Rishabha (Hinduism)

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Rishabha illustrated as an avatar of Vishnu, one of many versions of Vishnu avatars.

In Hinduism, Rishabha is one of the twenty four avatars of Vishnu in the Bhagavata Purana.[1][2][3] Some scholars state that this avatar is same as the first Tirthankara of Jainism.[3][4] Shaiva texts like Linga Purana appropriated Tirthankar Rishabhdeva as an avatar of lord Shiva.[5] Rishabha is also found in Vedic literature, where it means the "bull" and is an epithet for Rudra (Shiva).[6]

According to John E. Cort and other scholars, there is a considerable overlap between Jain and Hindu Vaishnava traditions in western parts of India, with Hindus adopting Jain sacred figures in Hindu texts like Rishabha and his son Bharata.[7][8]

In Jainism it is believed that Lord Rishabhadev is same as King Ikshvaku.

Vedic Literature[edit]

The Vedas mention the name Rishabha.[9] However, the context in the Rigveda, Atharvaveda and the Upanishads suggests that it means the bull, sometimes "any male animal" or "most excellent of any kind", or "a kind of medicinal plant".[10][9]

According to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a professor of comparative religions and philosophy at Oxford who later became the second President of India, there is evidence to show that Rishabha was being worshipped by the first century BCE. The Yajurveda, states Radhakrishnan, mentions the name of three Tirthankaras – Rishabha, Ajitanatha and Arishtanemi, and that "the Bhāgavata Purāṇa endorses the view that Rishabha was the founder of Jainism".[11] It is an epithet for the bull in the Rigveda:

ऋषभं मा समानानां सपत्नानां विषासहिम् ।
हन्तारं शत्रूणां कृधि विराजं गोपतिं गवाम् ॥१॥
अहमस्मि सपत्नहेन्द्र इवारिष्टो अक्षतः ।
अधः सपत्ना मे पदोरिमे सर्वे अभिष्ठिताः ॥२॥
अत्रैव वोऽपि नह्याम्युभे आर्त्नी इव ज्यया ।
वाचस्पते नि षेधेमान्यथा मदधरं वदान् ॥३॥
अभिभूरहमागमं विश्वकर्मेण धाम्ना ।
आ वश्चित्तमा वो व्रतमा वोऽहं समितिं ददे ॥४॥
योगक्षेमं व आदायाहं भूयासमुत्तम आ वो मूर्धानमक्रमीम् ।
अधस्पदान्म उद्वदत मण्डूका इवोदकान्मण्डूका उदकादिव ॥५॥

— Rig Veda X.166[12]


1. Make me a bull among my peers, make me my rivals, conqueror:
     Make me the slayer of my foes, a sovran ruler, lord of kine
2. I am my rivals' slayer, like Indra unwounded and unhurt,
     And all these enemies of mine are vanquished and beneath my feet.
3. Here, verily, I bind you fast, as the two bow-ends with the string.
     Press down these men, O Lord of Speech, that they may humbly speak to me.
4. Hither I came as conqueror with mighty all-effecting power,
     And I have mastered all your thought, your synod, and your holy work.
5. May I be highest, having gained your strength in war, your skill in peace
     my feet have trodden on your heads. Speak to me from beneath my feet,
     as frogs from out the water croak, as frogs from out the water croak.

— Ralph Griffith[13]

Other examples of Rishabha appearing in the Vedic literature include verses 6.16.47 of Rigveda, 9.4.14–15 of Atharvaveda, and of Taittiriya Brahmana, etc.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. Matchett, Freda (2001). Krishna, Lord or Avatara?: the relationship between Krishna and Vishnu. 9780700712816. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-7007-1281-6.
  2. Wendy Doniger (2014). On Hinduism. Oxford University Press. pp. 593 note 46. ISBN 978-0-19-936009-3.
  3. 3.0 3.1 PS Jaini (1977). "Jina Rishabha as an avatar of Vishnu". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. XL (2): 321–327.
  4. D Dennis Hudson (2008). The Body of God: An Emperor's Palace for Krishna in Eighth-Century Kanchipuram. Oxford University Press. pp. 19–21. ISBN 978-0-19-970902-1.
  5. Vinay, Dr (17 March 2017). Linga Purana : लिंग पुराण. ISBN 9789352618804.
  6. Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  7. John E. Cort (2001). Jains in the World: Religious Values and Ideology in India. Oxford University Press. pp. 23, 108–118, 135. ISBN 978-0-19-513234-2.
  8. Padmanabh S. Jaini (1977), Jina Ṛṣabha as an Avatāra of Viṣṇu, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Cambridge University Press, Vol. 40, No. 2 (1977), pp. 321-337
  9. 9.0 9.1 Prioreschi 1996, p. 205.
  10. Rishabha, Monier Monier-Williams, Sanskrit English Dictionary and Etymology, Oxford University Press, page 226, 3rd column
  11. Radhakrishnan 1923, p. 287.
  12. ऋग्वेदः सूक्तं १०.१६६ - विकिस्रोतः, Wikisource Rig Veda
  13. Rigveda Sukta 10.166, Ralph Griffth, Wikisource
  14. Bloomfield 1906, p. 293.