Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Resumption of Nala story which is the sixteenth 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.

At the time when he left Vaidarbhī, wandering in the forest, Nala saw smoke rising up in one place from forest-undergrowth. The mass of smoke, black as collyrium, covered the sky, giving the impression—some mountain goes through the air with unclipped wings.[1] The smoke, terrible with a wreath of flame, became visible from the earth in a twinkling, resembling a cloud joined with lightning. Naiṣadhi heard the noise of the burning bamboos, traṭat, traṭiti, and cries of wild animals.

Then in the forest-fire aflame he heard human speech, ‘King Nala of the Ikṣvāku-line, best of warriors, save me. Even if you are a disinterested benefactor with duty to humanity, nevertheless, I shall reward you, king. Save me.’ Following the sound, Nala saw a serpent in a thicket of vines, saying, ‘Save me! Save me!’ He asked, ‘How did you know me, my name, my family? How do you have a human voice? Tell me, serpent.’ The serpent said: ‘I was a human in a former birth. From its practice in that birth my human speech results. I have brilliant clairvoyance and by it I know you, your name, your family, treasury of glory.’

Nala, in whom compassion was inspired, threw his garment over the thicket of creepers to pull out the trembling serpent. The serpent reached the end of the king’s garment resting on the ground and wrapped it with his coils like a ring with a hair. Nala drew up his garment with the serpent clinging to it, like a rope from a well. A king shares his eminence. When the king had gone to a place with saline soil[2] out of the range of the fire, the serpent bit him trying to set him free quickly, on the hand. Throwing the serpent on the ground like a drop of sweat, Nala said to him: ‘You, grateful, have done well. O serpent, you have well repaid me, your benefactor. Whoever gives milk to drink[3] to your tribe is bitten.’ As Nala was saying this, his body became hunchbacked like a strung bow, because of the poison spreading in his body. He had thin tawny hair like a demon; a hanging lip like a camel; thin hands and feet and a large belly like a poor man. Devoured by the snake’s poison, Nala was like an actor in a moment, the shape of his whole body changed disgustingly.

He reflected; ‘Life with this form is useless to me. So I shall take mendicancy which is beneficial for the next world.’ As Nala was reflecting to this effect, the serpent abandoned its serpent-form and became a god with a dazzling form, wearing divine ornaments and garments. He said:

‘Do not be depressed. I am your father, Niṣadha. At that time I gave you the realm and became a mendicant. As a fruit of mendicancy I became a god in Brahmaloka. By clairyoyance I saw you reduced to this condition. I assumed the form of a snake by magic and produced this change of appearance in the limbs of you fallen into wretched state, like a boil on the check. Such a change in appearance in your limbs had been produced by me as a benefit. Consider it as a drink of pungent medicine. All the kings have been enslaved by you. They, your enemies, will not threaten you unrecognizable from the change in form, now. Do not carry out your wish for mendicancy now. The earth, as large as it is, must henceforth be enjoyed by you for a long time, Nala.

I shall tell you the proper time for mendicancy like an astrologer. Henceforth, be at ease. Son, take this be! fruit and this jewei-case. Guard them as carefully as your ethics of a warrior. When you desire your ow n form, break open the bel. You will see inside it unspoiled garments of devadūṣya. At the same time you should open the jewel-case. In it you will see very beautiful ornaments, necklaces, et cetera, if you put on the devadūṣya-garments and the ornaments, at once you will haw your own form, the same one with a divine appearance.’

Nala asked him, ‘Father, is Davadantī, your daughter-in-law, in the same place where I left her, or has she gone elsewhere?’ The god told him the whole story of Bhaimī from that place up to her arrival at Vidarbha, describing her fidelity. He said to Nala: ‘Son, why are you wandering in the forest? I shall take you to any place where you wish to go.’ Nala said, ‘God, take me to Susumārapura.’ After doing so, the god went to his own abode.

