Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Sudarshana’s grief over childlessness which is the second part of chapter III of the English translation of the Sumatinatha-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Sumatinatha in jainism is one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.

Part 2: Sudarśanā’s grief over childlessness

One day he went with his retinue in magnificent style to a garden where a festival was taking place, and all the people of the city went, too. Queen Sudarśanā also went there, seated on an elephant, marked by the chauris and umbrella, like the Śrī of sovereignty embodied. There she saw a certain woman attended by eight young women who resembled Dikkanyās, resplendent with priceless ornaments. When she saw her with them in attendance, like Śacī attended by the Apsarases, Queen Sudarśanā was very much amazed in her heart.

“Who is she? Who are these attendants of hers?” Queen Sudarśanā instructed the harem-guard to find out. When he had enquired, the harem-guard came and reported: “She is Sulakṣaṇā, the wife of Nandiṣeṇa, a merchant. Sulakṣaṇā has two sons; and these are their wives, four of each, eager to serve their mother-in-law like slaves.”

When she heard that, Sudarśanā reflected to herself, “Indeed, this merchant’s wife, who looks upon the face of a son, is very superior, for whom these beautiful well-born young women, who have become her daughters-in-law, always perform service, like eight Nāga-maidens. Alas! alas! for me who have no son, no daughter-in-law, who am lacking in merit. My life is in vain, even though I have become the heart of my husband. Tossing his hand here and there, dust-color all over from powder, a son plays on the lap of fortunate women, like a monkey in a tree. Like vines that have produced no fruit, like mountains without water, women without children are blameworthy, are to be grieved over. What is the use of other festivals for those people who may not have the great festivals of the birth-, naming-, tonsure-, marriage-ceremony, etc. of a son?”

With these thoughts, her face pale like a lotus injured by cold, Queen Sudarśanā, depressed, went to her own house. There she dismissed even her attendants and fell on the couch, weak, breathless, as if ill. She did not eat, she did not speak, she did not make her toilet, but remained like a jeweled doll without a mind.

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