The Jaina tradition of 24 Tirthankaras seems to have been accepted by the
Hindus like the Buddhists, as could be seen from their ancient scriptures.
The Hindus, indeed, never disputed the fact that Jainism was founded by
Rsabhadeva and placed his time almost at what they conceived to be the
commencement of the world. They acknowledged him as a divine person. They
gave the same parentage (father Nabhiraya and mother Marudevi) of
Rsabhadeva as the Jainas do and they even agree that after the name of
Rsabhadeva's eldest son Bharata this country is Known as Bharatavarsa.
In connection with the question of derivation of the name Bharatavarsa, it
is pertinent to note that as many as three Bharatas had been prominent in
ancient India. In Ramayana, there is one prince Bharata, the younger
brother of famous king Ramchandra, but considering his limited role, it is
nowhere mentioned that after him this country is known as Bharatavarsa.
Similarly, another prince Bharata, the son of king Dusyanta from Sakuntala
written by the celebrated poet Kalidasa. But as there have been very few
references in ancient Indian literature relating to outstanding military
and other achievements of this Bharata, it cannot be maintained that this
country's name Bharatavarsa is derived from him. On the contrary, the
well-known prince Bharata, the eldest son of the first Jaina Tirthankara
Lord Rsabhanath, is most famous as Chakravarti i.e., Emperor Bharata due
to his great military exploits of bringing all kingdoms in India under his
rule, and that is why, India is named Bharatavarsa after him. This fact is
amply borne out by Bhagavata, Markandeya, Vayu, Brahmanda, Skanda, Visnu
and other Hindu puranas. For example, in the Skanda-purana (chapter 37) it
is specifically stated:
Nabheh putras'-cha Rsabhah Rsabhad Bharato'bhavat
tasya namna tvidam varsam Bharatam cheti kirtyate.
That is, Rsabha was the son of Nabhi and Rsabha gave birth to son Bharata
and after the name of this Bharata, this country is known Bharatavarsa.
In the Rg-veda there are clear references to Rsabha, the 1st Tirthankara,
and to Aristanemi, the 22nd Tirthankara. The Yajur-veda also mentions the
names of three Tirthankaras, viz. Rsabha, Ajita-natha and Aristanemi.
Further, the Atharva-veda specifically mentions the sect of Vratya means
the observer of vratas or vows as distinguished from the Hindus at those
times. Similarly in the Atharva-veda the term Maha-vratya occurs and it is
supposed that this term refers to Rsabhadeva, who could be considered as
the great leader of the Vratyas.