Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This is the English translation of the Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Charita (literally “The lives of the sixty-three illustrious People”), a Sanskrit epic poem written by Hemachandra in the twelfth century. The work relates the history and legends of important figures in the Jain faith. These 63 persons include: the twenty four tirthankaras , the t...

Part 6: Birth of Cakrāyudha

Then, after it had completed its life, Ṛṣi Dṛḍharatha’s soul descended into the womb from the palace Sarvārtha. At that very time Queen Yaśomatī arose from sleep and related her dream to Lord Śāntinātha. Possessing the three kinds of knowledge, Śāntinātha explained: “In another birth I had a younger brother, Dṛḍharatha. Now he has fallen from the palace Sarvārtha and descended into your womb. At the right time you will give birth to a son.” The queen, delighted at hearing that correct speech of her husband, like the thunder of a cloud at dawn, conceived the embryo at the same time. At the right time Queen Yaśomatī bore a son, pure, with all the favorable marks, like a wonderful image of her husband. Because Yaśomatī saw a cakra in a dream while he was in the womb, his father gave him the name Cakrāyudha. Cherished by nurses, the best tilaka of the world of men, Cakrāyudha gradually grew up, like a young elephant. Cakrāyudha in time attained young manhood bewitching the eyes of throngs of young women, the play-ground of Anaṅga. His father married him to many princesses with beautiful forms like Śrīs who had held svayaṃvaras.

Twenty-five thousand years passed while Śrīmat Śāntinātha directed the kingdom. Then the cakra, brilliant with a great light, was in Śānti’s armory, like a god on the spontaneous birth-couch.[1] The Master had an eight-day festival celebrated for the cakra. For even people entitled to honor make a pūjā to the one entitled to honor by custom. The cakra left the armory, like the sun leaving the ocean, facing the east, the face of the Śrī of an expedition of conquest. The king, by whose soldiers the earth was covered, followed it presided over by a thousand Yakṣas like its spokes. Every day the cakra stopped after it had gone a yojana; and the Lord stopped also, making a camp twelve yojanas in extent. Thus advancing daily without interruptions, the son of Viśvasena arrived at the tīrtha Māgadha, the ornament of the Eastern Ocean.

Strong-shouldered Śānti established at once on its bank a camp whose center could not be reached, like the ocean. Wishing to conquer without any injury being inflicted, the Lord sat on an excellent lion-throne, facing Māgadhatīrtha. Then the lion-throne of the Lord of Māgadha, who was at a distance of twelve yojanas, shook at once, as if it had a broken leg. Then the Lord of Māgadha thought to himself:

“What unprecedented occurrence is this, indeed, that my throne shook! Is the time of my falling now at hand? Or has someone, unable to endure my splendor, shaken my throne?” With such doubts springing up, by employing clairvoyant knowledge, he knew that Śānti, the cakrin and dharmacakrin, had come. The Lord of Māgadhatīrtha thought again: “Like a child I thought that from ignorance, alas! The Lord, the sixteenth Tīrthakara and the fifth cakrin, seated thus, permeated with compassion, is a match for me. Who am I, compared with the Lord of the World whose arm is able to protect or destroy the three worlds, like a moth compared with the sun? What sort of devotion shall I, being such, show him whom the Indras, Acyuta, et cetera, approach like footmen? Nevertheless, I shall honor the Lord of the World who has come here himself, with my own wealth, like honoring the moon with the fringed end of a garment.”[2]

With these reflections the Lord of Māgadhatīrtha took large gifts and approached Śāntinātha. Standing in the air, he bowed to the Lord and said: “By good fortune, Lord of the Three Worlds, you have received me, a mere footman. I am bearing your commands as your guardian of the east quarter, to be commanded by you day and night like the governor of a fort, Master.”

With these words, bowing, he delivered divine ornaments and garments with devotion, like the Lord’s chamberlain. Śrī Śānti honored and dismissed the god. Then the cakra-jewel set out toward the south. The Lord, whose advance was unchecked, following the path of the cakra, with unfathomable power of the arm, came to the bank of the Southern Ocean. The Lord of the World sat on a jeweled lion-throne on the bank of the ocean, concentrating on Varadāman without harshness. The Lord of Varadāman knew by clairvoyance that the Lord had come, and he came, having adopted the means of gifts to protect against destruction. After bowing to the Lord and accepting service to him, he handed over the gifts, divine ornaments, et cetera. The Lord of the World talked to him graciously and dismissed him. The cakra-jewel set out for the western quarter.

