Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Leading of the Ganga to the Eastern Ocean which is the eighth part of chapter VI of the English translation of the Ajitanatha-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Ajitanatha in jainism is the second Tirthankara (Jina) and one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.

Part 8: Leading of the Gaṅga to the Eastern Ocean

While Cakrin Sagara was saying this, the country-people living near Aṣṭāpada came to the door. Cakrabhṛt Sagara had them, who were groaning aloud, “Protect us! Protect us!” summoned by the door-keeper. Questioned by the Cakravartin, “Well! what is the matter?” the villagers made their bows together and explained:

“The Gaṅgā which was brought by the princes by means of the staff-jewel to fill the moat of Mt. Aṣṭāpada, O king, instantly filled it hard to fill like Pātāla, and transgresses both banks like an unchaste woman two families.[1] It has begun to flood villages, mines, cities, etc., in the neighborhood of Aṣṭāpada, like the ocean spread out. Even now the end of the world is at hand for us. So tell us, where can we live free from calamity?”

Then Cakrin Sagara summoned his grandson Bhagī-ratha and instructed him in a voice containing the essence of affection:

“The Gaṅgā is wandering now, as if crazy, through villages, etc., after filling the moat of Aṣṭāpada. Draw her by the staff-jewel and cast her into the Eastern Ocean; for the water to which no road has been shown goes on the wrong road like a blind man. Extraordinary strength, power predominant in the world, a very strong force of elephants, cavalry known to all, very courageous infantry, and also a large chariot-force, very great prestige, unbounded skill in weapons, the acquisition of divine weapons—just as these are able to destroy the insolence of enemies, so they are able to produce the insolence of one’s self.

Insolence is the chief of all faults, the sole abode of calamities, the sole remover of wealth, the maker of evil fame, the destroyer even of the family, the thief of all joys, the assailant of other people, an enemy arising from (one’s own) body. Therefore, insolence must be destroyed like a serpent by men, even ordinary ones, of good conduct, and especially by my grandson. Then you must act with courtesy suitable to the recipient. A high degree of merit is produced from courtesy even from a man without power. Courtesy of a powerful man is like fragrance of gold, like unspotted beauty of the full moon. You must show respect to gods, asuras, Nāgas, etc., according to the place, at the very beginning of the work. Respect to those deserving respect is not a fault, but lack of respect is a fault, like heat for a bilious person. Gods and demons, submissive, were treated with respect even by Cakrin Bharata, the son of Ṛṣabha Svāmin. The same respect which was shown to gods, etc. by him, though being powerful, must be shown as family-conduct.”

Illustrious Bhagīratha said, “Very well.” Instruction to one well-bred naturally is like painting on a good wall. Handing over the staff-jewel like his own powerful dignity, Sagara kissed Bhagīratha on the head and dismissed him. Bowing to the Cakrin’s lotus-feet, Bhagīratha departed with the staff-jewel, like a cloud with lightning. Surrounded by the Cakrin’s great army and by the country-people, Bhagīratha looked like Śakra with his armies and citizens.[2] Gradually Bhagīratha reached Mt. Aṣṭāpada surrounded by Mandākinī, like Mt. Trikuṭa by the ocean. Bhagīratha, knowing the proper procedure, observed a three days’ fast, directing it against the Nāgakumāra Jvalanaprabha. After the three days’ fast had been completed, Jvalanaprabha, the lord of the Nāgakumāras, graciously approached Bhagīratha. After the master of the Nāgakumāras had been worshipped elaborately by him with perfumes, incense, and wreaths, he said, “What can I do?”

Then Bhagīratha, brilliant,[3] addressed Jvalanaprabha courteously in a voice deep as the sound of the ocean: “The Gaṅgā, after filling the moat of Mt. Aṣṭāpada, wanders unchecked like a serpent-demon seeking something to devour. For she digs up the fields, roots up the trees, and equalizes all high and low places. She is able to tear down walls, burst open palaces, make mansions fall down, and destroy houses. With your permission, I shall lead her, crazed like a Piśācī, causing destruction to the country, by the staff-jewel, and deposit her in the Eastern Ocean.”

Then the Nāga, Jvalanaprabha, graciously replied to him, “Do as you wish. There is no obstacle to you. All the Nāgas in Bharatakṣetra are under my control. Proceeding with my permission, do not fear any calamity from them.”

With this reply, the Lord of Nāgas entered Rasātala. Bhagīratha broke his fast at the end of the three days’ fast.

He took the staff-jewel to lead Mandākinī, like an enemy who had split open the earth, uncontrolled like an unchaste woman. Bhagīratha, having a cruel arm-staff, drew the roaring river by the staff, like a wreath by a hook. Bhagīratha made the Gaṅgā cross through the middle of the Kurus to the south of the city Hastināpura, but to the west of the Kosala-realm, to the north of Prayāga, and to the south of the Kāśis, through the Vindhyas to the south of the Aṅgas, to the north of Magadha to the Eastern Ocean, drawing rivers that were on the way like the wind bunches of grass. From that time the tīrtha[4] was called Gaṅgāsāgara, and because she had been led by Bhagīratha the Gaṅgā was called Bhāgīrathī.

Footnotes and references:


Her husband’s and father’s.


Prakīrṇaka. See above, p. 125.


. I suspect the text here. Perhaps saprabho should be emended to saprabha0. It would apply better to Jvalanaprabha.


The mouth of the river.

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