Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Journey to Kundina which is the eleventh 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.

Hearing the people talk to this effect, Nala abandoned the city Kośalā, his chariot bathed in tears by Davadantī weeping. Naiṣadhi said to his wife, ‘Where are we going now, queen? For the course of intelligent persons is not without reference to some place.’

Vaidarbhī said, her mind sharp as the tip of darbha-grass: ‘Majesty, go to Kuṇḍina. There favor my father by becoming his guest.’ Instructed accordingly by Nala, the charioteer, a receptacle of devotion, urging the horses, entered the country adorned by Kuṇḍina. Nala arrived at a forest with mountain-caves terrible with the roars of tigers, cruel with serpents, crowded with hundreds of wild animals, filled with Bhillas who were hunters, its surface uneven with tusks of forest-elephants killed by lions, the play-ground of Yama, as it were.

Going ahead he saw Bhillas with bows drawn to their ears, cruel, resembling messengers of Yama, approaching. Some of the Bhillas danced, as if engaged in a drinking-party; some played a horn, resembling elephants with one tusk; some made a confused noise, like dancers on a stage, et cetera; some rained arrows, like clouds streams of water; others slapped their hands, like wrestlers in combat;[1] all together surrounded Nala, like dogs an elephant. Quickly Naiṣadhi descended from the chariot, drew his sword from its scabbard, and made its blade dance in his fist like a dancer on a stage. Bhīma’s daughter also left the chariot, took Nala by the arm, and said: ‘What is this challenge on your part to these people, like that of a lion to hares? Naiṣadhi’s sword, the abode of the Śrī of victory over half of Bharata, will be shamed by being employed against these cattle.’

After saying this, Bhīma’s daughter gave menacing shouts repeatedly, like a sorceress in a circle,[2] to accomplish her wishes. These menacing shouts given by Bhaimī became sharp iron needles, when they entered the Bhillas’ ears, by her power. All the Bhillas fled in every direction and they (Nala and Davadantī) went far from their chariot, while pursuing them.

Now their chariot was seized by other Bhillas. What can heroism do when fate follows a crooked course? Nala took Bhaimī by the hand, recalling the handtaking festival (at the marriage-ceremony), and wandered in this terrible forest. Vaidarbhī made the ground of the forest marked with cochineal, as it were, by the drops of blood dripping from her feet pierced by darbha grass. Formerly Bhaimī’s head was bound by a tiara;[3] but then Nala bound her feet by tearing up his own garment. Nala fanned Bhīma’s daughter, who sat exhausted under a tree, with a fan made from the end of his garment. Nala made quickly a cup from leaves of the palāśa and gave a drink of water to her, like a thirsty maina in a cage.

Bhīma’s daughter asked him; ‘How big, now, is this forest? My heart trembles as if to break in two here.’ Nala replied: ‘This forest lasts for a hundred yojanas, dear. We have covered just five yojanas. Take courage.’ While they were proceeding in the forest, talking to this effect, the sun set, as if emphasizing the impermanence of prosperity.

Nala gathered aśoka blossoms, stripped them of stalks and, intelligent, made a couch for Davadantī. He said to his wife: ‘Lie down and adorn the couch. Give a chance to sleep. It is a friend for forgetting pain.’ Bhaimī said; ‘King, I think there is a village not far from here to the west. Listen to the lowing of the cows. Going on a little, we shall go to this village and pass the night comfortably asleep there.’ Nala said: ‘Timid lady, that is a hermitage of ascetics. They, wrong-believers, are always associated with unfavorable consequences. For right belief is spoiled just by meeting (Brahman) ascetics, like good milk by vinegar, slender-waisted lady. Sleep comfortably here. Do not think of them. I shall be your guard like the chamberlain himself.’

Remembering his wife’s cotton covering, Nala threw half of his upper garment on the couch of blossoms. After homage to the god, the Arhat, and recalling the formula to the five,[4] Vaidarbhī lay there like a haṃsī on the bank of the Gaṅgā. When Vaidarbhī’s eyes were sealed in sleep, Kośalā’s lord felt anxiety like a whirlpool in the ocean of calamity.

‘They are the basest of men who take refuge with their father-in-law. How can Nala go to the house of Davadantī’s father? Therefore, making my heart adamant, deserting my wife, assuming firmness, I shall go elsewhere at random like a poor man. From the power of her virtue no calamity will happen to Bhaimī. For the virtue of good women is an eternal charm for the protection of their bodies.’

With these thoughts the king drew his knife and cut off half his upper garment and wrote on Bhaimī’s garment words in his blood: ‘The road marked by a banyan tree goes in the direction of the Vidarbhas. The road to the left of it goes to the Kośalas. By one or the other go to the house of your father or father-in-law, lady pure in heart. But I can not endure to stay anywhere, discerning lady.’

