Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Loss of the kingdom which is the tenth 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.

Kūbara, the firebrand of his family, desiring the kingdom, searched for a trick against Nala, like a female demon against a good man. Nala had always been devoted to gambling, although well-behaved. Even the moon has a spot. Where is the jewel without a flaw? With the thought, ‘I shall win this country,’ hard-hearted Kūbara enticed Nala into playing with dice all the time. They played a great deal of time at gambling with dice and the winnings of both advanced like the knot of a ḍamaru.[1]

One day Nala, though expert in gama, cara, bandha, mokṣa, bewildered by fate, was not able to defeat Kūbara. The dice, even though wishing to do so, did not fall favorably to Nala and cruel Kūbara took his men again and again. Nala lost villages, poor towns, towns with earthen walls, et cetera gradually and he was being deprived of his wealth like a pool of its water in summer.

All the people were depressed when Nala did not stop gambling but Kūbara rejoiced exceedingly at his wish being fulfilled. Devoted to Nala, the people began to say ‘Ha! Ha!’ and Davadantī, hearing this lamentation, went there. She said:

‘Lord, I beg you, favor me. Stop gambling. The dice are hostile to you, like enemies. Wise men make use of gambling like visiting a courtesan, merely for sport, lord, but not to blind themselves in this way. Give a choice kingdom to Kūbara, your younger brother, yourself. Do not cause criticism of yourself by people saying, “(His) wealth was taken away by force.” For your land, which was won by hundreds of battles, to be lost by gambling grieves me exceedingly, Your Majesty, like a needle that has entered my ear.’

Nala did not hear her speech nor even see her, like an elephant that has reached the tenth stage of rutting.[2] Scorned completely by her husband, weeping, Davadantī said to the family-ministers and others: ‘Stop Nala from gambling.’ Their speech, also, did not have the slightest effect on Nala, just like an herb on one struck by lightning. Nala became a fire, no less. His kingdom having been lost in gambling, he lost his harem, even including Davadanū. When all his property had been lost, Nala took all his ornaments, et cetera, from his person, like one who intends to become a mendicant.

Then Kūbara said to Nala: ‘Do not stay here. Leave my country. The kingdom, was given to you by our father; it has been given to me by dice.’ Saying to him, ‘Wealth is not far away for the powerful. Do not be arrogant,’ Nala then set forth, taking no property except an upper garment.

To Bhaimī clinging to Nala, Kūbara said in a terrible voice: ‘I won you at gambling. Do not go. Ornament my harem.’ Then the ministers and others said to hard-hearted Kūbara: ‘Bhaimī, a virtuous wife, does not touch even the shadow of another man. Do not put her in the harem. For the wife of an elder brother is like a mother. Even the children recite: “The elder brother is the same as a father.” If you do so by force, then Bhīma’s daughter, a virtuous woman, will reduce you to ashes. Nothing is difficult for virtuous women. Do not consent to such an unworthy thing by angering this good wife, but on the contrary encourage her to follow her husband. There is no question of your giving villages, walled towns, et cetera to Nala. So give him a chariot with a charioteer and provisions.[3] Thus addressed, Kūbara dismissed Bhaimī with Nala and gave them a chariot with provisions and a charioteer.

Nala said: ‘What desire for a chariot have I, by whom the wealth gained by conquest of half of Bharata was abandoned in play?’ The ministers, servitors for a long time, said to Nala: ‘We would follow you, but Kūbara prevents. Your younger brother has received the kingdom from you. He must not be abandoned by us. He, who in this family is king, must be served by us. For that is the custom. Since we are not able to go with you, long-armed one, Davadantī alone is now your wife, minister, friend, and footman. How will you lead Bhīma’s daughter, whose body is as delicate as the śirīṣa, by whom a good wife’s conduct is promised, on the road on foot? How will she touch the road, with grains of sand blazing with heat of the sun, with her feet resembling the inside of a lotus? So, take the chariot, lord. Please favor us. Get into it with the queen. The road is safe. Good luck to you.’

Begged by the ministers again and again in this way, Nala got into the chariot with Davadantī and departed. When the women of the town saw Davadantī with one garment, as if ready for a bath, they wept, their bodices soiled by their tears. Going through the city Nala saw a pillar five hundred cubits high, resembling the post of the elephants of the quarters. As if he did not know any pain from the loss of the kingdom, Nala lifted it up easily from curiosity, like an elephant lifting a plantain tree. Again Nala set the pillar in the same place, as if teaching a kingly practice named, ‘Digging up and resetting.’[4]

When the townspeople saw that, they said: ‘Oh! Nala has great strength. Even though he is strong, he has troubles. Surely fate is the reason. In the past when he was playing with Kūbara in the garden Naga, a great sage came, a depository of the jewels of knowledge.

He declared: “Nala will be lord of the southern half of Bharata from the power of a gift of milk to a muni in a former birth. Whoever shall move a pillar five hundred cubits high in the center of the city, will certainly be lord of half of Bharata.” The two things agree—that Nala became lord of Bharata and that he moved the pillar, which was seen by our own eyes. But what he said, “While Nala lives, no one else will be king of Kośalā,” has turned out to be a contradiction. Or rather, his speech will be true with proof (already) seen. Who knows whether or not Kūbara will rejoice or whether Nala will be king here again sometime? May the merit of Nala of good fame increase in every way.’

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

The ḍamaruka is a small drum shaped like an hour-glass, with a string at the center with a knot in its end. When the drum is shaken, the knot strikes the ends of the drum alternately.

[2]:

I can find nothing on 10 stages of rutting. Seven stages are frequently described. See I, n. 359 and Edgerton, The Elephant-Lore of the Hindus, pp. 32, 82-85.

[3]:

Cf. IV, p. 219 and n. 153.

[4]:

I have not located this elsewhere.

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