Nala stood in the garden Nandana on the road near that city and saw a temple there that resembled a temple of the eternal Arhats. Entering that shrine, the hunchback saw inside it a statue of Naminātha and worshipped it, with hair erect from joy. Then Nala went to the gate of Susumāranagara and there a mad elephant was roaming about, after pulling up its tying-post. Its howdah being touched by the wind, it shook its howdah[4] and dragged down the birds even, trembling above, with his trunk. The elephant-men evaded his glance like that of a poison-serpent. He broke down the trees of the garden, like a mighty wind.

King Dadhiparṇa ascended the city-wall hastily, unable to control the elephant, and said aloud: ‘I will give what he wishes to anyone who will tame this uncontrolled elephant of mine. Sirs! Is there any one expert in the management of elephants?’ Hearing that, the hunchback said: ‘Where is he? Where is the elephant? I shall reduce him to submission, while you look on.’

As the hunchback was saying this, the elephant came, trumpeting very loud. The hunchback ran after him, scarcely touching the ground with his feet. The people said fittingly,

‘Do not die! do not die! Hunchback, escape! escape!’ but he went fearless as a lion. The hunchback ran forward, ran backward, flew up, rolled on the ground like a ball, deceiving the elephant. Seizing its tail again and again, powerful Nala exhausted the elephant, like a snake-charmer a snake. Nala, accustomed to fatigue, perceived that the elephant had become fatigued, quickly flew up like Garuḍa, and mounted the elephant, the best of riders.

Seated in the front of the howdah, he put his feet on the neck-rope and tightened its knot, striking the bosses with his palm. Waving the elephant-goad, the hunchback rode the elephant that was giving cries with mouth wide-open because of beating with the neck-rope. Then the people proclaimed, ‘Victory! Victory!’ and the king himself threw a gold chain around his neck. After Nala, powerful, had reduced the rogue-elephant to wax, as it were, he tied him to the elephant-post and got down by the girth.

Then Nala, whose glory was brilliant, not thinking about a bow (to the king), sat down near Dadhiparṇa, like a friend. Then Dadhiparṇa said to him: ‘O hunchback skilled in elephant-training, what else do you know? There is ability on your part. The hunchback said: ‘King, what else shall I tell you? I know a pudding cooked in the sun. Do you wish to sec it?’ The king went home and, curious about the sun-cooked pudding, gave the hunchback rice, vegetables, a condiment of mixed spices, et cetera. Nala put the saucepans in the heat of the sun, recalled the magic art Saurī and quickly made the divine pudding. The king and his retinue ate the pudding as delightful as if it had been bestowed by a special wishing-tree.

After tasting the pudding, which removed fatigue and gave extreme joy, King Dadhiparṇa said: ‘Nala and no one else knows a pudding like this. I have been acquainted with this for a long time, as I served Nala. Are you Nala with a changed appearance? Nala is not like this. How would he come a distance of two hundred yojanas? Why this solitariness of the king of half of Bharata? His beauty, as I saw it, surpassed that of god and Khecaras.’

Then the king, satisfied, gave the hunchback garments, ornaments, et cetera, a lac of coins and five hundred villages. The hunchback accepted all that except the five hundred villages and the king said, ‘What else can be given you, hunchback?’ The hunchback said: ‘Grant this wish of mine. Forbid hunting and wine-drinking, so far as you writ runs.’ The king honored his word and prevented even talk about hunting and wine-drinking in his jurisdiction.

One day King Dadhiparṇa said to the hunchback in private: ‘Who are you? Where have you come from?

Where do you live? Speak.’ The hunchback said: ‘I am King Nala’s cook, named Huṇḍika, in Keśalā. I studied the arts at his side. Nala lost the whole earth to his brother Kūbara in gambling and went to live in the forest with Davadantī. Nala died there and then I came to you. I did not resort to Kūbara, who is deceitful and does not appreciate merit.’ Struck in the heart by this news of Nala’s death like a thunderbolt, Dadhipurṇa cried out and also his retinue. King Dadhiparṇa performed Nala’s funeral rites, a cloud with the water of tears, and was watched by the hunchback with a constant smile.

