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Neminatha is the twenty-second Tirthankara (ford-maker) in Jainism. He is also known simply as Nemi, or as Aristanemi which is an epithet of the sun-chariot. Along with Mahavira, Parshvanatha and Rishabhanatha, Neminatha is one of the twenty four Tirthankaras who attract the most devotional worship among the Jains.

22nd Jain Tirthankara
Arishtanemi or successor
Image of Neminatha at a Jain temple in Bateshwar, Uttar Pradesh
Other namesArishtanemi
Venerated inJainism
SymbolShankha (conch)[1]
Height10 bows (98 feet)[2]
Age1000 years (canonical); 118 years (historical assumption)
Personal information

According to Jain beliefs, Neminatha lived 84,000 years before the 23rd Tirthankara Parshvanatha. However according to historians, he might have lived in around roughly 3200 BC. He is one of the 24 Tirthankaras in Jain theology, in the avasarpini cycle of Jain cosmology. He was the youngest son of King Samudravijaya and Queen Shivadevi. Krishna is believed in Jainism to be the cousin of the him. He was born at Sauripura (Dvaraka) in the Yadu lineage, like Krishna. His birth date is the 5th day of Shravana Shukla in the Hindu calendar. He herded cattle and became fond of animals. According to Jain belief, on his wedding day Neminatha heard the cries of animals being killed for the marriage feast, and moved by the sorrow he renounced the world – a scene found in many Jain artwork. He attained moksha on Girnar Hills near Junagadh, a pilgrimage center for Jains.


The name Neminatha consists of two Sanskrit words, Nemi which means "rim, felly of a wheel" or alternatively "thunderbolt",[3] and Natha which means "lord, patron, protector".[4] According to the Jain text Uttarapurana, as well as the explanation of Hemachandra, it was the ancient Indian deity Indra who named the 22nd Tirthankara as Neminatha, because he viewed the Jina as the "rim of the wheel of dharma". In Svetambara Jain texts, his name Aristanemi came from a dream his mother had when he was in the womb, where she saw a "wheel of Arista jewels".[5] His full name was Aristanemi which is an epithet of the sun-chariot.[6][7] Neminatha is the 22nd Tirthankara in Jain tradition, and his name is spelled close to the 21st Tirthankara Naminatha.[8]

Biography In Jain TraditionEdit


The birth of Aristanemi, Kalpa Sūtra

Neminatha was the twenty-second tirthankara (ford-maker) of the avasarpiṇī (present descending cycle of Jain cosmology).[9][10][11] According to Jain history, there was a gap of 500,000 years between the Neminatha and his predecessor, Naminatha.[8] According to Jain beliefs, he lived 84,000 years before the 23rd Tirthankara, Parshvanatha.[12] He was the youngest son of King Samudravijaya and Queen Shivadevi.[13] He was born at Sauripura (Dvaraka) in the Yadu lineage, grew up in cattle herding family and grew fond of animals. Jain legends place him in the Girnar-Kathiawad (in Saurashtra region of modern-day Gujarat).[14][15][16] His birth date is the 5th day of Shravana Shukla in the Hindu calendar.[11]

Life before renunciationEdit

Depiction of wedding procession of Neminatha. His legend states that he renounced after hearing animal cries while they were being sacrificed to prepare his wedding feast.[17]

Neminatha was born with a dark-blue skin complexion,[18] very handsome but a shy young man.[13] Jains consider Neminatha to be the son of Samudravijaya, brother of Hindu god Krishna's father Vasudeva, therefore the cousin of Krishna.[9][19][17] He is mentioned as the cousin of Krishna in the Jain Puranas,[20] and Trishashti-salaka-purusha-charitra.[19][21] On being taunted by Satyabhama, wife of Krishna, Neminatha blew Panchajanya, the mighty conch of Krishna. According to Jain texts, no one could lift Vishnu's conch except Krishna, let alone blow it. After this event, Jain Puranas state that Krishna decided to test Neminatha's strength and challenged him for a friendly duel. Neminatha, being a Tirthankara, defeated Krishna without any effort.[22] In the war between Krishna and Jarasandha, Neminatha participated alongside Krishna.[23]

According to Long, the Jain legends state that Neminatha taught Krishna the knowledge that he shared with Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, a historic reason that has led Jains to accept, read and cite the Bhagavad Gita as a spiritually important text, celebrate Krishna related festivals and intermingle with Hindus as spiritual cousins.[24]


Neminatha temple complex on Girnar hills near Junagadh, Gujarat.

It is further mentioned that Neminatha's marriage was arranged with Rajulakumari or Rajimati, the daughter of King Ugrasena of Dwaraka (Ugrasena was maternal grandfather of Krishna). According to Jain legends, Neminatha heard animal cries as they were being slaughtered for the marriage feast. Taken over by sorrow and distress at the sight, he gave up the desire of getting married, renounced his worldly life, became a monk and went to Mount Girnar to lead a mendicant's life.[9][25][26][20][8] His bride-to-be followed him, became a nun and joined the ascetic order.[27][21] (It is told that Rajul was Aristhanemi's wife for last 8 births too) According to Kalpasutras, he led an ascetic life there by eating only once every three days,[28] meditated for 55 days and then obtained omniscience on Mount Raivataka, under a Mahavenu tree.[18] After a life of about 1,000 years,[29] he is said to have attained moksha (nirvana) on Mount Girnar.[21][30][9] Of these 1,000 years, he spent 300 years as a bachelor, 54 days as an ascetic monk and 700 years as an omniscient being.[28]

