Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Eighth incarnation as Suvarnabahu which is the sixteenth part of chapter II of the English translation of the Parshvanatha-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Parshvanatha in jainism is the twenty-third Tirthankara (Jina) and one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.

Part 16: Eighth incarnation as Suvarṇabāhu

Now, in this Jambūdvīpa in the East Videhas there is a broad city, Purāṇapura, resembling a city of the gods. Kuliśabāhu, resembling Indra (Kuliśabhṛt), was king there, his command borne like a wreath by hundreds of kings. His chief-queen was Sudarśanā, fair in form, the recipient of extreme affection. He experienced pleasures of the senses, sporting with her like the earth embodied, without doing injury to the other objects of existence.

His life completed, in course of time the god Vajranābha fell from Graiveyaka and descended into her womb. At dawn, lying on her couch, Queen Sudarśanā saw thè fourteen great dreams indicating the birth of a cakrabhṛt. Delighted by the dreams as explained by her husband, she passed the time. At the right time she bore a son, like the east bearing the sun.

After holding the birth-festival, the king gave him the name, Suvarṇabāhu, with a great festival again. Being passed from lap to lap by nurses and kings, he crossed childhood slowly, like a traveler a river. He learned all the arts easily from the impression on his mind from previous births and he reached fresh youth, the abode of Love. Suvarṇabāhu was without a counterpart in the world in beauty, invincible in courage, and gentle with a wealth of good-breeding. The king, depressed by existence, knew that his son was competent and, after importuning him, installed him on the throne, but became a mendicant himself. With his command unbroken on earth he (Suvarṇabāhu), like Indra in Saudharma, continued to enjoy pleasures, immersed in the nectar of happiness.

One day he went out for sport, attended by thousands of kings, mounted on a new horse that was like an eighth horse of the Sun’s horses.[1] Wishing to test the horse’s speed, the king struck him with a whip and he ran away very fast like a deer, a mount of Marut.[2] The more the king pulled on the bridle, the faster he ran because of inverted training. Like Garuḍa on foot, like the wind embodied, the horse outdistanced the soldiers in a moment. Whether touching the earth or going through the air, the horse could not be seen because of his speed. It was conjectured, “The king has gone with him, certainly, mounted on him.”

In a moment the king reached a forest very far away, full of various trees, crowded with all kinds of animals. The king saw a pool spotless as his own heart and the horse, thirsty, panting hard, stopped at the sight of it. Then the king took off the saddle, bathed and watered the horse; and the king himself bathed and drank. Then after coming out (of the pool) and resting a moment on its bank, the king started out and saw ahead a charming ascetics’ grove. The king was delighted, seeing it with trees whose water-basins were being filled by young ascetics holding young deer on their hips.

As the king was entering it, his right eye twitched, indicating new happiness to him expert in proper procedure. As he went forward, delighted, the king saw on the right a girl-ascetic with a girl-friend sprinkling the trees with pitchers of water. He thought, “Indeed, there is no such beauty of the Apsarases nor of the Nāga-women, nor of mortal women. She is superior to the three worlds.” While the king, hidden in the trees, was considering her, she entered a bower of mādhavi[3] with her friend. After loosening the firmly-fastened bark-garment, the maiden began to sprinkle the bakula, her mouth giving joy to the bakula.[4] Again the king reflected: “On the one hand, the beauty of her, lotus-eyed; on the other hand, this work suitable for an ordinary woman. She is not an ascetic-maiden, since my mind is attached to her. Surely she is some princess who has come here from some place.”

Just then a bee flew into her face with the idea that it was a lotus, causing terror to her shaking two fingers. When the bee did not leave her, then she said to her friend, “Save me from this Rākṣasa of a bee. Save me!” The friend said: “Who is able to save you except Suvarṇabāhu? Follow the king alone, if your object is protection.”