One day King Dadhiparṇa sent a messenger for some reason to Davadantī’s father by the road of friendship. Entertained by Bhīma, living with him comfortably one day, the messenger, the best of speakers, told the news at the proper time: ‘Nala’s cook has come to my master. From Nala’s teaching he knows how to make the sun-cooked pudding.’ Hearing that, Davadantī, her ears pricked-up, said to her father: ‘send a spy and find out what sort of a person this cook is. No one except Nala knows the sun-cookcd pudding. Perhaps he is Nala himself, his identity concealed.’

Then the king summoned the best of Brahmans, named Kuśala, skilled in his master’s business and, after entertaining him, instructed him: ‘Go to Susumārapura and look at the king’s favorite. Find out what arts he knows and what he looks like.’ ‘The lord’s command is authority,’ saying, the Brahman started, urged on by good omens, and went to Susumārapura. Making repeated enquiries, he sat down near the hunchback. When he had seen the fully transformed figure, he became depressed.

He thought: ‘On the one hand, there is Nala; on the other hand, this man. On the one hand Merit; on the other, a mustard seed. Davadantī’s idea that this man is Nala is surely wrong. I shall find out definitely.’ After deliberating, he recited a couple of ślokas containing criticism of Nala: ‘Nala alone is chief of the cruel, shameless, weak, and wicked who abandoned his faithful wife. How have the feet of Naiṣadhi of little, wit, abandoning his wife asleep, alone, innocent, trusting, endured it?’ Hearing that recited again and again, recalling his wife, Nala wept, his lotus-eyes shedding tears without restraint.

Asked by the Brāhman, ‘Why do you weep?’ the hunchback said, ‘I weep at hearing your charming song with the emotion of compassion.’ Asked by the hunchback the meaning of the ślokas, the Brāhman told the story from the time of the gambling up to the coming of Vaidarbhī to Kuṇḍinapura. He said further: ‘Hunchback, a messenger from the lord of Susumāra described you to King Bhīma as a cook because of the sun-cooked pudding. Bhaimī, persuading her father with the words, “Nala and no one else has such a custom,” sent me to look at you. When I had seen you, I reflected: “On the one hand, you are an ugly hunchback; on the other hand, Nala with divine beauty; on the one hand, a firefly: on the other, the sun.” As I came, all the omens were favorable. All of them were false, since you are not Nala.’

Meditating on Davadantī, the hunchback, weeping more and more, importuned the Brāhman, took him to his house, and said, I What welcome can be given to you reciting the story of the virtuous Davadantī and the hero Nala?’ Saying this, he prepared a suitable welcome with bath, food, et cetera and gave him all the ornaments given by Dadhiparṇa.

Kuśala went duly to Kuṇḍina and described to Bhaimī’s father the hunchback just as he was. The Brāhman told how the hunchback tamed and mounted the elephant and about the sun-cooked pudding which he had seen. He told about the gold necklace, the lac of coins, the clothes, and ornaments given (him) by the hunchback and about his own singing of the ślokas. Bhaimī said:

‘Father, Nala has been found. Such a change in figure is the result of some defect in food or some fault of karma, surely. Such skill in elephant-training, such a wonderful gift, the sun-cooked pudding—these belong to no one except Nala. Father, by some means bring the hunchback here, that I may test him by observing gestures, et cetera.’

King Bhīma said: ‘Daughter, a man should be sent to Dadhiparṇa with the invitation to a fictitious svayaṃvara. Hearing of your svayaṃvara, Dadhiparṇa will come. He was eager for you in the first place, but Nala was chosen by you. The hunchback will come with Dadhiparṇa. If he is Nala, he will not allow you to be given to another. Nala is expert in horsemanship. If the hunchback is really Nala, driving the chariot himself, he will be recognized by the very chariot-horses. With him driving, the horses would be swift as the wind, like winds that had been embodied in the form of horses. A day dose at hand must be announced. Whoever comes then is Nala. For no one, to say nothing of Nala, endures the humiliation of his wife.’