The yaksha and yakshi of Neminatha are Sarvanha and Ambika according to Digambara tradition and Gomedha and Ambika according to Śvētāmbara tradition.[30]


According to Jain texts Neminatha had 11 gandhara with Varadatta Svami as the leader of the Neminatha disciples.[30]



Along with Mahavira, Parshvanatha and Rishabhanatha, Neminatha is one of the twenty four Tirthankaras who attract the most devotional worship among the Jains.[31] Unlike the last two Tirthankaras, historians consider Neminatha and all other Tirthankaras to be legendary characters.[9] Scenes from Neminatha's life are popular in Jain art.[30]


Kalpa Sūtra recto Neminatha's blowing Krishna's conch verso text
  • The Jain traditions about Neminatha or Arishtanemi is incorporated in the Harivamsa Purana of Jinasena.[32][33]
  • A palm leaf manuscript on the life of Neminatha, named Neminatha-Charitra, was written in 1198-1142 AD. It is now preserved in Shantinatha Bhandara, Khambhat.[34]
  • Rajul's love for Neminatha is described in the Rajal-Barahmasa (an early 14th-century poem of Vijayachandrasuri).[35]
  • The conch incident is given in Kalpa Sūtra.[6]
  • The separation of Rajula and Neminatha was a popular theme among Jain poets who composed Gujarati fagus, a poetry genre. Some examples are Neminatha Fagu (1344) by Rajshekhar, Neminatha Fagu (1375) by Jayashekhar and Rangasagara Neminatha Fagu (1400) by Somsundar. A poem Neminatha Chatushpadika (1269) by Vinaychandra depicted the same story.[36][37][38][39][40]


The largest statue of Neminath with height of 16 meters at Tirumalai built in 12th century

Neminatha is believed in the Jain tradition to be Krishna's cousin and has the same dark-bluish colored skin.[41] Painting depicting his life stories generally identify him as dark colored. His iconographic identifier is a conch carved or stamped below his statues. Sometimes, as with Vishnu's iconography, a chakra is also shown near him, as in the 6th-century sculpture found at the archaeological site near Padhavali (Madhya Pradesh).[42] Artworks showing Neminatha sometimes include Ambika yakshi, but her color varies from golden to greenish to dark-blue, by region.[43]

The earliest known image of Neminatha was found in Kankali Tila dating back to c. 18 CE.[44]


See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Tandon 2002, p. 45.
  2. ^ Sarasvati 1970, p. 444.
  3. ^ Monier Monier-Williams, Nemi, Sanskrit English Dictionary with Etymology, Oxford University Press, page 569
  4. ^ Monier Monier-Williams, Natha, Sanskrit English Dictionary with Etymology, Oxford University Press, page 534
  5. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 164-165.
  6. ^ a b Jain & Fischer 1978, p. 17.
  7. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 225.
  8. ^ a b c von Glasenapp 1925, pp. 317-318.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Arishtanemi: Jaina saint". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  10. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 224.
  11. ^ a b Tukol 1980, p. 31.
  12. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 226.
  13. ^ a b Doniger 1993, p. 225.
  14. ^ Dhere 2011, pp. 193–196.
  15. ^ Upinder Singh 2008, p. 313.
  16. ^ Cort 2001, p. 23.
  17. ^ a b Jain & Fischer 1978, pp. 16–17.
  18. ^ a b Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 164.
  19. ^ a b Johnson 1931, pp. 1–266.
  20. ^ a b Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 165-166.
  21. ^ a b c Sangave 2001, p. 104.
  22. ^ Doniger 1993, p. 226.
  23. ^ Beck 2012, p. 156.
  24. ^ Long 2009, p. 42.
  25. ^ Sehdev Kumar 2001, pp. 143–145.
  26. ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991, p. 7.
  27. ^ Shah 2004, p. 24.
  28. ^ a b Jones & Ryan 2006, p. 311.
  29. ^ Melton & Baumann 2010, p. 1551.
  30. ^ a b c d Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 165.
  31. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 40.
  32. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 239.
  33. ^ Upinder Singh 2016, p. 26.
  34. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 253.
  35. ^ Kelting 2009, p. 117.
  36. ^ Amaresh Datta (1988). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature. Sahitya Akademi. p. 1258. ISBN 978-81-260-1194-0.
  37. ^ Shastree, K. K. (2002). Gujarat Darsana: The Literary History. Darshan Trust, Ahmedabad. pp. 56–57.
  38. ^ Nagendra (1988). Indian Literature. Prabhat Prakashan. pp. 282–283.
  39. ^ Jhaveri, Mansukhlal; Sahitya Akademi (1978). History of Gujarati Literature. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 14, 242–243. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016.
  40. ^ Shah, Parul (31 August 1983). "5". The rasa dance of Gujarata (Ph.D.). 1. Department of Dance, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. pp. 134–156. hdl:10603/59446.
  41. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 164-168.
  42. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 164-170.
  43. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 264-265.
  44. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 166.


Further readingEdit

  • Schmidt, Hanns-Peter (1968), The Origin of Ahimsa (in "Melanges d'Indianism a la memoire de Louis Renou), Paris: Editions E de Boccard
  • World Parliament of Religions Commemoration Volume: Issued in commemoration of the World Parliament of Religions held at Sivanandanagar, Rishikesh, in April, 1953, Published The Yoga-Vedanta Forest University Press, 1956
  • Jain Journal, Volumes 2-3, Published by Jain Bhawan 1967