Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words

This page describes Story of Sagaracandra, Priyadarshana and Ashokadatta which is the first part of chapter II of the English translation of the Adisvara-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Adisvara (or Rishabha) in jainism is the first Tirthankara (Jina) and one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.

Part 1: Story of Sāgaracandra, Priyadarśanā and Aśokadatta

Now, in Jambūdvīpa in the West Videhas, there is a city, Aparājitā by name, unconquered by its enemies. In it there was a king, by whose power the world had been subdued, Īśānacandra (the Moon of Īśāna), equal to the Indra of Īśāna in glory. There lived a merchant, preeminent in wealth, foremost among those devoted solely to piety, by name Candanadāsa, sandal for giving delight to the world. He had a son, Sāgaracandra, who was the prime cause of delight to the eyes of the world like the moon to the ocean. Always having an upright character, his actions governed by dharma, possessing discernment, he was the face-ornament of the whole city.

One day, to see King Īśānacandra he went to the palace crowded with vassal-kings who had humbly approached to do service. Then he was received by the King, just as by a father, with great affection shown by giving him a seat, betel, etc. Just then a panegyrist came to the King’s door and recited in a voice which surpassed the sound of the conch: “Today, O King, the Śrī of spring with many flowers prepared appears in your garden like a woman-gardener on the alert. Honor with your presence that garden with the quarters made fragrant with the perfume of blooming flowers, like Mahendra Nandana.” The King instructed the door-keeper: “Early in the morning everyone must go to the garden. Have it proclaimed in the city.” “You too must go to the garden,” the King himself commanded the merchant’s son. For this is characteristic of a gracious master. Then dismissed by the King, delighted, he went home and told his friend Aśokadatta about the King’s command.

On the next day the King went to the garden with his retinue. The citizens went there also. Subjects follow the king. Like spring with the wind from Malaya, the merchant’s son with his friend Aśokadatta went to the garden. Then the people, subject to the rule of kāma, began to amuse themselves by gathering and wreathing flowers, by songs, dances, etc. The citizens, formed into groups here and there, engaged in recreation, took up the yoke of the camp of King Smara who had settled there. While at every step arose loud sounds of songs and musical instruments in conjunction as if to conquer other sense-objects, suddenly from a near-by arbor of trees arose the cry of a terrified woman, “Help! Help!” To ascertain what it was, Sāgara ran quickly, as if drawn by that voice penetrating his ear. He saw there Priyadarśanā, the daughter of the merchant Pūrṇabhadra, who had been seized by bandits like a black doe by wolves. The merchant’s son crushed the hand of one bandit and took away his knife, just as one would take a jewel after breaking a serpent’s neck. Seeing such strength on his part, the bandits ran away. Even tigers flee at the sight of a blazing fire. Thus Priyadarśanā was freed by Sāgara from the bandits like a mango-shoot from wood-gatherers. “Who is he, best of men, devoted to helping others? Fortunately he came here, drawn by my great good-fortune. Surpassing Smara in beauty, he alone shall be my husband.” With these thoughts Priyadarśanā went to her own house. Carrying Priyadarśanā in his heart as if she were sewn there, the merchant’s son, accompanied by Aśokadatta, went home.

Then Candanadāsa heard indirectly about the whole incident. By whom could such a thing be concealed? He thought, “His love for Priyadarśanā is suitable. For friendship between the lotus and king-goose is suitable. This magnanimous act which was performed at that time is not suitable. For heroism must not be shown by a merchant, even though he is heroic. Moreover, as he is honest, his association with Aśokadatta who is deceitful is certainly not a good thing, resembling that of a plantain tree with a jujube.”[1] Reflecting thus for a long time, the merchant sent for Sāgara, and began, to admonish him in a conciliatory way, as an elephant-driver would a bhadra-elephant.[2] “O son, you are conversant with the customs of all the śāstras, and with business affairs. Still, I shall give you some advice. For we merchants, son, living by skill in our art, unassuming, being well-dressed, are not criticized. Even in youth you must conceal your power. Merchants, even in matters common to everyone, act with apprehension. Wealth, indulgence in pleasure, generosity which must certainly be concealed, are sufficient for our renown, just as the body is sufficient (adornment) for young women. Action which is not suitable to one’s birth has a bad appearance, like a gold ornament fastened on a camel’s foot. Then time must be given to wealth, as constituting virtue, by those devoted to business and to suitability for their own station, son. Association with the wicked by those who are honest by nature must be abandoned. In course of time it surely effects a change for the worse, like the poison of a mad-dog. This Aśokadatta friend of yours, always advancing (in influence), will corrupt you entirely, as leprosy spreads and corrupts a body. For he, extremely deceitful, thinks one thing, says another, and does something else, like a courtesan.”

When the best of merchants had stopped speaking after giving this careful advice, Sāgaracandra thought to himself, “I think Father has learned about the whole incident of the girl and bandit, since he gives this advice. Aśokadatta does not appear suitable to Father. By the bad fortune of men (our) elders are different (from what they should be). Still, it must be.” Reflecting thus a moment, Sāgaracandra said in a respectful voice: “Whatever my Father advises, that must be done. I am your son. Enough of action by which the father’s advice is transgressed. However, by chance and unexpectedly, action falls to one’s lot which does not allow any time at all for reflection. The time for action passes for one reflecting, as the auspicious hour (for the bath) passes for a lazy person washing his feet. Even though such a time should come, even though my life were in danger, I will do only that which will not cause you embarrassment. As for what my Father said about Aśokadatta, I am not vicious by his vice, nor virtuous from his virtue. The cause of my friendship with Aśokadatta is our living together, playing together in the sand-pile (as children), seeing each other frequently, the same caste, same education, the same habits, the same age, kindness even in absence, sharing of pleasure and pain. I do not see any deceit in hi m at all. Some one has lied to my father. Certainly malicious people disturb every one. Granted that he is deceitful, what will he do to me? Even when they are placed together, glass is glass, a jewel is a jewel!” To his son who had replied thus the merchant said, “You are a sensible fellow. Nevertheless, I had to advise you. For the hearts of others are difficult to penetrate.”

Knowing his son’s attachment, he asked Pūrṇabhadra for his daughter fully endowed with the virtues of good conduct, etc., for him. Pūrṇabhadra approved his request, saying, “In the beginning that daughter of mine was bought by kindness by your son.” Then the wedding of Sāgaracandra with Priyadarśanā was celebrated by the parents at an auspicious conjunction of the stars on an auspicious day. Then the bride and groom rejoiced at the desired marriage just as at the fall of the thought-about dundubhī.[3] Their affection for each other, like that of two cranes,[4] increased, as if they had one soul from the harmony of their minds. Priyadarśanā, always radiant, with a gentle expression, shone with Sāgaracandra like moonlight with the moon. Of these two, virtuous, handsome, sincere, there was a suitable union from Destiny arranging it after a long time. Certainly because of their faith in each other, there was no lack of confidence between them. The pure in heart never suspect the reverse.

Then Aśokadatta came to the house of Sāgaracandra who had gone out and said to Priyadarśanā, “Sāgaracandra consults constantly in secret the daughter-in-law of the merchant Dhanadatta. What can be his object in this?” Naturally artless, she replied, “Your friend knows this; or you, his second heart, always know. Who knows the business conducted in secret of great men of affairs? He knows. Why should he talk about it at home?” Aśokadatta said, “What your husband’s purpose is in consultation with her, that I know. But how can it be told?” Asked by Priyadarśanā, “What is it?” he said, “What my purpose is with you, fair lady, that is his purpose with her.” Again asked by Priyadarśanā, who was artless and did not know his motive, “What is your purpose with me?” he said, “Except your husband alone, what man of sense, understanding different flavors of pleasure, would not have a purpose with you, fair lady?” When she heard that speech that was like a needle in her ear, betraying an evil meaning, angered, her face bent down, she said to him cuttingly: “O villain, basest of men, how can you think this? Or thought, how can you say it? Shame upon the temerity of a fool! Moreover, do you consider my noble husband like yourself, villain! Shame upon you, an enemy in the guise of a friend. Go! Do not stay, scoundrel! From the mere sight of you there is evil.”

