Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Story of Jatayus which is the ninth part of chapter V of the English translation of the Jain Ramayana, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. This Jain Ramayana contains the biographies of Rama, Lakshmana, Ravana, Naminatha, Harishena-cakravartin and Jaya-cakravartin: all included in the list of 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.

Part 9: Story of Jaṭāyus

One day two flying ascetics, Trigupta and Sugupta, came through the air at dinnertime. They approached to break their fast, after fasting for two months, and the three—Rāma, Sītā, and Lakṣmaṇa—paid homage to them devotedly. Sītā entertained them with suitable food and drink and then the gods made showers of rain and jewels. Then Ratnajaṭin, lord of the Vidyādharas of Kambudvīpa, and two gods came there and, delighted, gave Rāma a chariot with horses.

A bird, named Gandha, came there because of the fragrance of the shower of perfume, having come down from a tree, which he inhabited, ill. At the mere sight of the muni, memory of his births was produced and he fell on the ground in a swoon, and Sītā sprinkled him with water. When he had regained consciousness, he fell at the sādhu’s feet and was cured instantly by the magic art, the healing herb of touch,[1] of the sādhu. His wings became golden; his bill resembled coral; his feet were like rubies; and his body had the color of various jewels; his top-knots on his head resembled rows of pearls; and from that time the bird’s name was Jaṭāyus.

Rāma asked the sages: “The vulture is evil-minded from flesh. Why did he become quiet at your feet? Blessed Ones, formerly his body was very lusterless. Why now was the color of a heap of gold and jewels produced instantly?”

Sugupta related: “Formerly there was a city, Kumbhakārakaṭa, and its king, Daṇḍaka. At that time in Śrāvastī there was King Jitaśatru; his wife was Dhāriṇī, and their son was Skandaka. They had a daughter, Purandarayaśas, and Daṇḍaka, the lord of Kumbhakārakaṭa, married her. One day Daṇḍaka sent a messenger, a Brāhman named Pālaka, to King Jitaśatru, on some business. At that time Jitaśatru was devoted to the fellowship of the Arhats’ religion, but Pālaka, evil-minded, began to corrupt his religion. He, possessing false belief, hard-hearted, was silenced by Prince Skandaka by reasoning harmonizing with truth. At that time he was laughed at by the councilors and became angry at Skandaka. One day, dismissed by the king, he went to Kumbhakārakaṭa.

One day, Skandaka, disgusted with existence, together with five hundred rājputs took the vow under Munisuvrata. Saying, ‘I shall go to Kumbhakārakaṭa to enlighten Purandarayaśas and the people,’ he took leave of the Lord. The Lord said, ‘If you go there, an attack ending in death will be made on you and your retinue.’ ‘Shall we attain emancipation or not?’ Skandaka again asked Svāmin Munisuvrata. The Blessed One explained, ‘All except you will attain emancipation.’ Saying, ‘All this is accomplished,’ Skandaka set forth.

In course of time, Skandakācārya, accompanied by five hundred mumis, reached the city Kumbhakārakaṭa. Seeing him, cruel Pālaka, recalling his defeat, had weapons implanted in the ground in the gardens suitable for the sādhus. Skandakācārya stopped in one of, the gardens and Daṇḍaka came with his attendants to honor him. Skandaka delivered a sermon and many people rejoiced. At the end of the sermon King Daṇḍaka, delighted, went to his own house. Pālaka, evil-minded, went to the king secretly: ‘Master, Skandaka is certainly a hypocritical heretic. A great rogue, he has come here with a thousand soldiers in the guise of monks to kill you and take your kingdom. Let the king believe. this, when he has seen the weapons hidden secretly by the soldiers disguised as monks in the garden here, his own place.’ Then the king had the dwelling places of the monks dug up everywhere. He saw various weapons and was in deep despair. Without reflection the king instructed Pālaka: ‘You were well-informed, minister. I am furnished with eyes by you. You yourself know what is suitable to do to this scoundrel. Do that. Do not ask me again, noble sir.’

So instructed, Pālaka had a machine made quickly and crushed the sādhus one by one before Skandakq,. Even while they were being crushed Skandaka himself had them perform the right emancipation-rites accompanied by a sermon. When the youngest muni in the retinue was led to the machine, from compassion Skandakācārya said to Pālaka, ‘Crush me first. Do this request of mine, that I may not see the young muni being crushed.’ Knowing that Skandaka would suffer from his crushing, Pālaka had the boy-muni crushed to pain him. All became omniscient and attained an eternal abode. But Skandaka rejected that and made a nidāna: ‘May I be the means of destroying Daṇḍaka and Pālaka and their families and kingdoms, if there is fruit of penance.’ Having made this nidāna, he was crushed by Pālaka, and he became a god, a Vahnikumāra, like the fire at the end of the world for their destruction. A bird seized his broom[2] which was made from the thread of a choice blanket given by Purandarayaśas and which was soaked with blood. Though it had been seized really with an effort with the idea that it was an arm, it fell by chance in front of Queen Purandarayaśas. Then she knew the destruction of her brother, the great sage. ‘What crime have you committed, wretch?’ she reviled Daṇḍaka. The messenger-deity lifted her up, while she was immersed in grief, and took her to Munisuvrata; and she became a mendicant. The Agnikumāra, Skandaka, knowing his former birth by clairvoyance, burned King Daṇḍaka with Pālaka and the people of the city. From that time this cruel, uninhabited forest has been known over the earth as ‘Daṇḍakāraṇya’ from the name of Daṇḍaka.

After Daṇḍaka had wandered in existence in birth-nuclei which were mines of pain, he became the bird, Gandha, very ill because of his karma. Memory of his former births was produced by seeing us and the diseases were destroyed by our magic art, ‘the healing herb of touch.’”

Hearing that story, the bird, delighted, fell again at the muni’s feet, listened to dharma, and became a layman. The great muni, knowing his desire, made for him the vow to cease destroying life, eating flesh, and eating at night. The muni said to Rāma: “He is your co-religionist. Devotion to a co-religionist is described by the Jinas as conducive to happiness.” “He is our dearest brother,” Rāghava said and, after he had praised the munis, they flew up in the air and went elsewhere. Jānakī, Rāma, and Lakṣmaṇa mounted their divine chariot and wandered elsewhere for sport, accompanied by Jaṭāyus.

Footnotes and references:


See I, pp. 75 ff. and n. III. Our sparśauṣadhi, of course, = āmarśauṣadhi.


The broom made of wool which the monks carry.

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