Tirthankara


Tirthankara
/tir tung"keuhr euh/, n. Jainism.
one of 24 persons who have attained personal immortality through enlightenment.
[ < Skt tirthankara lit., passage-making]

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or Jina

In Jainism, a saviour who has succeeded in crossing over life's stream of rebirths and has made a path for others to follow.

Each cosmic age produces 24 Tirthankaras; the first are giants, but, as the age proceeds, they decrease in stature and appear after shorter intervals of time. Of the 24 Tirthankaras of the present age, each of whom is represented by a symbolic colour and emblem, only Parshvanatha and Mahavira are considered actual historical figures. The Tirthankaras are not worshiped as gods but rather honoured as exemplars. See also arhat; bodhisattva; samsara.

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Sanskrit  Tīrthaṅkara (“Ford-Maker”),  also called  Jina 

      (“Victor”), in Jainism (a religion of India), a saviour who has succeeded in crossing over life's stream of rebirths and has made a path for others to follow. Mahāvīra (Mahavira) (6th century BC) was the last Tirthankara to appear. His predecessor, Pārśvanātha (Parshvanatha), lived about 250 years earlier; the other Tirthankaras mentioned in the Jaina scriptures cannot be considered historical figures. According to Jaina belief, each cosmic age produces its own group of 24 Tirthankaras, the first of whom—if it is an age of descending purity—are giants, but they decrease in stature and appear after shorter intervals of time as the age proceeds.

      In art the Tirthankara is represented either standing stiffly in the pose known as kāyotsarga (“dismissing the body”) or seated cross-legged on a lion throne in the posture of meditation, dhyānamudrā. The images are often carved out of marble or other highly polished stone or are cast in metal, the cold surfaces serving to emphasize the frozen detachment from life. Since the Tirthankara is a perfect being, there is little to distinguish one from another, except for symbolic colours or emblems. The names of the 24 Tirthankaras are attributed to dreams by their mothers before their births or to some other circumstance surrounding their entry into the world. The word -nātha, “lord,” may be added as an honorific to their names.

      In order of their appearance, the names, signs, and colours of the Jinas of this age are (1) Ṛṣabhanātha (Rishabhanatha) (“Lord Bull”), or Ādinātha (“Lord First”), his emblem the bull, his colour golden; (2) Ajita (“Invincible One”), elephant, golden; (3) Śambhava (“Auspicious”), horse, golden; (4) Abhinandana (“Worship”), ape, golden; (5) Sumati (“Wise”), heron, golden; (6) Padmaprabha (“Lotus-Bright”), lotus, red; (7) Supārśva (“Good-Sided”), the swastika symbol, golden; (8) Candraprabha (“Moon-Bright”), moon, white; (9) Suvidhi, or Puṣpadanta (“Religious Duties” or “Blossom-Toothed”), dolphin or makara (sea dragon), white; (10) Śītala (“Coolness”), the śrīvatsa symbol, golden; (11) Śreyāṃśa (“Good”), rhinoceros, golden; (12) Vāsupūjya (“Worshiped with Offerings of Possessions”), buffalo, red; (13) Vimala (“Clear”), boar, golden; (14) Ananta (“Endless”), hawk (according to the Digambara sect, ram or bear), golden; (15) Dharma (“Duty”), thunderbolt, golden; (16) Śānti (“Peace”), antelope or deer, golden; (17) Kunthu (meaning uncertain), goat, golden; (18) Ara (a division of time), the nandyāvarta (an elaborated swastika; according to the Digambara sect, fish), golden; (19) Malli (“Wrestler”), water jug, blue; (20) Suvrata, or Munisuvrata (“Of Good Vows”), tortoise, black; (21) Nami (“Bowing Down”), or Nimin (“Eye-Winking”), blue lotus, golden; (22) Nemi, or Ariṣṭanemi (“The Rim of Whose Wheel is Unhurt”), conch shell, black; (23) Pārśvanātha (“Lord Serpent”), snake, green; (24) Vardhamāna (“Prospering”), later called Mahāvīra (“Great Hero”), lion, golden.

      Images of the Tirthankara are not worshiped as personal gods, capable of giving blessings or interfering with human events. Rather, Jain believers pay them homage as representatives of great beings in the hope that they may be filled with a sense of renunciation and the highest virtues and thus encouraged along the path toward their final liberation.

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Universalium. 2010.

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