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
Parshvanath was born in the Ikshvaku dynasty to Queen Vama Devi and King Aswasena of Varanasi. 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
In his earlier incarnation he was Marubhuti, the son of Purohit Vishnubhuti of Potanpur city and then he was reborn as an elephant in the forests of Vindhyachal. His soul then reincarnated as a god in the Sahasrar dimension and then he was born as Prince Kiranveg in the Mahavideha area who became an ascetic. Next he was born as a God in the Achyut Kalpa dimension followed by his birth as King Vajranabh. Next he reincarnated in the Madhyam Graiveyak dimension of the Gods and in his eighth birth he was born in the royal family of Puranpur as Suvarnbahu who became a Chakravarti and later on in life became an ascetic. All these births of performing rigorous spiritual penances led to his having reached a very exalted state hence after reincarnating in the Pranat dimension of Gods his soul descended into the womb of Queen Vama Devi who was the wife of King Ashwasena of Varanasi. He was born on the tenth day of the dark half of the month of Paush. During her pregnancy the Queen had seen a snake slithering on the bed near the flank of the King and she had woken him up and saved him from the impending danger so they named him Parshva(flank). Years passed and he grew up to be a brave and handsome prince. His fame spread far and wide and it reached Kushasthalpur where King Prasenjit had a daughter Prabhavati who on hearing about him was determined to become his wife. Meanwhile the King of Kalinga Yavanraj attacked Kushasthalpur and wished to marry Prabhavati. King Prasenjit requested King Ashwasena to help him. King Ashwasena asked Prince Parshvanath to go to battle. The Gods sent a divine chariot to help Parshvanath. Meanwhile Yavanraj was warned by his ministers about the prowess of Parshvanath and predicted defeat for him. This caused Yavanraj much anxiety and he surrendered without a fight. He offered gifts to Parshvanath and became his friend. In gratitude King Prasenjit offered his daughter Prabhavati to Parshvanath. Parshvanath was not keen on marriage but on the insistence of his parents and other elders agreed to the wedding. But even after marriage he led a very simple and pious life.
Aware of his past lives he realised that the time had come to become an ascetic and fulfil the real purpose for which he was born. He set out on his path of renunciation and continued rigorous spiritual penances. He attained Omniscience on the fourth day of the dark half of the month of Chaitra in the Ashrampad garden in Varanasi while he stood in meditation under a Dharanendra tree.
He established the four fold order and gave discourses on religion, the principles of Right Thinking, Right conduct and right Action. he spoke on truth, non violence, non stealing and non possessiveness. He had eight chief disciples known as Ganadharas and the first and senior most was Shubhdatta. He travelled and preached extensively and the Magadha Kings, the Shakya Kings and others were his followers. He attained Nirvana on the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Shravan at Sammet Shikhar.
Sammet Shikhar is also referred to as Parasnath hill and is located in Jharkhand. It is one of the most famous pilgrimage centres for the Jains as most of the Tirthankars attained Nirvana there.
Temples of Bhagavan Parshvanath In India
Godiji Parshvanath temple in Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Guntur, Chitradurga etc.
Antariksh Parshvanath temple in Shirpur, Akola, Maharashtra
Parshvanath temple, Nakoda, Rajasthan
Ahichchatra Parshvanath Atishaya Teerth Kshetra Digambar Jain Mandir, Rampur, Uttar Pradesh
Parshvanath Jain temple, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Shankeshwar Parshvanath Jain temple, Patan, Gujarat, India
Ostra Parshvanath Jain temple, Jodhpur, Rajasthan
His symbol is serpent. Bhagavan Parshvanath preached the principles of non violence and compassion. He was a Divine Being born for guiding mankind on the road to liberation and helping them to break the bonds of attachment and delusion. He preceded Lord Mahavira by 250 years.