“Who, pray, threatens you, when the son of Vajrabāhu[5] is protecting the earth?” With these words the king, knowing that it was a suitable time, appeared before them. Seeing him suddenly, they were alarmed and did not do or say anything suitable. Knowing they were frightened, the king said to them again, “Does some one interfere with your unhindered penance here, fair lady?”

Regaining composure, the friend said: “While Vajrabāhu’s son is king, who is able to make an obstacle to penance of ascetics here? This girl was only stung on the face by a bee with the idea that it was a lotus. The timid-eyed maiden said, ‘Save! Save!’” The king sat down on a seat which she offered at the foot of a tree and was questioned by her with a pure mind in a voice like nectar.

“You are shown to be some one uncommon by your form which is beyond criticism. Then say who you are—a god or a Vidyādhara?” The king himself was unable to name himself and said: “I am the attendant of King Kanakabāhu. At his order I have come here to the hermitage to restrain those causing obstacles. The king’s effort in this is great.”

The king said to the friend who was thinking, “He is the king himself,” “Why is the girl tormented by that work?” Sighing, she said: “She is the daughter, Padmā, borne by Ratnāvalī, of the Khecara-king, lord of Ratnapura. Her father died as soon as she was born and his sons, seeking his kingdom, fought with each other and destruction of the kingdom took place. Ratnāvalī took this girl and came to the house in the hermitage of her brother, Abbot Gālava. One day a sādhu who had divine knowledge came here and Gālava asked him, “Who will be Padmā’s husband?” The great muni replied, “The son of Cakrabhṛt Vajrabāhu, come hither, carried away by his horse, will marry the girl.”

The king reflected: “This sudden running away of the horse with me is surely a design of the Creator for union with her.” He said: “Lady, tell me where the abbot is now. At the sight of him now may I have a shoot of joy.” The friend replied: “He has gone now to follow the muni who has started to wander elsewhere. After he has paid homage to him, he will return.” Then an old nun said: “Oh, Nandā,[6] bring Padmā. It is time for the abbot’s return.” The king, by whom the arrival of soldiers was known from the noise of the horses’ hooves, said, “You go. I shall keep the army from the hermitage.” Then Padmā was led away from the place by Nandā with difficulty, as she was looking at King Suvarṇabāhu, her head turned. The abbot and Ratnāvalī came at that time and the friend told the story of Suvarṇabāhu excitedly.

Gālava said: “The muni’s knowledge is exceedingly trust-worthy. The noble Jain sages do not speak anything false. He, the chief of the caste and order, must be honored with hospitality. And he is Padmā’s future husband. We will go with Padmā to him.” Then the abbot, accompanied by Ratnāvalī, Padmā, and Nandā, went to the king’s presence and was honored by the king who had risen.

The king said to Gālava: “Eager to see you today, I have wished to come. But why have you yourself come?”

Gālava said: “Any one else who has come to the hermitage must be honored with hospitality, but specially you, our protector. An omniscient predicted that Padmā here, my sister’s daughter, would be your wife. You have come because of her merit. So, marry her now.”

So advised by the muni, Svarṇabāhu married Padmā, like another Padmā (Lakṣmī), with Gāndharva rites. Then Ratnāvalī said to the king, who held a festival, “Always be the sun to the lotus of Padmā’s heart.” Just then Ratnāvalī’s son, Padmottara, a king of Khecaras, came to that place with his wives, bringing gifts, covering the sky with aerial cars. He came to the place and, announced by Ratnāvalī, after bowing to Svarṇabāhu with hands folded respectfully, he said:

“After learning this story of yours, I have come here to serve you alone, Majesty. So give me your orders, king. Do you, rich in splendor, come to my city on Mt. Vaitāḍhya. There the Lakṣmī of the lordship of the Vidyādharas awaits you.”

