pranat dimension of Gods and later his soul descended into the womb of Queen Padmavati who was the wife of King Sumitra Raja of Rajgriha. The Queen witnessed fourteen dreams which are the signs of the advent of the birth of a Tirthankar. They were-
1. A large and beautiful white bull entering her mouth.
2. A lion
3. A garland of flowers
4.A giant elephant having four tusks
5.Goddess Lakshmi seated on a lotus
6.The glorious Sun
7. The full moon shining in the sky
8.A sea of milk
9.A golden urn
10.A Flag which was fluttering
11.A vehicle of the Gods which moves in space
12.A pond filled with lotus flowers
13.A heap of gems
14.A fire without smoke
Both the King and Queen were overjoyed at their good fortune of being the parents of a Tirthankar. She gave birth to a son on the tenth day of Krishna Paksh of the month of Vaisakha according to the Hindu calendar. The Queen during the pregnancy took a number of vows and led a life filled with discipline just like an ascetic. Hence the child was named Munisuvrata(vow like ascetic). Soon he grew up and later on they got him married. The King then handed over the kingdom to him and went to the forest to pursue the spiritual path.
Munisuvrata ruled wisely for many years. Then thinking about the everchanging seasons and the monotony of life a deep sense of detachment came over him. He saw in his meditation all his past lives and realised the goal of his life and the purpose of his existence. He then gave up everything and embraced ascetism. He wandered about engaged in rigorous spiritual penances and under a Champa tree achieved Omniscience.
He preached about Scriptural and Applied philosophy and exhorted his followers to realise the reason of their birth and their goal of self realisation. He asked them to give up worldly bondage and transcend the cycles of birth and death. He explained the principles of Right Conduct, Right thinking and Right knowledge and urged them to practice compassion and non violence. He attained Nirvana at Sammed Shikhar on the ninth day of the month of Jyeshta.
Temples of Bhagavan Munisuvrat in India
Shri Munisuvratswami Jain Teerth, Shrimali Pol, Bharuch Gujarat
Shri 1008 Munisuvrat Digambara Jain Atishaya Kshetra, Paithan, Aurangabad Maharashtra
Vipulachala Hill, Rajgiri, Nalanda Bihar
Munisuvratnath Shri Digambar Jain Atishaya Kshetra, Keshorai, Bundi Rajasthan
His symbol is tortoise. Divine souls like Bhagavan Munisuvrat are born to elevate mankind to achieve the goal of self realisation and rise beyond worldly bondage. His contemporaries include the ninth Chakravarti Mahapadma, the eight Prativasudev, Baldev and VasudevRam, Lakshman, Ravan. His elder brother the ascetic Vishnu Kumar was famous for his efforts in saving the Jain religion from the oppressions of Namuchi. It is said that the Jains celebrate Rakshabandhan to commemorate this event.