The Lord made his camp on the shore of the Western Ocean covered with areca trees bound with an abundant growth of betel vines. The Lord of Prabhāsa, whose throne had shaken, came and honored Śrī Śānti seated on a lion-throne, and accepted his command. The cakra set out by a north-western path in the direction of Sindhu Devī and Lord Śānti also, following its path. The Master placed his camp, which resembled a moving city, on the southern bank of the Sindhu near the house of Sindhu. Seated on a lion-throne and concentrating on Sindhu, the Master remained facing her, like a yogi engaged in attracting someone. Sindhu Devī knew by clairvoyance that the Master had come and approached him devotedly at once with gifts that had been collected. She bowed to Śānti Svāmin and said, her hands folded in submission, “In this place I am the executor of your commands, like your army.” With these words, bowed in devotion, she delivered to the Lord of the World gold, jewels, a bathing-stool, pitchers, ornaments, et cetera.

Then the cakra set out and Cakrin Śānti also with his army in the north-east direction and reached the ground at the foot of Vaitāḍhya. The god of Mt. Vaitāḍhya delivered presents to Śrī Śānti Svāmin and made submission.

Following the path of the cakra the Master went near the cave Tamisrā and quickly reduced to submission the god Kṛtamāla. At Śrī Śānti’s command the general crossed the river Sindhu by the skin-jewel and conquered the southern division of the Sindhu. Then the general opened Tamisrā, striking the double doors with the staff-jewel which had unerring power. Mounted on the elephant-jewel, his great power full-grown, the Master entered the cave with his army, like a lion. The son of Viśvasena set the gem-jewel on the elephant’s right boss to destroy darkness, like the sun on the eastern mountain. Taking the cowrie in his hand the Lord advanced, drawing forty-nine circles on both sides (of the cave) in turn. Then the Master had the carpenter-jewel make a bridge across the rivers Unmagnā and Nimagnā which were on the road inside the cave. Śāntinātha and his army crossed the rivers, though hard to cross, by the bridge. Everything is simple for the powerful. The north door of the cave opened immediately of its own accord by the Master’s power, like a lotus-calyx at dawn from the sun. He left the cave by the door with his army. Everywhere the path of the powerful, like that of streams, is unstumbling.

When the Mlecchas had seen the Cakrin and his army issue from the cave, collected together, they said with laughter: “Ho! Who is this who has come now, seeker of the unsought, into our country, like an elephant into a forest controlled by prides of lions? Foot-soldiers, jumping up as they like, thinking themselves real soldiers, their bodies gray with dust like donkeys, who are they? Who are these mounted on elephants like monkeys in trees? And who are these on horses like water-birds on waves[3] And why are these men mounted in chariots, as if they were lame? And what is this piece of iron[4] that is like a portable fire-place on wheels? Alas for the unconsidered action of these stupid men, which was undertaken by them together, like a quarrel by jackals![5]However, enough of looking at them. For an enemy must be regarded as poison. We shall kill them, like ravens destroying grasshoppers.”

After speaking so to each other,, they advanced, carrying many kinds of weapons, to fight with the vanguard of Cakrin Śānti. They struck down the elephants, like ant-hills, with iron clubs; they crushed the chariots, like earthen jars and dishes, with clubs. Some pierced the horses with arrows and spears and made them like porcupines; some staked down the foot-soldiers with spikes, like ghosts with charms. So the ill-behaved Kirātas, jumping up like monkeys, killing in various ways, spreading a great tumult, giving slaps and shouting in turn, broke down the cakravartin’s vanguard like a forest.

Because of the destruction of the soldiers that had taken place, Śrī Śānti’s general, terrifying, blazing like a fire from an oblation, armed like Kṛtānta, taking the sword-jewel in his hand, mounted the horse-jewel and dashed forward against the Kirātas. These three jewels, the general, the horse, and the sword combined, looked like three fires in one place. The king of horses, moving like Garuḍa, splitting open the earth, as it were, ran forward equal (in speed) to the general’s thought. The Kirātas, cavalry and infantry, were not able to stand before (the attack), like trees in the current of a river. Some jumped into chasms; some hid in thickets; some went to the mountains; some fled into water. Some abandoned their weapons; others left their clothes; some remained motionless as if dead, rolled on the ground. Of some the arms fell, like branches of trees; heads fell like fruit and hands like petals. Of some the teeth dropped, of others the feet, and of some the skulls cracked like empty dishes. When the general traversed the ocean of battle with the horse-jewel, what did not take place for the destruction of enemies like sea-monsters?

