Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Episode of the swan which is the fourth part of chapter III 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.

One day as the gazelle-eyed maiden was sitting comfortably in her house, she saw a rājahaṃsa[1] that had come suddenly. She noticed that his bill, feet, and eyes were red as the shoots of the aśoka; that he was white as balls of new sea-foam; that his neck was wreathed with little golden bells; that his voice was beautiful and that he danced, as it were, in his gait. She reflected:

“Surely he is the source of amusement for some one of much merit. Why is this ornament of birds outside his master’s jurisdiction? Let the swan belong to any master whatever, he shall be for my amusement. My soul longs for him intensely.”

Then the maiden with a swanlike gait herself seized the swan that was clinging to the window, resembling an auspicious chaurī of Śrī. The lotus-eyed maiden caressed the swan slowly with her lotus-hand with a gentle touch, as if he were a toy-lotus. With her hand soft as a śirīṣa she stroked his spotless tail like a child’s bunch of hair.

Kanakavatī said to her companion: “Bring me a wooden cage that I may put him in it. Birds do not remain in one place.” When the companion had gone to get a wooden cage, the swan began to speak in human language. “Princess, you are discerning. Do not put me in a cage. I shall tell you something about your husband. Release me.” Astonished at seeing the swan speaking in a human voice, she said to him respectfully as if he were a favored guest who had come: “On the contrary, you are worthy of favor, swan. Name my husband. News, being half-told, is sweeter than sugar.”

The swan related: “In the city Kośalā there is a daughter of Kośala, a lord of Khecaras, named Sukośalā, who resembles a goddess. Sukośalā’s husband is a young man, the abode of the very essence of beauty. The delineation of all beautiful persons is suspended by anyone who has seen him. Sukośalā’s husband has an extraordinary beauty, fair lady. There is beauty equal to his, if in a mirror, not otherwise. As this young man is the crest-jewel of men because of his wealth of beauty, likewise you are the crest-jewel of women, proud lady. Seeing the beauty of you both, with the desire for you two to meet I have described him to you, after describing you fully to him. You have been depicted to him so that, when he has heard of your svayaṃvara, he will come to it himself, fair lady. You should recognize him in the midst of many in the svayaṃvara, like the lord of the constellations (moon) among the constellations, by his great splendor. So free me. Good fortune will be yours; but blame, if I am held captive. The venerable Creator, as it were, exerts himself for a husband for you.”

Kanakavatī thought: “This is no ordinary man taking the form of a swan for amusement. Through him I shall find a husband.” She released him from her hand. Flying up through the air, he dropped in her lap a picture and said: “Here is a painting of the young man as he is, fair lady. After seeing a picture of him, you can recognize him, when he has come here.” Kanakavatī, delighted, joined her hands in supplication and said to him: “Who are you? Favor me a little by telling your name.”

The Khecara, who had the gait of a swan, dangling golden earrings, divine unguents, and ornaments, said, speaking truthfully: “I am a Khecara, named Candrātapa, beautiful lady, eager for service to your future husband. By the power of a magic art, I shall tell you something else, innocent lady. On the day of the svayaṃvara he will come to you as a messenger of another.”

She, having received a blessing, dismissed the Khecara saying this and reflected, “By good fortune this speech of the god suits me.” The picture, like an eye, was made the place of the opening and shutting of the eyes by her, unsatiated with the sight of her husband in the picture. Now the girl, grieved by the pain of separation, put the picture on her head, now on her throat, now on her heart, like a piece of plantain.[2]

At that time Candrātapa, eager for their meeting went to the Vidyādhara-city, adorned with Vidyādharas. By the very great power of magic arts, unstumbling like the wind, he entered at night the bed-chamber occupied by Vasudeva. He saw Vasudeva and his wife lying on a couch ornamented with swansdown, with white covers. He approached to serve Śauri, who was lying comfortably on the pillow of a Vidyādharī’s arm, by rubbing his feet. Śauri, even though enjoying the comfort of sleep arising from weariness from pleasure, awoke immediately. For the best men arouse easily. When Yādava saw him, unexpected and at night too, he was not terrified nor angered, but he reflected:

“As this man was not hindered from service to me, he is either seeking protection or concerned about my affairs. If I should speak to him as he is tending my feet, even in a low voice, the queen, sleeping comfortably from fatigue from pleasure, would awaken. I can not disregard this person as he is occupied with service. Even if I were indifferent, I could not sleep, while he is here. So, I shall get up carefully without waking the queen and shall deal with this zealous man at a distance from the bed.”

