Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes The birth of Rishabha (the thirteenth incarnation) which is the third 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 3: The birth of Ṛṣabha (the thirteenth incarnation)

When there remained in the third spoke of time eighty-four lacs of pūrvas plus eighty-nine fortnights, on the fourth day of the dark fortnight of the month Āṣāḍha, when the moon was in conjunction with the Uttarāṣāḍhā constellation, the soul of Śrī Vajranābha, after completing a span of life to the extent of thirty-three sāgaropamas, fell from Sarvārthasiddhi and descended into the womb of Marudevī, the wife of Śrī Nābhi, as a haṃsa would descend from Lake Mānasa to the bank of the Mandākinī. At the time when the Master descended, for a moment there was happiness for all creatures in the three worlds from the destruction of pain, and also a great light. Then Marudevī, asleep in her bed-chamber, saw fourteen great dreams on the night of the avatar.

(First) A bull, white, massive-shouldered, with a long, straight tail; with a wreath of golden bells like lightning in an autumn-cloud.

(Second) A king-elephant, four-tusked, white, gradually swelling, charming with a trickling stream of ichor, like a living Kailāsa.

(Third) A lion, red-eyed, long-tongued, with a waving mane, displaying a banner among warriors, as it were, under the pretext of raising his tail.

(Fourth) The goddess whose resting-place is a lotus, with eyes resembling lotuses (i.e. Śrī), adorned with pitchers full of water lifted up by the trunks of the elephants of the quarters.

(Fifth) A wreath twisted from flowers of various and numerous divine trees like a pendent rain-bow.

(Sixth) A moon-orb having the sky-orb resplendent with a flood of light, producing joy like the image of her own face.

(Seventh) A sun, giving the delusion that it was day at that time, though it was night, destroying all darkness, having blazing light.

(Eighth) A flag-staff with a fluttering pennant having a wreath of bells like an elephant with its ears flapping.

(Ninth) A pitcher of water, a gold pitcher, its mouth covered with full-blown lotuses, resembling the pitcher of nectar which appeared at the churning of the ocean.

(Tenth) A great lotus-pond become many mouths, as it were, to praise the first Arhat by means of lotuses resonant with bees.

(Eleventh) An ocean of milk pleasing the mind with masses of high waves that were thieves of the beauty of masses of autumn clouds scattered over the earth.

(Twelfth) A heavenly palace (vimāna)[1] with immense luster, as if that palace in which the Blessed One had lived as a god had come here from former affection.

(Thirteenth) A great collection of jewels with radiant light massed in the sky like a collection of stars come together in one place from somewhere.

(Fourteenth) A smokeless fire that was like the collected brilliance of all the brilliant objects present in the womb of the three worlds.

These entered her mouth. At dawn, the Lady Marudevī woke up at the end of her dream with a smiling face like a lotus. As if pouring forth unequaled joy, with tender words the Lady at once told Nābhi the dreams in detail. “Your son will be the best patriarch (kulakara),” Nābhi explained the dreams in accordance with his own simplicity.

Then the thrones of the Indras shook as if from anger at the thought, “The birth of the Master in a mere Kulakṛt’s family is not suitable.” “What is the reason for this sudden trembling of our thrones?” They ascertained that after employing knowledge and perception. Then the Indras came all together, like friends having an appointment, to interpret to the Blessed One’s Mother the meaning of the dreams. With buds made from their folded hands on their heads from reverence, they made clear the interpretation of the dreams, like commentators a text. “O Mistress, from the sight of the bull in your dream—a son will be to you, able to lift up the chariot of dharma sunk in the mud of delusion. From the sight of the elephant, O Lady—your son will be the greatest of the great, and the sole abode of great power. From the sight of the lion—your son will be a lion among men, resolute, always fearless, a hero with unflinching valor. From the fact that Śrī was seen, O Lady, is indicated that your son, the best of men, will be the Lord of the Śrī (Glory) of the sovereignty of the three worlds. From the sight of a wreath in a dream—the sight of your son will be auspicious, his rule worn on the head like a wreath by all the world. O Mother of the World, that a full moon was seen in your sleep means that your sou will be pleasing, a joy to the eye. That you saw a sun means that your son will be the creator of the light of the world by destroying the darkness of delusion. That you saw a great banner in a dream, O Lady, that means that your son will be a dharma-banner, the founder of a great line. That you saw a pitcher full of water means that your son will be a vessel filled with all the supernatural powers (atiśayas). That you saw a lotus-pond, Mistress, means that your-son will take away the pain of those who have fallen into the desert of saṃsāra. That your Ladyship saw an ocean means that your son will be inaccessible and accessible. That you saw a heavenly palace, a marvel to the earth, O Lady, means that your son will be worshipped even by Vaimānika gods. That you saw a heap of jewels with flashing light means that your son will be a heap of jewels of all the virtues. That you saw a flaming fire enter your mouth means that your son will absorb the dignity of other dignitaries. O Mistress, it is indicated by these fourteen dreams that your son will be Master in the world extending for fourteen rajjus.”[2] Having related thus the interpretation of the dreams, and having bowed to Marudevī, the lords of the gods at once went to their own abodes.