After writing these words, weeping soundlessly, Nala began to go forward with a secret step like a thief. Nala went ahead, with his head turned, looking at his wife asleep, until he could not see her. He thought:’ If a tiger or a lion, thin from hunger, should cat her, young, unprotected, lying in the forest, what to do? Keeping her in sight, I shall guard her during the night. At dawn she can go on the road she prefers of the two roads I described.’

Retracing his steps like a man who has dropped something, after seeing his wife resting on the ground, Nala again considered: ‘Davadantī, with one garment alone, sleeps on the road. Alas for Nala’s harem that never sees the sun in such a state! Alas! as the evil result of my actions this wellborn woman has reached such an unfortunate state. What shall I, hopeless, do? Even with me present as a companion, she lies on the ground like a crazed person, like an unprotected person, she who had the best couch. Still Nala lives. Deserted by me, alone, when awakened, the fair-eyed woman will die as if in rivalry with me, though I am (in fact) alive. I can not endure going elsewhere after deceiving her, devoted (to me). Let there be either life or death with her. Or rather, I, like a hell-inhabitant, shall be a vessel of many woes in this forest which resembles hell. So let me be alone. The fail-eyed woman, following the instructions I wrote on her garment, going herself to the house of her own people, will live comfortably.’

With this determination Naiṣadhi passed the night and at daybreak withdrew from his wife with hasty step.

In the last part of the night with a gentle dawn-breeze fragrant from blooming lotuses, Davadantī saw a dream as follows: ‘After climbing a mango tree with fruit, flowers, leaves, I ate its fruit, listening to the humming of bees. Suddenly the tree was uprooted by a forest-elephant and I fell to the ground like a bird’s-egg.’ Bhaimī awoke then and, not seeing Nala before her, looked everywhere, like a doe lost from the herd.

She thought: ‘An unavoidable calamity has happened since my husband has left me unprotected in the forest. Or has my husband gone to some lake at dawn to bring water for washing the face? Or has Nala been led away for dalliance by some Khecarī who importuned him constantly, eager at sight of his beauty? I think he, playing for some time, has remained, defeated by her in a wager made on his staying, since he does not come now. The trees, the mountains, the forest, the earth-only lotus-eyed Nala I do not see.’ So exhausted by anxiety, she looked and looked in all directions and, not seeing her husband, she thought about her dream: ‘The mango was King Nala; the fruit, flowers, et cetera, were the kingdom; the enjoyment of the fruit was the pleasures of the kingdom; the bees were my attendants; the uprooting of the mango tree by the forest-elephant—my husband was banished from his kingdom by fate, having uprooted him; my falling from the tree—I have been separated from Nala. Indeed, according to the dream, the sight of Nala will be hard to attain.

After she had decided on the meaning of the dream, she, intelligent, though: ‘Two things have happened to me. I have neither kingdom nor husband.’ The starry-eyed woman lamented very loud at the top of her voice. Whence is there any fortitude of women who have fallen upon an evil fate? ‘Oh! Husband, why have you deserted me? Was I a burden to you? For a snake’s own skin surely is not a burden to the snake. Or have you hidden somewhere in a thicket of creepers for a joke? Show yourself. For a joke does not give pleasure for a long time. I beg you—be gracious to me, goddesses of the forest. Show me my husband or the road purified by him. Earth, open in two like a ripe melon. I shall enter the chasm given by you and attain rest.’

With these lamentations Bhaimī, weeping, watered the forest-trees with her tears like a canal with its water. She did not have a moment’s rest without Nala on water or on dry land, in shade or in the sun, as if suffering from fever. As she was roaming in the forest, she saw and read the words on the border of her garment, her lotus-eyes blooming with joy. She thought: ‘I surely am the haṃsī to the full pool of his heart. Otherwise, how could I be the abode of the favor of his commands? I think a husband’s command is superior to a guru’s command. The people here (will be) entirely harmless to me executing his command. So I shall go to my father’s house, the source of comfortable living. Without the husband his house is only a source of humiliation to women. Even with my husband I would like to go to my father’s house. Now especially, I shall go to it, obedient to my husband’s command.’

With these thoughts Bhaimī began to advance on the road with the banyan tree, seeing Nala’s words like Nala standing at her side. Tigers with open mouths, even though they had got up to eat her, were not able to go near her like a fire. Serpents could not approach her like a snake-charm embodied, not even rising from the ant-hill as she went along hastily. Elephants, though attacking their own shadows with their tusks with the idea they were other elephants, though rutting, went far from her like a lioness. No other calamities happened to her on the road. Everywhere there is good fortune of women who are devoted to their husbands.

