Parsva was the son of King Aśvasena and Queen Vama of Varanasi. He belonged to the Iksvaku dynasty. He lived as formal prince of Varanasi and at the age of thirty, he renounced the world to become a monk.
He meditated for eighty-four days before attaining Kevala Jnana. He achieved moksha at the age of one hundred atop Shikharji, which is known today as “the Parasnath Hills” after him. Parsva was called purisadaniya “beloved of men”, a name which shows that he must have been a genial personality. He remains beloved among Jains.
When he was a prince he saved a serpent that had been trapped in a log in an ascetic’s fire. The snake, later reborn as Dharana, the lord of the underworld kingdom of the nagas, sheltered Pārśva from a storm sent by a demon.
According to the Kalpasutra, Parsva had 164,000 male and 327,000 female lay followers and 16,000 men and 38,000 female monks. He had eight chief disciples known as ganadharas. They were Subhadatta, Aryaghosa, Vasistha, Brahmacari, Soma, Sridhara, Vīrabhadra and Yaśas. After his death, the gandhara Subhadatta became the head of the monastic order. He was then succeeded by Haridatta, Aryasamudra and Keśī.
Parsva is the most popular object of Jain devotion. He is closely associated with compassion, although he is free from the world of rebirth like all tirthankaras and therefore unable to aid his devotees personally. Jainism teaches that people have to help themselves to achieve moksha.