King Bhīma summoned the lord of Susumāra by messenger for the fifth day.[5] Inclined to go, he reflected: ‘I want to win Bhaimī, but she is far away. How can I get there tomorrow? What shali I do?’ and he became miserable like a fish in too little water. The hunchback thought: ‘Bhaimī, a virtuous wife, does not desire another man. Or, if she should desire (one), who would take her, if I were present? I shall take Dadhiparṇa to Vidarbhā[6] in six watches, so my going with him will be casual.’ He said to Dadhiparṇa: ‘Do not grieve. Tell the reason. For there is no cure of a sick man for a disease undescribed.’ Dadhiparṇa said: ‘Hunchback, Nala is dead. Vaidarbhī will hold another svayaṃvara tomorrow. Her svayaṃvara will be on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of Caitra. How can I get there in the interval of only six watches? The messenger has come by that same road in many days. How can I go in a day and a half?[7] I long for Bhaimī in vain.’

The hunchback said: ‘O king, do not despair. I will take you quickly to Vidarbhā. Give me a chariot and horses.’ The king told him, ‘Take whatever you want,’ and the hunchback chose the best chariot and thoroughbred horses with all the good marks.

When Dadhiparṇa had seen his skill in everything, he thought: ‘He is no common man. He is a god or Khecara.’ After he had yoked the horses to the chariot, the hunchback said to the king, ‘Get into the chariot. I will have you in Vidarbhā at dawn.’ The king, his betel-box-bearer, umbrella-bearer, two chauri-bearcrs, and the hunchback—the six of them—got into the chariot which had been made ready. After tying the bel and the jewel-case on his hip with his garment and recalling the paṭcanamaskāra, the hunchback started the horses. The chariot with its horses in good condition advanced by Nala’s skill in horsemanship, like a god’s aerial car by its master’s thought.

Dadhiparṇa’s upper garment was blown off by the wind made from the speed of the chariot and it fell, as if used by it (the wind) to pay homage to Nala.[8] Dadhiparṇa said to the hunchback: ‘Stop the chariot for a minute. I want to get my scurf that has gone like a bird by the wind blowing it off.’ While King Dadhiparṇa was saying this to the hunchback, the chariot covered twenty-five yojanas. The hunchback said with a smile: ‘Where is your scarf, king? Twenty-five yojanas have been left behind, since the scarf fell. Indeed, these horses must be only second rate. If they were first-class, they would have gone fifty yojanas in so much time.’

King Dadhiparṇa saw in the distance a tree named akṣa[9] filled with fruit and he said to the charioteer: ‘I know without counting them how many fruits arc on this tree. I shall show you a marvel on the way back.’ The hunchback said: ‘King, are you afraid of the loss of time? Do not be afraid with me, expert in horsemanship, as your charioteer. With one blow of my fist I shall make all these fruits fall in front of you, like a cloud making fall drops of rain.’ The king said: ‘Make the fruit fall, indeed, hunchback. There are eighteen thousand of them. See a marvel.’

The hunchback knocked them down and the king counted them. There were just as many as he had said, not one more nor one less. The hunchback gave the magic art of horsemanship to Dadhiparṇa, who asked for it, and received from him fittingly the magic art of numbers. At dawn the hunchback-charioteer reached with the chariot the outskirts of Vidaibhā and King Dadhiparṇa’s face was blooming like a lotus.

Just then in the last part of the night Vaidarbhī saw a dream which she described to her father joyfully, just as it was. ‘I saw the goddess Nirvṛti[10] today at dawn, while I was comfortably asleep. She showed me in the sky a garden of Kośalā which she had brought here. At her command I climbed a mango tree which had flowers and fruit. She put a blooming lotus in my hand. When I had climbed the tree, a bird, which had gone up before, fell to the ground at once.’

