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. According to Jain philosophy Time cycle or the kaalchakra is infinite, it is beginningless and endless. Time is divided into two cycles, Utsarpini and Avsarpini. Utsarpini is progressive which means that during this cycle humanity progresses from its worst to its best in health, ethics, religion and all fields while in Avsarpini humanity moves from its best to worst stage. Aras are the six unequal periods that every Utsarpini and Avsarpini is divided into. At present according to Jainism the fifth Ara of the Avsarpini phase is going on with 19000 yrs approximately until the next Ara. The sixth phase will then begin after this Ara which is supposed to last for approximately 21000 years. This will be followed by the Utsarpini phase which will continue the repetition. Thus it is presumed that there have been infinite sets of 24 Tirthankaras, one for each half of the time cycle which will continue in the future. For the purpose of study, only the 24 Tirthankars of the present half cycle are considered.
Birth and childhood
Pushpadanta or Suvidhinath was King Mahapadma of Pushkalvati Vijay in his earlier incarnation. His soul had already undergone rigorous spiritual disciplines in earlier lifetimes due to which he had reached an exalted state of spiritual enlightenment. Therefore he was reborn as the next Tirthankar. His soul descended into the womb of Queen Rama Devi who was the wife of King Sugriv of Kakandi town. The queen then saw the auspicious sixteen dreams which meant that the child in her womb was 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
Their Muni Shri Shantipriya explained to them the auspiciousness of the birth and the good fortune that they both had to become the parents of a Tirthankar. Both the King and Queen were overjoyed. The Queen gave birth to a son on the fifth day of the Magashirsha month at Krishna Paksh of the Hindu calendar. During the pregnancy the Queen discovered that she could perform even the most difficult tasks with great ease and in the correct procedure which everyone around her noticed to their great astonishment. The royal priest declared that this was due the quality of the child in her womb and so the child was named Suvidhi(correct process). During his teething period, the Queen had a craving to play with flowers. Hence he was also called Pushpadanta (flower tooth).The Prince soon grew up and at the right age they got him married. The King then handed over his kingdom to Suvidhi and proceeded to the forest to perform spiritual penances. Inspite of becoming King Suvidhinath practised meditation and led a pious life taking care of his subjects and ruling his kingdom wisely.
One day during prayers, memories of all his earlier incarnations came to him and he realised the goal of his birth. A deep sense of detachment came over him. He then became an ascetic undergoing a life of penance and rigorous spiritual practices. He achieved Omniscience under a maloor tree.
He continued preaching the tenets of jain philosophy and urged the people to practice Right Living, Right Action and Right Conduct. He explained the goal of life and exhorted them to give up a life of mundane pleasures and to seek salvation by practicing non violence, compassion and other qualities and to avoid wasting life in sensual pleasures. In the dark half of the month of Kartik he attained Nirvana.
The Symbol for Suvidhinath is crocodile. Great souls like Bhagavan Suvidhinatha were born to help mankind cross the ocean of Samsara and escape from the infinite cycles of birth and death by practising the principles established by the Tirthankars and attain liberation.
It is said that after the Nirvana of Bhagavan Suvidhinath, the ascetic organisation as begun by Bhagavan Rishabha disintegrated and there were hardly any ascetics left to even give discourses. People began to be influenced by material pleasures and began forgetting the tenets of Jain philosophy.