Tīrtha

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Tīrtha (Skt., ‘ford’, ‘crossing place’). In Indian religions, a recurrent metaphor for a sacred place where one can cross over easily and safely to the far shore of liberation (mokṣa): a limen or threshold. Tīrthas are the focus of devotion and pilgrimage (tīrthayātrā) throughout India and can be found at actual fords across rivers and by tanks, lakes, and the seashore, as well as up mountains, in forests, and in cities. These thresholds between heaven and earth are charged with a power and purity which afford a spiritual crossing and are often associated with great events relating to the heroes of myth and legend or the appearances of the gods. Tīrtha can also refer to a holy person or path which affords access to the sacred. Hence the twenty-four great Jain teachers are referred to as tīrthaṅkaras, ‘builders of the ford’; see also TĪRATH.