With her hair disheveled like a Pulinda woman;[5] stained with the water of perspiration, as if she had recently bathed her whole body; with blood dripping from contacts with thorny trees such as the acacia and jujube, like an olibanum wet with its running resin; having another skin, as it were, of dust acquired from the road; going fast, fast, like a cow-elephant terrified by a forest-fire, she saw a caravan camped on the road, crowded with carts, ct cetera, magnificent as a king’s camp.

She thought: ‘If I meet a caravan, it would be a boat on the sea of the forest because of my wealth of merit.’ Just as she was feeling safe, bandits surrounded the caravan on all sides, like asuras an army of gods. When the members of the caravan saw the army of thieves approaching like a plague consisting of thieves, they were terrified. For fear is easily experienced by the wealthy.

Nala’s wife, like a household-deity said: ‘Listen, people of the caravan! Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid!’ She addressed the thieves: ‘Evil-minded villains, go! This caravan is under my protection. You will experience a calamity.’ The robbers paid no attention to Davadantī saying this, as if she were crazy or possessed by a demon. Then the daughter of the king of Kuṇḍina uttered menacing shouts destroying the insolence of the thieves for the sake of the caravan. The bandits fled when shouts, by which the forest was deafened, were heard, like crows at the sound of a bow.

‘She is some goddess, surely, attracted by our merit. She protected us from the robbers,’ the people of the caravan said. The leader of the caravan bowed to her like a mother with devotion and asked, ‘Why do you wander here in the forest? Who are you?’ Bhaimī tearfully told her whole story beginning with Nala’s gambling to the caravan-leader like a brother. The caravan-leader said, ‘You are deserving of honor from me because you are the wife of long-armed King Nala. Today I am happy. We have been won by your aid in protection from the robbers. So purify my camp, that a little may be done for you.’ With these words the caravan-leader led Bhaimī to his own tent and made her rest, worshipping her like a goddess.

Then the cloud rained an unbroken stream, spreading a loud thunder like a prologue to the play of the rainy season. The earth became everywhere like a garden with canals because of the streams of water flowing without interruptions here and there. The earth nearby seemed to be made of playing flutes and drums from the croaks of the frogs from the natural pools filled with water. Everywhere in the forest the mud, fulfilling the pregnancy-whims of the sows, created boots on the feet of travelers. For three nights there was heavy rain without interruption. Bhaimī stayed there comfortably as if she had reached her father’s house.

When the cloud had stopped raining, Davadantī, virtuous, left the caravan and again went on alone as before. As Bhīma’s daughter, a faithful wife, had engaged in fasts of one day. et cetera from the day of Nala’s banishment, she traveled the road slowly, slowly. She saw a Rakṣas with tawny hair like a peak with a forest-fire burning, his mouth terrible with the flame of his tongue like a cruel snake, with hands cruel as knives, with emaciated feet as long as palm trees, black as the darkness of amāvāsyā as if made of collyrum, wearing a tiger-skin as a garment, terrible even to the terrible, like a son of Yama (Pitṛpati).

The Rākṣasa said: ‘After a long time food is at hand for me lean-bellied from hunger. I shall eat you quickly.’ Though terrified, Nala’s wife gathered resolution and said: ‘Hear my story and do as you please. Certainly every one born must die. Let the one whose purpose is unaccomplished be afraid of death. But there is no fear of death on my part, a devout Jain from birth, my purpose accomplished. Do not touch another man’s wife. Even if you touch me, you will have no pleasure in it because of my curse, fool, I am such a person. Consider for a moment.’

Delighted By Vaidarbhī’s courage the Rākṣasa said, ‘Fair iady, I am satisfied. What can I do to help you?’ She said,

‘If you are satisfied, demon Rākṣasa, I ask you, tell me when I shall join my husband.’ Knowing by clairvoyance, the Rākṣasa told her: I At the end of twelve years from the day of banishment, illustrious lady, King Nala will come himself and meet you living in your father’s house. Now take courage. Fair lady, if you say so, I shall take you in half a second to your father’s house. Do not exhaust yourself on the road.’ She said: ‘I am satisfied by the prediction of Nala’s coming. I can not go with another man. Good luck to you. Go!’ After showing his own brilliant form, he flew up in the air instantly like a mass of lightning.

After she knew that her husband’s banishment would last for twelve years, she made various vows, shoots of the tree of virtuous wifehood, such as: ‘Until Nala is united with me, I will not use red garments, betel, ornaments, ointment, and luxurious food.[6] Bhaimī reached a cave in the mountain and, devoid of fear, prepared to spend the rainy season right there. She herself made a clay image of Śāntinātha and set it up in a corner of the cave as well as in her own spotless mind. Bhīma’s daughter brought flowers she had gathered herself and worshipped the statue of the sixteenth Arhat three times a day. At the end of the fasts, the one-day fast, et cetera, a devout lay woman, she broke her fast with pure fruit without seeds, knowing (what was permissible).

