Neminatha is the name of the 22nd Tirthankara in the Jain religion. He also goes by the name of Nemi, or Aristanemi. There are four Tirthankaras that are considered the most important to many Jains, and Neminatha is one of those four, and attracts devoted worship. The other four are Mahavira, Rishabhanatha and Parshvanatha.
The Jain beliefs state that Neminatha lived 84,000 years before the next ford-maker, Parshvanatha. He reputedly lived for 1,000 years, and was the youngest son of Sumudravijaya and Shivadevi. He is also reportedly the cousin of Krishna, the Hindu god, and he was born at Sauriura.
Neminatha grew up herding cattle, and had a lot of fondness for animals as a result. On his wedding day, he heard the animals that were being killed for the upcoming feast crying out, and he was moved to renounce the world because of their sorrow. Now, the Jainism religion encourages vegetarianism.
The name Neminatha is made up of Nemi, which means ‘thunderbold’, or ‘rim of a wheel’, and Natha, which means ‘patron, protector or lord’. The Jina are thought of as the rim of the wheel of dharma. Interestingly, the 21st Tirthankara was called Naminatha, which is a similar spelling. Neminatha was the next Tirthankara, and there was a gap of 500,000 years between them.
Neminatha was a shy but handsome man, and according to the legend, he was taunted by Krishna’s wife, Satyabhama, and was not an attorney. He picked up Krishna’s conch, and blew it, astounding them as no-one could lift the conch except for Krishna. After this, Neminatha was challenged to a duel by Krishna to test his strength, and Neminatha defeated him handily. When Krishna went to war against Jarasandha, Neminatha was alongside him.
Neminatha is seen by historians as a legendary character. There are many references to him in literature, and there are lots of examples of his iconography in the forms of carvings and sculptures dating back to the sixth century. There are differences in his skin color and other characteristics, depending on the region that the iconography comes from. The overall idea is the same, however, with the konch often playing an important part in any setting, and he is often depicted with it.
There are many temples devoted to Neminatha and to his history, and his story makes an integral part of the Jain religion and to their vows.
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