by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words
This page describes Seventh incarnation as Shankha which is the fourteenth part of chapter I of the English translation of the Neminatha-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Neminatha in jainism is the twenty-second Tirthankara (Jina) and one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.
In the last part of the night she saw in a dream, a full moon, white as a conch, entering her lotus-mouth; and she told her husband at dawn. The king was assured by experts: “According to the dream the queen will have a son, like the moon, by whom the darkness of all enemies will be destroyed.”
Now Aparājita fell and descended into her womb. At the right time she bore a son pure with all the favorable marks. His father named him Śaṅkha with a name that had been caused previously; and he grew up, tended by five nurses. He acquired all the arts with ease, making his teacher a mere witness, for they were innate in him, acquired in a former birth.
Vimalabodha’s jīva fell from Āraṇa and became Śrīṣeṇa’s minister’s son, Matiprabha by name, a depository of good qualities. He became attached to Prince Śaṅkha, like Mādhava to Manmatha, from playing in the sandpile with him and studying with him. Playing with this friend and with other princes in many various games, he (Śaṅkha) attained youth.
One day people living in the country at a distance came to Śrīṣeṇa with loud lamentations and declared:
“On the border of your territory there is a very rugged lofty mountain, Viśālaśṛṅga, marked with the river Candra-śiśirā. A village-chief, Samaraketu, lives in a fortress on it and he robs us fearlessly. Protect us from him, lord.”
Intending to depart to kill him, the king had the drum sounded. Prince Śaṅkha bowed to him and spoke with confidence:
“What is this disregard of yourself in the matter of a mere village-chief? An elephant would never kill a fly, nor a lion a hare. With your permission I shall capture him and bring him here, father. Give your commands. You yourself desist from marching, for that is a source of shame to you.”
Prince Śaṅkha was at once dismissed by the king after hearing this speech, and he went with an army to the vicinity of the village. The village-chief, best of schemers, left the fortress empty and went into hiding somewhere, when he heard that the prince was coming. Prince Śaṅkha, very shrewd, had one vassal enter the fortress-town with selected soldiers. He himself remained in hiding in a thicket with soldiers. The village-chief, always tricky, besieged the fortress. As he shouted, “Where are you going, sir prince?” the prince surrounded him with many soldiers.
The village-chief was attacked now by the king’s soldiers on the walls of the fortress and now by the prince’s soldiers, as he was placed between. Tying an axe on his neck, he went to the prince for protection and said: “You alone are a recompenser to me for deceitful counsels. Master, I will be your slave, like an evil spirit that has been subdued. Take everything of mine and receive me with favor.” Then the prince annexed all the loot that he had taken from any one whatever and took it himself as a fine from him.
The prince took the village-chief and turned back home. At night he stopped on the road and made camp. In the middle of the night while he was on his couch, he heard a pitiful sound and went to follow that same sound, with his sword as a companion. He saw before him a middle-aged woman crying and he said, “Do not cry. Tell me the cause of your sorrow.” Her confidence won by his appearance and speech, she said: “There is a king, Jitāri, in Campā in Aṅgadeśa. A daughter, Yaśomatī, the crest-jewel of women, was borne by his wife, Kīrtimatī, after many sons. As she, very fastidious, did not see any one at all who was a suitable husband, her eye did not take pleasure in any man. Śaṅkha, son of Śrīṣeṇa, fell in her range of hearing once and Manmatha took an abode in her heart at the same time.
Yaśomatī declared, ‘Śaṅkha alone shall marry me,’ and her father was delighted, thinking, ‘She has fallen in love suitably.’ When the king had sent messengers to Śrīṣeṇa on her account, a Vidyādhara-king, Maṇiśekhara, asked for her. King Jitāri replied, ‘She wishes no one except Śaṅkha.’ Then one day the basest of Vidyādharas kidnaped her. I am her nurse and, clinging to her arm, I came with her, and was forcibly abandoned here by the villain of a Khecara. He took the girl, the cream of worldly existence, away somewhere. Therefore I lament in this way. How will she keep alive?” The prince said, “Be of good courage. I shall defeat him and bring the princess here,” and he began to search, roaming through the great forest. Just as the sun rose on the eastern mountain, the prince reached Mt. Viśālaśṛṅga. In a wood on it he saw Yaśomatī talking to the Khecara who was begging her to marry him.
“Śaṅkha, whose merits are as brilliant as a conch, shall be my husband and no one else. Villain, why do you trouble me uselessly, seeker of the unsought?”
The prince was seen by them and the Khecara, delighted, said: “Your friend has come into my power, drawn by death, silly woman. Destroying him at the same time with your hope, giri, I shall marry you by force and take you to my house.”