Bhīma said: ‘Daughter, this is a very fine dream. Surely, the goddess Nirvṛti is your heap of merit which has matured. The garden of Kośalā seen in the air confers lordship over Kośalā on you. According to the climbing of the mango, you will soon meet your husband. The bird that had climbed there first and fell—King Kubara will doubtless fall from the throne. Prom seeing the dream at dawn, Nala will meet you today. For a dream at this time bears fruit quickly.’

At that very time King Dadhiparṇa arrived at the city-gate and a man, Maṅgala by name, announced to Bhīma that he had come. Bhīma approached Dadhiparṇa and embraced him like a friend. After showing him hospitality by giving him a house et cetera, he said:

‘Your cook, the hunchback, knows the sun-cooked pudding. Have him show it to me as I wish to see it. Enough of other conversation.’

Dadhiparṇa gave the hunchback orders about the pudding. He demonstrated it at once, like a wishing-tree. Bhīma and his attendants ate the pudding at Dadhiparṇa’s insistence to taste its flavour. Davadantī had a dish of the pudding brought and ate it. She knew from its flavor that the hunchback was Nala.

Bhaimī said: ‘Formerly an omniscient sūri told me that the sun-cooked pudding belonged to Nala alone here in Bharata. Whether this man is a hunchback; whether he is a dwarf; or whatever he may be, there is some reason for that. He is Nala without a doubt. The pudding is one test of Nala; there is another. If I am touched by Nala’s finger, my hair will stand up from joy, certainly. Let the hunchback touch me with his finger, as if making a tilaka, (to see) by another sign whether he is Nala.’

Asked, ‘Are you Nala?’ the hunchback said: ‘You are completely mistaken. On the one hand, Nala with divine beauty; on the other hand, I, unfit even to be seen.’ Because of extreme insistence, the hunchback touched her breast very lightly, like a cleaner of wet letters touching a page. By the mere touch of his finger producing unique joy, Bhaimī’s body had erect hair like the karkoṭaka.[11]

‘At that time you deserted me while I was asleep. Where are you going now? You are seen after a long time, lord of my life,’ Bhīma’s daughter said again and again. The hunchback, taken inside the house by her, inviting him, drew clothes and ornaments from the bel and jowel-case. He put them on and resumed his own form. Then Bhīma’s daughter embraced her husband in his proper form—his whole body, like a creeper a tree. Bhīma embraced lotus-eyed Nala, whom he met again at the door and installed him on his own lion-throne.

‘You are our master. Everything is yours. Tell me what I shall do,’ saying, Bhīmaratha stood with folded hands like a door-keeper. Dadhiparṇa bowed to Nala and said: ‘You are our lord always. Pardon anything improper that was done to you from ignorance.’

Just then Dhanadeva, the caravan-leader, very magnificent, came to see King Bhīmaratha, carrying a present. Vaidarbhī had King Bhīma show honor to the caravan-leader, a former benefactor, like his own brother. Ṛtuparṇa, Candrayaśas, their daughter Candravatī, and the Lord of Tāpasapura, Vasantaśrīśekhara, came there, summoned at her father’s command by Davadantī, who was very eager, anointed by former benefits. Being greatly entertained by King Bhīma constantly, they remained a month, delighted by ever new hospitality.

One day when they were all present in Bhīma’s assembly, at dawn a god. by whom the sky was bathed in light, came from heaven. With folded hands, he said to Bhaimī: ‘Remember—in the past an abbot of ascetics, named Vimalamati, was enlightened by you. After death the abbot became I, a god in Saudharma, Śrikesara by name, in the palace named Kesara. Though I had wrong-belief, I was established in Arhats’ dharma by you. Because of that dharma, I became a god by your favor.’ Saying this, the god rained seven crores of gold and departed, having shown his gratitude.

Vasanta, Dadhiparṇa, Ṛtuparṇa, Bhīma, and other powerful kings installed Nala on the throne. At Nala’s order the kings assembled their respective armies which, very large, crowded the earth. On an auspicious day Nala, whose power was unequaled, marched with the kings against his own Ayodhyā, wishing to seize the Lakṣmī of the kingdom. Covering the sun with the dust of that army, in a few days he arrived at a garden, Rativallabha, near Ayodhyā and camped. When he knew that Nala had come with great power, Kūbara was terrified, as if his breath had left his throat from fear.

