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Rishabha, the first tirthankar of Jainism, is known to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He is mentioned in the Bhagavat Purana and the Vedas. Jain Acharya Jinasena also confirmed that Rishabha was an avatar of Vishnu.

But Rishabha shares a lot of similarities to Lord Shiva. He attained Moksha at Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. His symbol is also bull which is also the symbol of Lord Shiva in the form of Nandi. He is shown in a seating posture - Padmasan which is also the case of Lord Shiva. He is also known as Adinath. Interestingly enough, both his names, Rishabha and Adinath are one of the names of Lord Shiva.

So who is Rishabh - an incarnation of Lord Vishnu or Lord Shiva?

  • The Rishabha referenced in my answer here was a bull who fought Vishnu after the Churning of the Ocean; it has nothing to do with Rishabha the founder of Jainism. But the Shiva Purana also mentions one of the Yogeshwara incarnations of Shiva named Rishabha, who lived in the 9th Mahayuga of the Vaivasvata Manvantara: gdurl.com/cVwZ/stats I'm not sure if he is the same as the Rishabha who is the founder of Jainism, but given that Hindu scripture says the founder of Jainism was an incarnation of Vishnu, I think the two Rishabhas are different. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 20 '15 at 18:53
  • Of course, if you believe in Yukteswar's theory, then you don't believe in the existence of Manvantaras :-) By the way, where is Rishabha referenced in the Vedas? – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 20 '15 at 18:57
  • @KeshavSrinivasan "But Rishabha went on, unperturbed by anything till he became sin-free like a conch that takes no black dot, without obstruction ... which is the epithet of the First World-teacher, may become the destroyer of enemies" - Rig Veda, X.166 – Chinmay Sarupria Oct 21 '15 at 6:39
  • @KeshavSrinivasan Sri Yukteswar didn't mention Manvantaras so I cannot comment on that but even if doesn't mention those don't make him incorrect. He has clearly said in his book with FACTS that once the dwapar sandhi set in, there were rapid developments. That is indeed true, electricity, telescope and every other invention was done after 1600. The world before 1600 was not the same as the world we are living in. He explained that this rapid development happened because the yuga has changed. – Chinmay Sarupria Oct 21 '15 at 10:31
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    I don't think Rama was born in 5114 BC, I think that was just the most recent date output by the software. I'm sure you could also find a matching date (or multiple) in the 24th Treta Yuga if we assume million-year Yuga lengths. As far as footprints go, I already answered that: I think either the story of the footprint was made up by later people, or the footprint was magically preserved by the power of Hanuman. As far as the Manu Smriti goes, I'd explain its references to years as Deva years rather than human years. But also the Manu Smriti describes Kalpas, which Yukteswar doesn't accept. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 21 '15 at 11:51
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Rishabhadeva was an avatara of Vishnu as is described in Srimad Bhagavatam (5th Canto, 3rd Chapter):

SB 5.3.17 — The Supreme Personality of Godhead replied: O great sages, I am certainly very pleased with your prayers. You are all truthful. You have prayed for the benediction of a son like Me for King Nābhi, but this is very difficult to obtain. Since I am the Supreme Person without a second and since no one is equal to Me, another personality like Me is not possible to find. In any case, because you are all qualified brāhmaṇas, your vibrations should not prove untrue. I consider the brāhmaṇas who are well qualified with brahminical qualities to be as good as My own mouth.

SB 5.3.18 — Since I cannot find anyone equal to Me, I shall personally expand Myself into a plenary portion and thus advent Myself in the womb of Merudevī, the wife of Mahārāja Nābhi, the son of Āgnīdhra.

Then Sukadeva Gosvami says:

SB 5.3.20 — O Viṣṇudatta, Parīkṣit Mahārāja, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was pleased by the great sages at that sacrifice. Consequently the Lord decided to personally exhibit the method of executing religious principles [as observed by brahmacārīs, sannyāsīs, vānaprasthas and gṛhasthas engaged in rituals] and also satisfy Mahārāja Nābhi’s desire. Consequently He appeared as the son of Merudevī in His original spiritual form, which is above the modes of material nature.

Thus, Lord Rsbhadadeva was born as an avatara of Lord Vishnu to King Nabhi and Queen Merudevi.

As to his disappearance, according to the 6th Chapter, he left his body in Konka (Goa) in the presence of King Arhat:

SB 5.6.8 — While He was wandering about, a wild forest fire began. This fire was caused by the friction of bamboos, which were being blown by the wind. In that fire, the entire forest near Kuṭakācala and the body of Lord Ṛṣabhadeva were burnt to ashes.

  • "Consequently He appeared as the son of Merudevī in His original spiritual form, which is above the modes of material nature." Rishabhdeva was similar to Lord Shiva, so it means Lord Vishnu's original spiritual form is Lord Shiva?! – Chinmay Sarupria Oct 19 '15 at 5:45
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    Just because he is similar to Lord Shiva doesn't make him Shiva! Plus, he was NOT similar to Shiva in many aspects... First of all, Lord Shiva is Yogeshvara, the Lord of ascetics, who does tapas. Whereas Rshabhadeva was an Avadhuta, a wandering sage, who didn't perform tapas. Avadhuta's are generally people who have given up everything to learn from nature. Whereas Yogis following Lord Shiva draw themselves AWAY from Nature. – Surya Oct 19 '15 at 15:16
  • The Puranakara has called Lord Rishabha as tripurari, trilochana, trinetra, tryambaka, and tryakshna which are yet again names of Lord Shiva. – Chinmay Sarupria Oct 20 '15 at 13:56
  • I don't think Rshabhadeva is three eyed; you may be referring to Dattatreya. – Surya Oct 20 '15 at 17:13
  • Lord Shiva is 3 eyed and there is only one tripurari so if Rishabha is called tripurari then he must be Shiva. – Chinmay Sarupria Oct 21 '15 at 2:55
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My answer is based on the Linga Purana.

