Life of Parshva


     Parshva was the twenty-third Tirthankara of the Jains. His historicity is sought to be established by the fact that at the time of Mahavira there were a number of people who were followers of his teaching. In fact the parents of Mahavira himself were followers of Parshva. In Mahavira's time the leader of this sect, which was called Miganthas by the Buddhists, was Keshi.


     The Jain canonical books do not mention much about the life of Parshva. A short account of his life appears in the Kalpa-Sutra of Bhadrabahu. Kalpa Sutra was written perhaps in the 4th or 5th century AD. In the last paragraph of this account it is mentioned that since the time the Arhat Parshva died twelve centuries has elapsed, and of the thirteenth century that was the thirtieth year. Similarly in the case of Mahavira the Kalpa Sutra mentions that since the time of his death nine centuries has elapsed, and of the tenth century that was the eightieth year. From this we gather that Parshva died 250 years before Mahavira and thus perhaps belonged to the 9th century BC


     Apart from this, all the other events in the life of Parshva are written in the stereotype manner in which the Jains describe the lives of all their Tirthankaras. For instance, it is said that the five most important moments of Parshva's life happened when the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Vishakha. These five events are his conception in the womb of his mother, his birth, his renunciation of the world, his obtaining of supreme knowledge and his death.


     Parshva according to the Kalpa Sutra was the son of king Ashvasena of Varanasi. His mother's name was Vama. Parshva lived as a householder for thirty years. He renounced the world at the age of thirty and then practiced severe asceticism for eighty-three days. On the eighty-fourth day, he became a Kevalin, i.e. obtained supreme knowledge. Thereafter he built up a large community of followers both shramnas and householders male as well as female. He died at the age of 100 at Sammeta Sikhara (Parsanath in Bihar).





1. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, pp. 271-272