The caravan-leader, not seeing Nala’s wife in the caravan, went after her, thinking, ‘I hope she is safe.’ The caravan-leader reached the cave and saw Davadantī worshipping the Arhat’s image with concentration. When he saw that Bhaimī was safe, the caravan-leader bowed joyfully and sat down on the ground, his eyes wide open from astonishment. Bhaimī completed the Arhat’s pūjā and conversed with the caravan-leader and made inquiries about his welfare in a nectar-sweet voice.

Some ascetics, who lived near and had heard her words, went there in haste and stood with ears pricked up, like deer. The cloud began to rain, beating the earth everywhere with streams of water like spades, hard to bear. They cried out, ‘We are being killed by these streams of water like arrows. Where can we go? Where can this water be avoided?’

Seeing these ascetics running away like wild animals, Bhaimī said, ‘Do not fear! Do not fear! in a loud voice. After making a trench in a circle around them, the daughter of Kuṇḍina’s king, the best of virtuous wives, declared firmly in a charming voice: ‘If I am a virtuous wife; if I am devoted to the Arhat: if I am honest, may the clouds rain elsewhere than inside this trench. ‘At that very time by the power of virtue of Bhaimī’s daughter the water did not fall inside the trench, as if an umbrella were held over it. Soon the mountain shone everywhere washed by the water, spotless, like a dark-bodied elephant bathed in a river. The mountain-caves became entirely filled with water, while the cloud was raining, like works of merit[7] of the Śrī of water. Seeing that, they all thought, ‘She is surely some goddess. No human has such a form, nor such power.’

Pure-minded Vasanta, the caravan-leader, asked her, ‘Mistress, tell who is this god you worship?’ Bhaimī explained: ‘O caravan-leader, this god is the Arhat, Supreme Lord, Lord of Three Worlds, a wishing-tree for the prayers of living beings. Worshipping him, I stay here without fear. By his power tigers, et cetera here have no power over me.’

After explaining the true nature of the Arhat, Vaidarbhī taught the Arhatsdharma, non-injury et cetera, to Vasanta, the caravan-leader. Vasanta accepted the dharma taught by her and said joyfully, ‘By good fortune a cow of plenty for dharma, have been seen.’ The ascetics also accepted that dhaima, consisting of knowledge of what is to be rejected, what is to be accepted, as if it were sewn in their minds, because of her speech. Imbued with her dharma, they blamed their own (Brahman) ascetic-dharma. Whom does vinegar please when he has obtained a drink of milk?

The caravan-leader Vasanta founded a city on that very place, resembling the city of Purandara, which is not abandoned by the wealthy. Because five hundred ascetics were enlightened here the city was called everywhere Tāpasapura. Knowing his own advantage, making his own wealth fruitful, the caravan-leader built a shrine to Śrī Śāntinātha in that city. The caravan-leader, all the ascetics, the whole people, passed the time, devoted to the Arhats dharma.

One day at night Nala’s wife saw on the mountain-peak a light compared with which the sun was like a spark. Bhaimī saw gods, asuras, and Vidyādharas flying up and down like birds. Awakened by the noise of their cries, ‘Hail! Hail!’ the merchants and ascetics watched, their faces upturned from astonishment. Vaidarbhī with the merchants and ascetics climbed the mountain which had the form of a staff between heaven and earth. They saw the omniscience-festival, undertaken by the gods, of Muni Siṃhakeśarin whose omniscience had taken place there. After paying homage to the great muni together with the twelvefold āvarta,[8] they sat down at his feet, like travelers at the foot of a tree.

Footnotes and references:


A form of challenge still in use. Cf. I 125 and n. 164.


Cf. I, n. 186.


With a double meaning of paṭṭabandha as ‘tiara’ and a ‘bandage of cloth.’


The 5 Parameṣṭhins. Sec I, n. 71. It is usually called simply ‘namaskāra.’


Pulinda is the name of a barbarous tribe.


Vikṛti—wine. meat, honey, and butter. Pravac. p. 58, com. to 246.


Such as digging a well.


Āvarta is a form of homage in which the devoté recites a sūtra, at six points in which he. touches the feet of the guru if present. The sūtra is repeated, so making twelve āvartas. It must be done daily by sādhus, but the “guru” need not be an individual, present in person. In that case the devoté touches the ground. Paṭcaprati., Suguruvandanasūtra, pp. 72 ff.

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