Rishabha is an incarnation of Lord Shiva and he is one of the 28 similar incarnations of the Lord who are known as Yogeswaras.

Lord Shiva incarnates as a Yogeswara in each Kali Yuga to teach "Pasupatha Yoga" to the world.

Quoting from the above link:

The sages told Lomaharshana, “Please tell us about yoga.”

Lomaharshana complied.

(Yoga literally means union. It is a technique of meditation that enables one to realize the union between the divine soul (paramatman) and the individual human soul (atman or jivatman).)

Shiva is also known as Pashupati. The technique of yoga that Shiva taught is known as pashupata yoga. To teach this yoga, Shiva has an incarnation (avatara) in every kali yuga. In the present kalpa, there have been twenty-eight kali yugas and there have accordingly been twenty-eight incarnations of Shiva, all known as Yogeshvaras. Their names are as follows.

(1) Shveta.

(2) Sutara.

(3) Madana.

(4) Suhotra.

(5) Kanchana.

(6) Lokakshi.

(7) Jaigishavya.

(8) Dadhivahana.

(9) Rishabha.

(10) Muni.

(11) Ugra.

(12) Atri.

(13) Vali.

(14) Goutama.

(15) Vedashirsha.

(16) Gokarna.

(17) Guhavasi.

(18) Shikhandabhrit.

(19) Jatamali.

(20) Attahasa.

(21) Daruka.

(22) Langali.

(23) Mahakaya.

(24) Shuli.

(25) Mundishvara.

(26) Sahishnu.

(27) Somasharma.

(28) Jagadguru.

Every one of these Yogeshvarasas had four disciples each.

In fact, it is also Shiva whose incarnation is born as Vedavyasa in every dvapara yuga. Since there have been twenty-eight dvapra yugas, there have also been twenty-eight Vedavyasas upto now.

But this last bit of information is not relevant to the current question.

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    Good research but the Shiva avatara Rshabha was a Yogi but the Tirthankara Rshabha was an Avadhuta. So Yogi Rshabha is an avatara of Shiva whereas the Avadhuta is an avatara of Vishnu. – Surya Mar 25 '16 at 10:01
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was-rishabha-the-first-tirthankar-of-jainism-an-incarnation-of-lord-vishnu-or Lord Shiva ?

According to ShataRudra Samhita of Shiva Maha Purana - Chapter Four - "Incarnation of Shiva as Svetamuni or Rasabhadeva" he is the ninth incarnation of Lord Shiva at the end of Kali-Yuga.

As Described as Lord Shiva Himself - :

तदाहं ब्राह्मणार्थाय कलौ तस्मिन्युगान्तिके।।
भविष्यामि शिवायुक्तः श्वेतो नाम महामुनिः ।।6।।

During the period , for the benefit of The Brahmanas ,at the end of Kaliyuga ,I shall appear as Sveta-Muni together with Siva on earth.


व्यासस्य ध्यायतस्तस्य निवृत्तिपथवृद्धये ।।
तदाप्यहं भविष्यामि ऋषभो नामतः स्मृतः ।।35 ।।

While the said Vyasa would be engaged in meditation , for the development of the Nirvrtti-Marga , I shall appear in the form of Rsabha.


इत्थं प्रभावं ऋषभोऽवतारः शङ्करस्य मे ।।
सतां गतिर्दीनबन्धुर्नवमः कथितस्तव ।। 47 ।।

This was the performance of Rsabha ,the ninth incarnation of Lord Shiva. he bestowed the protection to the Nobel people , the kin of the people in misery and this had been the ninth incarnation of shiva about whom i have spoken to you.

So from the above verses we can also establish a connection between Lord Shiva and Rasabhadeva.

  • But at the end of Kaliyuga? – Mr. Sigma. Jan 25 '18 at 15:31
  • Yes , i was aware of that. Here in my answer only the connection is shown i.e. as others puranas like Bhgavatam etc. are mentioning and establishing connection BTW Lord Vishnu and Rasabhadeva. I am not actually talking here about the the-first-tirthanka avatara here. – SwiftPushkar Jan 25 '18 at 15:37
  • @Rajas. And actually answering OP's question "So who is Rishabh - an incarnation of Lord Vishnu or Lord Shiva?" – SwiftPushkar Jan 25 '18 at 15:40
  • In Jainism, the hierarchy talks about this. Supreme master is Tirthankara, then Arihant, then Chakravartin, then Balarama, then Narayan and then Acharyasomewhere. Narayan (incarnation of Vishnu) though violent but upholds the truth of that era and goes hell. Now point is there is a distinctive difference between Tirthankara and Narayan in Jainism. So I believe Vishu doesn't incarnate as Tirthankara. Whether Shiva does, I have no answer. This is the central idea of Jainism and the same is elaborated in Jain scriptures. For example a later Tirthankara was Neminatha who was a cousin to Krishna. – Dola Govinda Jan 25 '18 at 19:44

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