Her body, sprinkled by the nectar of the Indras’ interpretation of the dreams, expanded like the earth sprinkled with water by the clouds. She was beautified by the embryo, like a bank of clouds by the sun, like a pearl-oyster by a pearl as its fruit, like a mountain-cave by a lion. Marudevā, who was naturally the dark color of a priyaṅgu, became fair from the embryo, like a bank of autumn-clouds. Her breasts became very large and high, as if from joy at the thought: “The Master of the World will suck us.” Her eyes became very wide-open, as if extremely eager to see the face of the Blessed One. The wall-like surface of the Mistress’s hips, though wide, became more so, like the sandbar of a river, after the passing of the rains. Her gait, slow by nature, became slower, like that of an elephant that has reached the rutting-condition. At that time her wealth of beauty increased greatly, like the knowledge of a learned man at dawn;[3] like the bank of the ocean in the hot season. Even though she was carrying the embryo, the sole essence of the three worlds in her womb, she did not become wearied. This is the power of the Arhats while they are in the embryo-stage. Gradually, gradually, in the womb of Marudevā, the embryo grew secretly like a bulb in the ground. By his power the Mistress became especially compassionate toward all. Water, even though cold, may become colder from snow thrown into it. By the power of the Blessed One having descended into her womb, Nābhi was honored more than his father by all the twins. From his power the kalpa-trees became especially efficacious, just as the moonbeams in the autumn become especially beautiful. By his power the earth had the hostility of men and animals appeased. For always the burning heat is allayed at the coming of the rain.

When nine months, seven and one half days had passed, at midnight on the eighth of the black fortnight of Caitra, the planets being in exaltation, the moon being in conjunction with Uttarāṣāḍhā, the Lady gave an easy birth to a son, a twin. The skies became bright then as if from happiness; the people devoted themselves to sport with great joy, like gods. He looked like a god that had appeared on the couch of spontaneous birth, free from stains, afterbirth, blood, etc. Then there was a light in the three worlds, like lightning, causing surprise to the eyes of the world, destroying darkness. Though unbeaten by servants, the drum having the deep sound of clouds resounded aloud in the sky from joy, like Heaven itself. Even the hell-inhabitants, who had never before attained happiness, experienced it, to say nothing of animals, men, and gods. The dust was removed from the earth by winds blowing slowly, slowly over the earth as if by servants. Garments were waved, and perfumed water was rained by the clouds, and the earth expanded like watered seed.

Footnotes and references:


The word vimāna is used both for the palaces of the gods and for the aerial cars which serve as their conveyances. In the representations of the dreams which every temple possesses the vimāna is always made to represent the aerial car. But the text here makes it quite clear that Hem. has a palace in mind.


The height of the universe. A rajju is, in most of the tests, defined as the diameter of the Svayambhūramaṇa ocean, but that is always given merely as a rajju. The Ratnasañcayaprakaraṇa 483, p. 189 defines rajju as follows: “A god can go 100,000 yojanas in the winking of an eye. The distance he can go in 6 months is a rajju.” This verse is said by the commentator to be taken from the Bṛhat., but I have not been able to locate it. K. p. 210, gives a similar definition.


It is customary for students and teachers in Indian schools (old style) to rise very early, about 4:00 a.m.

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