Śaṅkha said to him talking in this way: “Get up, villain, kidnaper of another’s wife. I shall take off your head with a sword.” Then both fought, powerful, with swords raised, dancing with beautiful dance-steps, shaking the mountain, as it were. When he was not able to defeat the prince by strength of arm, then he fought with weapons made by magic art, balls of hot iron, et cetera. Because of the prince’s pre-eminent merit, some had no power and the prince broke some missiles with his sword. Then the prince took his bow from the Khecara, who was worn out and distressed, and pierced his breast with its own arrow. He fell to the ground in a faint like a tree whose root has been cut. Śaṅkha summoned him to fight again, after he had restored him by wind, et cetera.
The Khecara-lord said to him: “I, the chief of the undefeated, have been defeated by you, powerful sir. Certainly you are not an ordinary man. As Yaśomatī was gained by your merits, hero, I have been gained by your strength. Pardon my fault.”
The prince said: “I am charmed by your strength of arm and politeness, illustrious sir. Tell me, what can I do for you?” He said: “If you are graciously disposed, let us go to Vaitāḍhya. That would be a pilgrimage to the temple of the eternal Arhats for you and a favor to me.” Śaṅkha agreed to his suggestion and Yaśomatī, of whom a good understanding had developed, rejoiced at the thought, “I chose a husband of this kind.”
Khecaras who were soldiers of Maṇiśekhara approached and, informed of events, bowed to their benefactor, the prince. The prince sent two Khecaras and had his adventures made known to the army; and he despatched the army to Hastināpura quickly. He had Yaśomatī’s nurse brought there by Nabhaścaras; and Śaṅkha went with the nurse and Yaśomatī to Vaitāḍhya. There he worshipped the eternal Arhats in their temples and made many pūjās with Yaśomati.
Maṇiśekhara conducted the prince to Kanakapura, seated him in his house, and worshipped him like a deity. All the inhabitants of Vaitāḍhya came and looked at Śaṅkha and Yaśomati again and again as if they were something marvelous that had come. Other Khecaras there, delighted by the reward of victory over enemies, et cetera, became magnificent soldiers of the prince. They gave their daughters to him, but he answered, “I shall marry these after I have married Yaśomalī.” Then they, Maṇiśekhara and others, took their daughters and conducted Śaṅkha to Campā with Yaśomati. It was announced to Jitāri that a bridegroom, surrounded by Khecara-lords, had come with his daughter and he went to meet them, exceedingly rejoiced. After embracing Śaṅkha ardently, the king had him enter the city and married him to his daughter with a great festival. Then Śaṅkha married the daughters of the Vidyādharas, and made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Śrī Vāsupūjya with devotion. After dismissing the Khecaras, Śaṅkha remained there with his wives, Yaśomatī and others, and then went to Hastināpura.
Sūra and Soma fell from Āraṇa and became his younger brothers, Yaśodhara and Gaṇadhara, as in a former birth. One day King Śrīṣeṇa gave the earth to Śaṅkha and took the vow at the feet of Gaṇadhara Guṇadhara. As Śrīṣeṇa observed penance hard to perform, so Śaṅkha, with glory as brilliant as a conch, governed the earth for a long time.
One day the great muni, Śrīṣeṇa, whose omniscience had arisen, came there in his wandering, resplendent with the attendance of gods. King Śaṅkha came and paid homage to him with great devotion and then listened to a sermon resembling a boat for crossing the ocean of worldly existence. At the end of the sermon, Śaṅkha said: “I know from your teaching that in worldly existence no one belongs to any one, but is isolated. Nevertheless, why thiis [this/thus?] extreme affection for Yaśomatī on my part? Please explain, All-knowing. Instruct me ignorant.”
The omniscient explained: “In your birth as Dhana, she was your wife Dhanavatī; in Saudharma she was your friend; she was the wife Ratnavatī of Citragati; your friend in Māhendra; your wife Prītimatī in your birth as Aparājita; a god-friend in Āraṇa; in this seventh birth she became again your wife Yaśomatī. So your affection for her originated in other births. Now after going to Aparājita and falling, you will be the twenty-second Tīrthanātha, Neminātha, here in Bhāratavarṣa. She, named Rājīmatī, devoted to you without being married to you, will adopt mendicancy at your side and will attain emancipation. Yaśodhara and Guṇadhara, your brothers in former births, and your minister, Matiprabha, will become emancipated, after having attained the rank of gaṇadharas.”
Śaṅkha installed his son Puṇḍarīka on the throne and took the vow at his (Śrīṣeṇa’s) side with his brothers, Yaśomatī, and the minister. In course of time Śaṅkha finished his studies, practiced severe penance, and acquired Tīrthakṛtkarma by the sthānas, devotion to the Arhats, et cetera.
Footnotes and references:
By the moon white as a conch that his mother had seen. It was quite customary for a child to be named after something seen in a dream by his mother.
A sign of submission.
I.e., by fanning.
A palace in the highest heaven, the Pañcānuttara.
For the sthānas, see I, pp. 80 ff.