Thus reviled by her, he went away quickly like a thief. As he went along, his face black with darkness like a cow-killer, disconsolate, Sāgara saw him. “O friend, why do you look as if you are troubled?” Sāgaracandra, who had a crystal-pure mind, asked him. Then the villain, a mountain of deceit and tricks, heaving a deep sigh, his lower lip contracted a little, as if from great strain, said, “You see, brother, the cause of depression of those living in saṃsāra is like the cause of cold of those dwelling near Mt. Hima. Something is present here like a wound in a secret place which it is desirable neither to conceal nor to tell.” Guileless Sāgaracandra reflected, as Aśokadatta stood, after saying this, with deceitful tears in his eyes, “Oh, saṃsāra is worthless, in which even in such men such a cause of doubt suddenly arises. Though he does not speak from firmness, his extreme inner despair is clearly indicated by tears, like a fire by smoke.” Thinking thus for a long time, at once pained by his pain, again Sāgaracandra said to him in a choking voice, “If it is not untellable, friend, tell the cause of your depression. Now have less pain by sharing your pain with me.”

Aśokadatta said, “Nothing else is untellable to you, who are the same as life to me; this matter is especially untellable. My friend knows this—that here a woman is always the cause of unworthy things, as the night before a new moon is the cause of darkness.” Sāgara said, “Now indeed, dear friend, you have fallen into danger from some woman like a snake.” Aśokadatta said, displaying simulated embarrassment: “For a long time Priyadarśanā has said improper things to me. For so long a time I disregarded her with shame and scorn on my part, thinking, ‘Some time she will cease, ashamed of herself.’ But day by day she does not cease speaking to me with words suitable for unchaste wives. Alas, women have persistence in wickedness. Today, moreover, to look for you I went to your house. Friend, I have been detained by her knowing tricks like a Rakṣasī. After I had freed myself in some way from her house, like an elephant from a net, I came here very quickly. Then I thought, ‘She will not let me go, so long as I live. So, shall I kill myself today? And yet it is not a good idea to die, since she will describe such a thing falsely to my friend; and that, moreover, in my absence. Rather, I myself will tell everything to my friend, so that, distrusting her, he will not go to destruction. That too is not fitting, since I did not fulfill her wish. Shall I throw acid on a wound by telling her improper conduct?’ As I was reflecting thus, you saw me here just now. Know this to be the cause of my depression, friend.”

When he had heard this speech, for a moment Sāgara was like one who has drunk poison; then he became calm like the ocean free from wind. Sāgara said: “This is inherent in women, like acridness in water from wells in salty ground. Do not be troubled. Be always busy with auspicious work. Contentment (of mind) must be maintained. Consider that her words are not to be remembered. Let her be whatever she may be. Enough of her, in truth. Only may there be no evil-mindedness between us, brother.” So conciliated by him, artless as he was, the basest of men rejoiced. For the deceitful, even having committed crimes, admire themselves. From that time on, Sāgara, without affection and with depression, endured Priyadarśanä like a finger consumed by disease. Nevertheless, from respect he treated her just as before. For a creeper which one has cherished is not rooted up, even though barren. Priyadarśanā did not tell her husband about Aśokadatta’s behaviour, with the idea, “I do not want to cause a quarrel between them.” Then Sāgara, considering worldly existence as a prison, made his wealth serve its purpose by employing it for the poor, etc. In course of time, all three, Sāgara, Priyadarśanā, and Aśokadatta, completed their span of life and died.

Footnotes and references:


The plantain tree is very delicate and the jujube very thorny.


“The elephant is of four kinds according to its race; either a Bhadra (propitious), Mandra (pleasing), Mṛga (deer), or a Miśra (mixed). The elephant which has honey-coloured teeth, is strong, well-proportioned, has a globular shape, good head and excellent limbs, is always known as a Bhadra.—The height of a Bhadra is 7 cubits (hasta), its length 8 cubits, the circumference of its belly should always be 10 cubits.” Oppert, Śukranīti, 4. 7. 34-35, 40. Abhi. 4. 284, Hem. gives manda (instead of mandra), ‘mandasattvāt.’


A throw of dice, evidently lucky.


Sārasas are proverbial as inseparable friends. See H. P. P. 210.

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