Nala sent word by a messenger: ‘Play again with dice. Let your wealth be mine alone, or mine be yours.’ Kūbara, his fear of battle removed, delighted, gambled again. For he thought he would be victorious in this. Naiṣadha, having good luck, won the whole earth from his younger brother. For in good fortune victory acts like a marālī to the lotus-hand of men.

Kūbara, whose kingdom had been won by Nala, though he was very cruel, was not made the home of disfavor, with the idea, ‘He is my younger brother.’ Kūbara was made yuvarāja as before without anger by him whose wife was Vaidarbhī, after he had become the ornament of his own kingdom. Having taken possession of his own realm, united with Davadantī, then Nala paid homage eagerly to the shrines in the city Kośalā. All the kings living in half of Bharata brought auspicious presents for the coronation, with devotion. Nala ruled half of Bharata for many thousand years, his unbroken command observed by all the kings.

One day Niṣadha came from heaven in the form of a god and enlightened Nala, a sheat-fish in the ocean of sense-objects. ‘Why are you, a man, not guarding your wealth of discernment which is always being stolen in the forest of existence by thieves in the form of the senses? Formerly. I promised to tell you when it was the proper time to become a mendicant. Now take mendicancy, the fruit of the tree of life.’

After saying this, the god departed and then a sūri, named Jinasena, a treasury of clairvoyance, came there. Davadantī and Nala went to pay him homage zealously. Asked about their former births, after narrating them to them thus,[12] he said: ‘You obtained the realm from the gift of milk to the sādhu; and the separation of twelve years was the result of the anger at the muni which lasted for twelve ghaṭikās.

After hearing that, they settled the kingdom on their son Puṣkala, took the vow from him, and kept it for a long time. One day Nala directed his mind toward Davadantī for the sake of pleasure. Abandoned by the ācāryas, he was enlightened by his father who came. As he was unable to keep the vow, Nala commenced a fast unto death; and Davadantī did so, also, from affection for Nala.

Nala died and became I, Kubera. Bhīma’s daughter became my wife. After falling, Śauri, she became Kanakavatī. Confused by excessive affection because she was my wife in a former birth, I came here. For affection lasts for hundreds of births. In this very birth Kanakavatī will root up her karma and attain emancipation, Daśārha. The Arhat, Vimala Svāmin, told me that in the past in Mahāvideha, when I went with Indra to pay homage to him.”

When Kubera had told Vasudeva the story of Kanakavatī’s former births, he departed. Because of exceeding long-standing affection Vṛṣṇi’s son married Kanakavatī. Again he sported with Khecarīs, he, the crest-jewel of the fortunate, whose beauty was unequaled.

Footnotes and references:


Cf. Maitrāyaṇī Saṃhitā, 1.10.13.


I.e., free from grass.


There is a tradition of appeasing snakes by putting out milk for them.


Cf. Kathākośa. p. 220.


Not for the fifth day from that time, as one might think, but for the fifth day of the white half of Caitra, as appears below.


I.e., Kuṇḍina.


I.e., in 18 hours.


‘Waving of garments’ is one of the recognized forms of homage. But I am not quite satisfied with this half-śloka. Avatāraṇa might be taken as making Nala get down from the chariot, in which case the wind would be a perverse fate to slow Nala and the king. Indian Sanskritists, whom I have consulted, do not agree.


Akṣa is usually the Eleocarpus ganitrus, whose seeds are used in rosaries, but it can also be the Terminalia belerica, the beleric myrobalan, whose most common name is vibhītaka. In the Kathākośa vibhītaka is used.


The only goddess Nirvṛti that I have been able to find is a śāsanadevatā of Śāntinātha, who is called Nirvāṇi. The variant would be permissible. I owe this identification to Pandit L. B. Gandhi.


The Momordica mixta. Its flowers are downy. Roxb.


As narrated by Kubera himself.

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