Jaina tradition and Hinduism

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.