So the Kirātas, thus perceived by him, all fled in every direction immediately, like cotton blown up by the wind. After they had gone many yojanas, they met in one place and took counsel, pained by anger and shame.

“Alas! What is this unexpected thing that has happened to us, that someone has crossed Vaitāḍhya and come here? He, like no one else, covered our land with his excessive army, like the high-waved ocean. A mere foot-soldier of his, someone alone, this extraordinary soldier defeated us long considering ourselves excellent soldiers. We are ashamed of each other, whose arms were formerly swollen with courage. Henceforth, we are not able to show our faces. Now shall we enter a blazing fire, or shall we jump from a high precipice to die? Shall we swallow a large amount of poison? Or shall we hang like swings, tying ourselves to the tops of trees? Shall we split our bellies with knives, like old pieces of cloth, or cut our tongues to pieces with our teeth, like pieces of cucumber? By some method or other death is our refuge. What self-respecting person is able to live crushed by defeat? If there is any means for us to defeat our enemies, let us summon our family-deities, the Meghamukhas. Family-deities are the refuge of persons, all of whose resources are lost, whose wealth of manliness is lost, crushed by enemies.”

Deciding on this, all went to the bank of the Sindhu, as if eager to immerse themselves in the water, because they were burned by the splendor of the cakrin. Wretched, nude, all lying supine, they remained like gamblers whose money has been taken. Together, thus situated, they fasted three days for the favor of the Payomucs. For gods are won over by devotion. Then the gods, the Abdamukhas, appeared at the end of the fast, standing in the air, and said, “Do not be afraid, children. Tell us your trouble.” The Mlecchas said, “Some cakrin is killing us. From fear of him we have fled here, like a flight of crows. Protect us, blessed Abdas. You alone are our protection. When one is bewildered and miserable, generally a friend is a refuge.”

The gods, the Meghāsyas, said to the Mlecchas, “Now we shall destroy your enemies by a very cold death by inundating them.”

Then the Abdas began to make the earth have one ocean, as it were, with streams of water like iron pestles on Śānti’s army. Seeing his own camp inundated with water, the fifth Cakrabhṛt touched the skin-jewel with his hand. At once the skin-jewel grew to twelve yojanas in size and floated just like a ball of sea-foam on a mass of duck-weed. At Śrī Śānti’s command the whole army got on the skin-jewel like a boat as steady as if nailed down. After he had touched the umbrella-jewel, like the skin, and had made it twelve yojanas in size, Śānti stretched it over his army. On the umbrella’s handle, like a lamp in a window, the crest-jewel of mortals set the gem-jewel to destroy darkness. Grain, sowed there at dawn, ready at noon, was eaten by the soldiers. This power belonged to the steward-jewel. Cakrabhṛt Śānti remained so with his army for seven days, like a sea-trader, in this ocean with one expanse of water.

Then his servant-gods, angered, carrying swords, said to the gods, the Meghamukhakumāras: “See here! What is this that has been undertaken? Acting without reflection, do you not know your own power and another’s power, your minds destroyed? On the one hand is Suvarṇa-śikharin, its peak touching the sky; on the other hand, ant-hills, knee-high, made of earth and sand. Here a sun giving light to the world; there, young fire-flies. Here a garuḍa, the abode of power; there, worthless grasshoppers. On the one hand, the king of Nāgas, supporting the earth; on the other hand, the miserable venomless water-snakes. Here, Svayambhūramaṇa, an ocean; there, house-streams. Here the Cakradhara and Tīrthakṛt praised by the three worlds; there, you miserable creatures to be conquered by such as us. Therefore, go! Go quickly! Henceforth, we, Śrī Śānti’s servants, will not tolerate your transgression, look you!”

