Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Rishabha’s childhood which is the fifth 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 5: Ṛṣabha’s childhood

Then the Lady Marudevā awakened and related to Nābhi this meeting with the gods like a dream at night. Since a bull was the mark on the thigh of the Lord of the World, and since a bull was seen first by his mother in her dream, the delighted parents named him Ṛṣabha, with a festival on an auspicious day. Then the parents gave a suitable purifying name also, Sumaṅgalā, to the daughter born as his twin. The Master sucks the nectar placed in his own thumb by Śakra at suitable times, like a tree absorbing water from a canal. The Blessed One, placed on his father’s lap as a child, shone like a beautiful young lion on a mountain slope. The five nurses, appointed by Śakra, certainly did not leave the Supreme Lord at all, like the samitis a great muni. A little less than a year after the Lord’s birth, the Vāsava of Saudharma came with the object of establishing a family-line. As if with the thought, “A servant, empty-handed, must not see the Master,” he took a large stalk of sugar-cane. Sunāsīra with the stalk of sugar-cane like autumn-time personified,[1] went before the Master seated on Nābhi’s lap. The Lord, having known Śakra’s intention by clairvoyant knowledge, raised his hand, like an elephant its trunk, to take the stalk of sugar-cane. Bending his head, knowing the Master’s intention, Śakra gave the shoot of sugar-cane like a present. Then the Lord-of-the-sky went to heaven, having established the Master’s family with the name ‘Ikṣvāku,’ because the sugar-cane was taken by the Lord.

The body of Yugādinātha was free from perspiration, disease and dirt, fragrant, with a beautiful shape, like a golden lotus; flesh and blood were white as a stream of cow’s milk, free from odor of flesh; the process of eating and eliminating food was not visible to the eye; the fragrance of his breath resembled the fragrance of a fullblown lotus; these four manifestations of supernatural powers appeared with his birth. The Lord, having a body with mortise-collar-and-pin joints (vajraṛṣabhanārāca), walked slowly, as if from fear of breaking the earth with his feet. The Lord spoke, even as a child, with deep, soft tones. For the childhood of great men is only in respect to the body. The Master’s body, perfectly symmetrical, looked like a golden play-ground of Śrīs desiring to play. To gratify their wishes, the Master Vṛṣabha played with gods in the form of boys who had become his companions, and had come together in company. While playing, his whole body gray with dust, wearing a wreath of bells, the Lord looked like a rutting elephant. Whatever the Master took by the hand even in play, indeed, no god, even a very powerful one, could snatch away. Whoever put even his finger on the Lord to test his strength went far away like dust, just from the wind of his breath. Some god-boys amused the Master with various balls, rolling like balls on the ground.

Some, turned into king-parrots, repeatedly called out flattering remarks like flatterers, “Long live! Long live! Rejoice! Rejoice!” Some, having become peacocks for the Master’s pleasure, excelling in peacock cries, danced in front of him, singing the first note (of the scale).[2] Others, having become haṃsas, having the third note, went to the Lord’s side, delighting in the contact from taking his lotus-hands in play. Some became curlews before him, calling out on the middle note, wishing to drink the nectar of his glances gentle from affection. Some became male cuckoos and, sitting in trees near the Master, sang in the fifth note to please his mind. Others, who became horses, came neighing in the sixth note, wishing to purify themselves by acting as vehicles for the Master. Some, turned into elephants, went trumpeting in the seventh note, their faces bent down, touching the Lord’s feet with their trunk. Some became bulls, charming with the second (ṛṣabha) note, and striking the banks with their horns, gave amusement to the Lord’s eye. Some became buffaloes and stood like the Añjana Mountains; fighting with each other, they gave an exhibition of a fictitious fight to the Lord. Some, for the Lord’s amusement, slapping their arms constantly, having become wrestlers in the arena, challenged each other. Thus worshipped continually by the god-boys with various amusements, like the Supreme Spirit by Yogis, cherished carefully by these nurses, like a tree by women-gardeners, the Lord gradually grew up. When they are in the next period, that of a householder, after the stage of sucking their thumbs, the Arhats eat perfect food. The Blessed One, the son of Nābhi, always ate the fruit of Uttarakuru brought by the gods, and drank the water of the Ocean of Milk. The Lord, having passed childhood, reached the second period which has several divisions, just as the sun reaches midday, having passed daybreak.

Footnotes and references:


Formerly in Gujarat sugar-cane was planted in December and ripened in September or October. Now it is planted in May and June.


I have taken the order of the notes as given in the Sth. 553. P. 394. This is also the modern order, Popley, p. 32. The Sth., however, gives the origin of the names as depending on the parts of the body involved in producing them, and not with reference to their position in the scale. It is to be noted that Hem. represents the third note (gāndhāra) by the cry of the haṃsa, not the goat.

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