Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Story of Jamadagni and Parashurama which is the third part of chapter IV of the English translation of the Subhuma-cakravartin-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Subhuma-cakravartin in jainism is one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.

Part 3: Story of Jamadagni and Paraśurāma

Now, Ṛṣabhanātha had a son Kuru, after whom Kurudeśa was named. He had a son Hastin, after whom Hāstinapura was named, the native land of Tīrthakṛts and cakrins. Anantavīrya, belonging to this line, was king there, long-armed. Now, in the town Vasantapura in Bharatakṣetra there was a youth, Agnika, whose family had perished completely. One day he left that place for another country and, wandering about without a caravan, he came to a hermitage. The abbot, Jana, received Agni like a son and he received the name of Jamadagni among the people. Practicing severe penance, like a visible fire, because of his splendor hard to bear he became known throughout the world.

Then a god, a layman in a former birth, Vaiśvānara by name, and Dhanvantari, devoted to (Brāhman) ascetics, had an argument. One said, “The religion of the Arhats is authority”; the other said that of the ascetics. They made an agreement in this dispute, “Whoever is the most obscure among the followers of the Arhats and whoever is most distinguished among ascetics must be tested by us to see which one excels in good qualities.”

Just at that time holy Padmaratha, adorned by a new religion,[1] set out from the city Mithilā over the world. “As he went to Campā to take initiation from Vāsupūjya, he; a yati by nature, was observed on the road by the two gods. Though hungry and thirsty, the king refused food and drink offered by them with a desire to test him. For the resolute do not depart from the truth. The gods made pain for the king’s tender lotus-feet with pebbles and thorns cruel as saws. Nevertheless, he walked beautifully on such a road, as if it had a surface of cotton, with his feet dripping with blood. They sang, danced, et cetera to disturb the king; but that was in vain against him like a divine weapon against a relative.[2] They assumed the forms of siddhaputras[3] and appeared before him. “Sir, now life is long and you are young. Enjoy its pleasures at will. What sense is there in austerities in youth? Who, even though energetic, would perform the duties of night at dawn? When youth has been passed, the cause of weakness of the body, you should undertake penance, like a second old age, dear sir.”

The king said, “If life is long, there will be much merit. The lotus-stalk grows according to the measure of water. The penance which is practiced in youth when the senses are fickle, that is penance. He is called a hero who is a hero on the battle-field with cruel weapons.” Saying, “Good! Good!” to him who was not shaken from the truth, they went to test Jamadagni, the most distinguished of the ascetics. They saw him with the ground touched by his spreading matted hair like a banyan-tree, the extremities of his feet covered with ants, subdued. The two gods made by magic a nest in the mass of creepers of his beard at once, assumed the form of a pair of sparrows, and stayed. The cock said to the hen, “I am going to Mt. Himavat.” She scorned him, saying, “You will not come back, devoted to another.” “If I do not come back, wife, I am guilty of the sin of a cow-killer.” The hen said again to the cock who had made this promise, If you would swear with the words, ‘I am guilty of the sin of this sage,’ I would let you go there, husband. May your journey be happy.”

Hearing this speech, Jamadagni was angered and seized the two birds with his hands. Then he said, “What kind of sin, like darkness in the sun, is in me performing difficult penance?”

Then the cock-sparrow said to the sage: “Do not be angry. Your penance is useless. Have you not heard the sacred saying that there is no progress of the soul of a sonless man?” Thinking, “That is true,” the muni reflected, “My penance is strung in water since I have no wife nor son.”

Seeing him disturbed, thinking, “I have been deceived by the ascetics,” Dhanvantari became a (Jain) layman. Who is not convinced by proof? Then the two gods became invisible, and Jamadagni went to the city Nemikakoṣṭaka. Wishing to win a girl, like Hara Gaurī, he went to King Jitaśatru who had many daughters. The king rose to greet him and, his hands folded, asked, “Why have you come? Tell what can I do?”