Then Daśārha left the couch without shaking the bed by making his body light and sat down in another place. Candrātapa, his body adorned with jeweled ornaments, bowed to the tenth Daśārha with devotion, like a mere footman. Śauri regarded him saying: “I am Candrātapa, the Vidyādhara, who described Kanakavatī.” Daśārha embraced the Khecara, who deserved confidence, and asked him the reason for his welcome arrival.

Then Candrātapa, chief of the prudent, began to speak in a firm voice cool as moonlight. “After describing Kanakavatī as she is to you, scion of the Yadus, I have described you to her with a truthful account. By the power of magic art, I have painted you on canvas, lord, and delivered the canvas, sun to her lotus-face, to her. After looking at you on the canvas like a full moon, her eyes shed water from joy like moonstones. At once she put the canvas containing your image on her heart as if to share the pain of separation from you. With streaming eyes, like a mechanical doll, her palms put together in supplication, the end of her garment being waved from respect, she begged me: ‘Do not be indifferent to wretched me. I have no other friend but you. By all means bring this man to my svayaṃvara.’ Lord, today is the tenth day of the dark fortnight. On the fifth day of the bright fortnight after this her svayaṃvara will take place in the forenoon. You should go to the svayaṃvara-festival. She, for whom the hope of meeting you is a life-saving drug, must certainly be favored by you.”

Vasudeva said: “Candrātapa, at dawn I shall do so, after taking leave of my own household. You should be delighted. Stay in the garden of the harem with the intention of going with me. You should see the fruit of your own efforts at her svayaṃvara, certainly.”

At these words the young Vidyādhara went away; but Vasudeva, experiencing great joy, went to sleep on the couch. At dawn Vasudeva took leave of his household, got permission of his women-folk to go, and went at dawn to Peḍhālapura. There King Hariścandra met the scion of the Yadus and lodged him in the garden Lakṣmīramaṇa. In that garden which was red from the shoots of the aśoka, fragrant with the trumpet-flower, smiling with the blossoms of the pandanus, perfumed with the saptacchada, rich with purple sugar-cane and orange trees, full of jasmine-buds, Śauri rested and diverted his eyes.

Then Kanakavatī’s father paid the honor suitable for his rank to ānakadundubhi (Vasudeva) entitled to honor. Lofty palaces and houses having been built first, Śauri remained in the garden and heard this legend: “In the past there was a samavāsaraṇa of Śrī Nami Svāmin, which was attended by gods, asuras, and kings in this garden. Lakṣmī, together with other goddesses, sported here in a dance before the Arhat. From that time it has been called ‘Lakṣmīramaṇa.’” In the temple there the scion of the Yadus worshipped, and paid homage to the lofty statues of the holy Arhats with divine gifts.

Then Śauri, calm, saw descending there an aerial car rich with jewels in all parts like a moving Sumeru; marked with a lac of banners like a tree with shoots; with a multitude of various elephants, makaras and horses like the ocean; with a splendor as if it sipped the brilliance of the sun; filled with the tumult of bards like the sky with thunder; with the roaring of clouds threatened by the noise of auspicious musical instruments; with all the Vidyādharas with heads erect.

Vasudeva asked a god who was standing in front, “To what god docs this car, suitable for Śakra, as it were, belong? Speak.” He said: “This belongs to Dhanada. He has got into it and now he descends among these mortals for a very strong reason. After he has worshipped the images of the Arhats in this shrine, he will go soon with the intention of seeing Kanakavatī’s svayaṃvara.” Then Śauri reflected: “Oh! Kanakavatī is fortunate, since even gods come to her svayaṃvara when it is undertaken.” Then Dhanada descended, worshipped, and paid homage to the images of the holy Arhats and had a concert performed.

“Oh! This god is noble and has merit, an advanced layman. Oh! the doctrine of the holy Arhats has a person fit for its promulgation. Oh! I am fortunate in whose range of vision this marvel took place.” Śauri reflected thus for a long time, his mind concentrated.

Footnotes and references:


A kind of haṃsa with red bill and feet. Abhi. 4.392.


Plantain is considered cooling.

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: