Parsva is regarded as an incarnation of Indra. He was the son of King Visvasena of Kashi, a descendant of the Ikshvaku family, and Queen Bama Devi, daughter of King Mahipala. He was the twenty-third Tirthankara. He was born on the eleventh day of the dark fortnight in the month of Pousha in the year 872 B.C.
Parsvanatha began to practise the twelve vows of a householder when he was only eight years old.
Prince Parsva was now sixteen years old. He was sitting on the throne. His father Visvasena said, "My son, in order to continue our celebrated royal dynasty, you must marry now. At the desire of Nabhi Raja, Rishabha had to marry".
Parsvanatha was very much frightened when he heard the words of his father. He said, "My life-period will not be so extensive as that of Rishabha. I am to live only a few score years. I have already wasted sixteen years in boyish sports. I must enter the order in my thirtieth year. Should I then have a married life for so short a period in the hope of getting pleasures which are, after all, only imperfect, transient and illusory?"
Parsvanatha's heart was filled with a spirit of renunciation. He reflected within himself: "For long, long years I enjoyed the status of Indra and yet the lust for pleasures did not decrease. Enjoyment of pleasures only increases the lust for pleasures, just as the addition of fuel only increases the virulence of fire. Pleasures at the time of enjoyment are pleasant, but their consequences are surely disastrous.
"The soul experiences from beginningless time the sufferings of birth, old age, etc., on account of its attachment to the objects of this world. To satisfy the cravings of his senses, man wanders in the realm of pain. So that he may have sensual gratification, he does not heed the moral injunctions and he commits the worst vices. He kills living animals to enjoy the pleasures of the senses. Lust is at the root of theft, greed, adultery and all vices and crimes.
"As a consequence of sinful acts, the soul is forced to migrate from birth to birth in the kingdom of the lower animals etc., and to suffer the torments of hell. This lust for pleasures must be shunned ruthlessly. So long I have wasted my life. I am not going to spend any more time in the vain pursuit of pleasures. I shall be serious and practise right conduct."
Prince Parsva had the twelve Anuprekshas or meditations. He resolved to abandon the world. He took leave of his parents and then left his house. He retired into the forest. He became absolutely naked. He turned towards the north and bowed to the great Emancipated Siddhas. He plucked five tufts of hair from his head and became a monk.
Parsva practised fasting. He observed with scrupulous care the twenty-eight primary and the ninety-four secondary rules of the order of monks. He was found lost in meditation. He attained the pure omniscience. He attained the final liberation in the Sammeda Hill which is known today as the Parsvanatha Hill.
Parsvanatha preached in Kashi, Kosi, Kosala, Panchala, Maharashtra, Magadha, Avanti, Malava, Anga and Vanga. Many joined the Jain faith. Parsvanatha spent seventy years in preaching.
Mahavira modified and enlarged what had already been taught by Parsvanatha. He did not preach anything which was absolutely new.
Parsvanatha lived for one hundred years. He abandoned his home when he was thirty years old. He left home in 842 B.C. and attained Nirvana in 772 B.C.
Glory to Parsvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankara!