SHRI ARISHTNEMI (Neminath) 22ND TIRTHANKARA
By Mr. T. N. Jain
The lineage of the 22nd tirthankara Shri Aristanemi is traced in history to the clan of Maharaja Vasu, the founder of Yodu Vansha, from Hindu scriptures and other religious literature. There are references to Aristanemi in Rigveda at many places. Yajurveda and samveda also mentions Aristanemi. Mahabharat give description of the teaching of Moksa Marg by Aristanemi to Sagar, the king. Scholars are also of the opinion that Ghora Angirasa Risi in Chandogya-Upanishada was Aristanemi who preached the path to the realization of self to Lord Krishana consisting of asceticism, charity, non-violence, and truth speaking. And these were the founding principles of Jainism. Historical research of Dr. Radha Krishna, Dr. P.N. Vidhyalankar, Col. Todd, Dr. Harrison, Prof. Warnett etc., have accepted Aristanemi as a man of history.
As said earlier, Aristanemi belonged to Yadav clan. Harivanshpurana gives the lineage of Yadavas, which shows that Hindu deity Lord Krishna and tirthanakara Aristanemi were cousins. King Samudra Vijaya, father of Shri Aristanemi was the ruler of Sauripura (near Mathura), and was the eldest son of his father Andhaka Vrisni. Bhagwan Krishna’s father Vasudeva was the youngest of the ten sons of Andhaka Vrishi, and was youngest brother of Samudravijaya. AndhakaVrishi became a Jain Sramana after renunciation.
Shri Aristanemi was born to king Samudravijaya and queen Shivadevi. They had four sons. Aristanemi, the eldest, was born on Shravana Sheila Panchami. By this time Bhagwan Krishna had born to Devaki and Vasudeva, the youngest brother of Samudravijaya. The royal family enjoyed a trouble free life since the child came into the womb of his mother. Hence he was named Aristanemi. He was handsome and cheerful but dark in complexion like his cousin Shri Krishna, according to Jaina belief.
Shri Aristanemi renounced the world just before his marriage. Uttarapurana and Harivanshpurana give a description of his marriage programme and renunciation just before the marriage. After renunciation Shri Aristanemi practiced penance and remained for 54 days in meditation to attain enlightenment. Tirthankara Aristanemi now moved from place to place and preached the religionof Ahimsa and Aparigraha. Jaina cononical literature also preached his cousin Shri Krishna and his queens. He established the four orders, the Tirtha, consisting of Sramana, Sramani, Sravaka, and Sravika.
During the last phase of life in this world tirthankara Aristanemi decided to go Mount Girnar in Saurashtra. He attained Nirvana there on Asadh Shukla Asthami.
THE STORY OF NEMI
Rajimati or Rajul for short, was a beautiful girl who was introduced to Krishna's warrior family and his younger, handsome cousin, Nemi. They fell instantly in love and a marriage was arranged. The day before the wedding, birds, cows and other animals were in a stockyard awaiting slaughter for the feast. Nemi heard wails, crying and went outside to see the commotion. "Why are the animals crying and living in such inhumane conditions?" he asked the caretaker.
"They will be slaughtered to feed the guests for your wedding," answered the servant. The guests were also mostly warriors. Nemi was horrified that all these animals would die senselessly. Violence was intolerable to Nemi who practiced ahimsa and occasionally meditated all his life. He went to the mountains to meditate.
On the day of the wedding when Rajul was waiting on the balcony to watch the groom's elegant wedding procession, there was no one in sight. Her sisters insisted that she chose another suitable match. That evening, when Rajul wanted to speak to Nemi, she could not find him. "Where is Nemi?" she asked a servant.
"He has gone to Mount Girnar."
Rajul walked up the mountain, searching for him until she found him sitting beneath a tree. "My love, why are you here? Have you forgotten your vow of marriage?" Tears filled her beautiful eyes.
"I have not forgotten and never will, that I love you, but cows cry for their calves awaiting slaughter to feed OUR wedding guests. This broke my heart. I could not permit such violence. When we are able to butcher animals, the next step paves the way for killing human beings. I can't permit this to be on my conscience. I wanted to make a difference."
Touched by Nemi's compassion and plight for the animals, Rajul's love for Nemi grew and understood that they must have been together in previous lives. Instead of marrying Nemi, Rajul became his first disciple and eventually became the head of a nun's order while Nemi became the twenty-second Tirthankar, Neminatha. (Mahavir was the last and the 24th Tirthankar).