The muni said, “I have come for a girl,” and the king said, “Take the one who is willing from a hundred girls.” He went to the maidens’ quarters and said to the king’s daughters, “Some one of you be my wife.” They made a spitting noise and said, “Are you not ashamed to say this, you whose hair is matted, who are gray, emaciated, living by alms?”

Muni Jamadagni, angry, like a wind made the girls hunch-backed like the wooden part of bows that have been strung. Then he saw a daughter of the king playing in sand-piles in the courtyard and he called her ‘Reṇukā.’ He showed her a citron, saying, “Do you want it?” She stretched out a hand indicating the taking of the hand (in marriage). The muni held her to his breast, like a poor man money, and the king gave her to him properly, with cows, et cetera. From the bond of affection he restored his wife’s sisters, the ninety-nine girls, by the power of penance. Alas for the waste of penance of the foolish! The muni took her to the hermitage and affectionately reared her whose appearance was simple and gentle, trembling-eyed like a doe. While the ascetic counted the days on his fingers, she attained youth, the beautiful pleasure-grove of Kandarpa. Making a blazing fire a witness, Muni Jamadagni married her properly, like Bhūteśa (Śiva) Pārvatī.

At the time for conception he said to her, “I will prepare an oblation that a son may be born, fortunate, head of the Brahmans.” She said, “My sister is the wife of King Anantavīrya in Hastināpura. Prepare an oblation belonging to Kṣatriyas for her.” He prepared an oblation suitable for Brāhmans for his wife, and another suitable for Kṣatriyas for her sister to eat to obtain a son. She reflected, “Though I became a forest-doe, may my son not be like me,” and ate the Kṣatriya-oblation. She gave the Brāhman-oblation to her sister. Sons were born to both, Rāma to Reṇukā and Kṛtavīrya to her sister.

One day a Vidyādhara came there, suffering from dysentery. He had forgotten his magic art for going through the air because of the pain from the dysentery. He was cured by Rāma, like a brother, by medicines, et cetera and gave the magic art of the axe (pāraśarī) to Rāma who had attended him. Going into a cane-field, Rāma subjugated the magic art and from that time was known as Paraśurāma.

One day Reṇukā took leave of her husband and, eager for her sister, went to Hāstinapura. Nothing is at a distance for affection. Caressing the tremulous-eyed Ṛeṇukā with the thought, “She is my wife’s sister,” Anantavīrya enjoyed her. Surely love is unchecked. The king experienced a wealth of pleasure and happiness at will with the sage’s wife, like Purandara with Ahalyā.[4] A son was born to Reṇukā from Anantavīrya, as to Mamatā, wife of Utathya, from Bṛhaspati.[5] The muni took Reṇukā with that son home. For people infatuated with women generally see no fault. Paraśurāma, angered, killed her and her son, like a vine that had borne fruit at the wrong time, with the axe. When the news was told to Anantavīrya by her sister, it kindled anger, like wind a fire. Then King Anantavīrya, whose strength of arm was irresistible, went to Jamadagni’s hermitage and destroyed it, like a mad elephant. After terrifying the ascetics and taking the cows, et cetera, he returned, marching very, very slowly like a lion. When Paraśurāma had heard the confusion of the terrified ascetics and had learned the story, angered, he ran like Death visible to the eye. The son of Jamadagni, eager for battle with troops of soldiers, cut him (Anantavīrya) to pieces, like a piece of wood, with the sharp axe.

Kṛtavīrya, powerful, though he was young, was established in his kingdom by the ministers. His chief-queen was starry-eyed Tārā and they enjoyed pleasures unhindered, like gods.

Footnotes and references:


I.e., a recent convert. Cf. Kathākośa, pp. 22 ff.


Cf. I, 321.


Defined by PH as ‘a man in the state between a Jain sādhu and a layman.’ I.e., a layman who is very advanced in indifference to worldly matters, almost a sādhu.


Ahalyā was the wife of the sage Gautama and was seduced by Indra.


The epic version of the story is found in Mahābhārata 1.104.

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