The Meghamukhas, addressed angrily by them in these words, went to the Mlecchas and enlightened them, “Śānti alone is your protection.” Instructed by the Meghamukhas, the Mlecchas, sighing somewhat, became quiet like elephants whose ichor is gone. The Kirātas came, making the Lord presents of various vehicles and manifold ornaments, valuable garments, and heaps of gold and silver, seeking protection, wiping the ground by rolling on it with their bodies. Handing over the presents to Śānti, bowing, they said:

“We have always been unsubdued, Master, like forest-bulls. Pardon that we, ignorant, impetuously committed an offense against you, Master, when you came here. Be gracious to us. Henceforth, you are our master by whom the earth has been conquered. Command us. We shall remain subject to you. What more can we say?”

The Lord accepted (their presents) and favored the Mlecchas, who continued talking in this way; and had the north district of the Sindhu conquered by the general. Covering the ground between the Gaṅgā and the Sindhu with unbroken ranks of soldiers, he went then with his large army to Mt. Kṣudrahima. The god of Himavat honored Cakrin Śānti with gośīrṣa-sandal, with water from Lake Padma and other water, and with jewels. The Lord went to Mt. Ṛṣabhakūṭa, took the cowrie, and wrote the words, “Śānti, the Cakrin,” accordings to custom. Then mounting his chariot, Śānti, whose enemies’ courage had been subdued, turned, and gradually came to the ground at the foot of Mt. Vaitāḍhya.

There the Cakravartin was entertained by the Vidyādhara-kings belonging to the two rows for happiness in this world and the next. Then he went to the bank of the Gaṅgā and subdued Gaṅgā (the goddess) himself, and had the north district of the Gaṅgā conquered by the general. Then the Lord hastened to the cave named Khaṇḍaprapātā and reduced the god Nāṭyamāla to submission. The general opened the cave with the staff-jewel and Cakrabhṛt Śānti entered, following the cakra-jewel. As before, śānti dispelled darkness in the cave with the gem-jewel and circles made by the cowrie, like lamps in a house. With his army he crossed the rivers Unmagnā and Nimagnā easily by the bridge. Nothing is difficult for the powerful. Accompanied by his army, the Lord left the cave, like a lion, by the south door which opened itself.

The Lord established his camp on the Gaṅgā’s broad sandy beach crowded, with horses moving to and fro like waves of the Gaṅgā. The nine treasures Naisarpa, et cetera, living at the mouth of the Gaṅgā came there and made submission to Śānti. The Lord had the general conquer the Gaṅgā’s southern district, which was filled with Mlecchas, like a mere village, at will. Then the Lord returned, having conquered six-part Bhārata like six groups of enemies, in eight hundred years.

Reducing the distance day by day by unbroken marches, the man-elephant went to Hastināpura, the abode of Śrī. Watched by townsmen and villagers eager like unwinking gods, Śāntinātha went to his own house. Cakrin Śānti’s coronation as Cakravartin was made by gods, crowned kings, and others. The coronation-festival lasted for twelve years in Hastināpura, accompanied by remission of fines, custom-duties, and entrance of soldiers. Then he was adorned separately by the thousand attendant Yakṣas, the fourteen jewels, and the nine treasures. He was surrounded by the sixty-four thousand women of his household; and ornamented with eighty-four lacs of elephants, chariots, and horses. He was lord of ninety-six crores of villages and foot-soldiers, of thirty-two thousand kings as well as realms. He was served by three hundred and sixty-three cooks[6] and had the earth adorned by the eighteen guilds and sub-guilds. He was protector of seventy-two thousand large cities and ruler of ninety-nine thousand towns accessible both by land and sea. He was supreme lord of forty-eight thousand towns approached by land only or water only, and of twenty-four thousand poor towns as well as isolated towns. He was lord of twenty thousand mines of jewels, et cetera, and ruler of sixteen thousand towns with earthen walls. The lord was protector of fourteen thousand granaries and fifty-six island settlements. He was chief of forty-nine poor kingdoms and he enjoyed the rest of six-part Bhārata also. Amusing himself with singing, dances by girls, dances by men, dramatic modes of conveying pleasures,[7] gathering flowers, water-sports, et cetera, he spent twenty-five thousand years less eight hundred years from the time he became Cakravartin.

Footnotes and references:


See I, n. 72.


The fringed end of the garment is gathered up and waved at the moon with a circular motion.


Aṭi can also mean ‘fish,’ according to Apte. But birds ride the crest of waves rather than fish.


i.e., the Cakrin’s cakra, which is rimmed with flames.


See above, p. 37. It is obvious that ‘lion’ for jāgara would not do at all in this case. See App. I.


See App. I.


Abhinaya. See I, n. 235.