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
Suparshvanath in his earlier incarnation was King Nandisen of Kshetrapuri. He was highly spiritually enlightened and due to his rigorous penances and disciplines he was reborn as a Tirthankar. His soul entered the womb of Queen Prithvi Devi, wife of king Pratishthasen of Varanasi. It is said that the Kingdom was in danger of being attacked by neighbouring kingdoms but when the child was in the womb suddenly the attitude of the Kings changed and everyone wished to have friendly relations with King Nandisen. The King was very happy and realised that it was the power of divinity in the unborn child that spread good vibrations everywhere resulting in peace and brotherhood in the kingdom which would soon spread to neighbouring Kingdoms.
Soon the Queen gave birth to a son on the twelfth day of the Jyeshta Shukla paksh of Visakha month. There was love, peace and prosperity everywhere. Since the Kings or enemies (Parsh) who wanted to attack their kingdom now became friends (Suparsh), the child was named Suparshva. After some years as he grew up, they got him married. Later his father decided to hand over the Kingdom to him and went away to the forest to meditate and pursue spiritual practices. Suparshva then ruled the kingdom wisely for many years conducting the affairs of the state ably and looking after his subjects well.
One day he noticed the falling of the leaves and the wilting of the flowers and a feeling of detachment came over him. He clearly saw all his past lives and the purpose of his present birth. He then decided to embrace Ascetism. A number of his subjects too embraced ascetism along with him. After rigorous spiritual practices on the sixth day of the dark half of the month of Phalgun he achieved Omniscience.
He then began preaching to his followers the tenets of Jain philosophy, of renunciation and Right action, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. His love and compassion engulfed all and thousands of people who came into contact with him began to follow his way of life. Finally after many years of preaching he attained Nirvana on the seventh day of the bright half of the month of Phalgun at Sammed Shikar.
Bhagavan Suparshvanath was born to exhort mankind to follow the right path of renunciation and true knowledge, to inculcate the qualities of compassion and non violence and to attain the true goal of human life namely liberation after giving up bondage and attachment and transcending the infinite cycles of birth and death that man has been undergoing for centuries. Such Divine Beings are born for the sacred purpose of raising mankind to liberation and spreading peace, love and brotherhood among people. India has been blessed to have such holy beings sanctify the land and lift millions of people to self realisation and bliss.