At his importunity the king assented to his proposal. Padmā bowed to her mother and said with sobs: “I shall go with my husband, mother. Henceforth, there is no home for me elsewhere. So tell me. When shall I see you again? Alas! How shall I abandon the trees of the garden like brothers, the young deer like sons, the ascetic-maidens like sisters! Before whom will the peacock display the art of the tāṇḍava with a voice pleasing with the sixth note, when the cloud thunders? Without me who will now make the bakula, aśoka, and mango trees drink water, like sons drinking milk, mother?

Ratnāvalī said: “Child, you have become the cakravartin’s wife. Then forget, alas! your mode of life resulting from living in the forest. You must now follow your husband, the cakrin, Vāsava on earth. You will be a queen in his abode of joy. Enough of sorrow.” After saying this, kissing her on the head, embracing her ardently, and taking her on her lap, Ratnāvalī, shedding tears, advised her:

“Child, when you have gone to your husband’s house, always be submissive. Eat, when your husband has eaten. Lie down, when he has lain down. The cakrin’s wife, you must always treat co-wives with courtesy, even though they practice rivalry. For that is suitable for greatness. Your face covered by a veil, your eyes always downcast, child, you should adopt not-seeing-the sun, like a night-blooming lotus. You should practice attendance at your father-in-law’s lotus-feet, like a haṃsī; by all means do not show pride caused by being the cakrin’s wife. Always consider your husband’s children by co-wives like your own nurslings and have them come to the couch of your lap.”

After drinking the nectar of this speech of advice with the hollows of her ears and after bowing to her, she took leave of her mother and became a follower of her husband. Padmottara, after bowing to Ratnāvaū, said to the king, “Adorn’my aerial car, master.”

Then the king took leave of Gāvala and Ratnāvalī and got into Padmottara’s car with his attendants. Then Padmottara conducted Svarṇabāhu accompanied by Padmā to the city Ratnapura, the crown on the head of Vaitāḍhya. The Khecara gave King Svarṇabāhu a palace made of jewels like a palace of the gods. Obeying orders, standing at his side like a servant of the king, he arranged the usual procedure with bath, food, et cetera. Staying there, Svarṇabāhu attained lordship over all the Vidyādharas in the two rows by a great wealth of merit. He married many Vidyādhara-maidens there and was consecrated in lordship over all Vidyādharas by the Vidyādharas. Then accompanied by the Khecarīs, Padmā and others, whom he had married, Svarṇabāhu went to his own city with his retinue.

The fourteen great jewels[7] gradually appeared to King Suvarṇabāhu ruling the earth properly. Following the path of the cakra, he subdued the six-part orb of the earth with ease, attended even by gods. Sporting with various sports, Vajrabāhu’s son remained there, surpassing all brilliance by (his own) brilliance, like the sun.

One day, when he was on top of the palace, he saw with astonishment a group of gods flying up and down in the air. He heard that the Lord of the World, the Tīrthanātha, had come and he went to pay homage to him, his mind filled with faith. After paying homage to the Jinendra and sitting down in the proper space, he listened to a sermon from him, which resembled unexpected nectar. After enlightening many souls capable of emancipation, the Blessed One went elsewhere. King Suvarṇabāhu went to his own house.

The king recalled again and again the gods who had come to the Tīrthakṛt’s sermon, “Where have I seen them before?” and reached remembrance of former births by using ūha and apoha. Seeing his former births, he reflected: “To me striving for human birth, there is no end to existence by that (human birth). One, who has attained the state of a god, delights in mortal slate. What bewilderment is this of the soul whose nature is hidden by karma? A creature goes to heaven, the world of mortals, an animal birth, and hell, lost from the road to emancipation, like a traveler on different roads. Therefore, I shall strive especially for the road to emancipation only. The wealth of self-reliance is the root of every purpose.”

After making this decision, King Svarṇabāhu installed his son on the throne. At that time the Lord Jina, the Lord of the World, came in his wandering. Vajrabāhu’s son went to the Tīrthanātha’s presence and became a mendicant. Practicing severe penance, he finished his studies in time. By means of some of the sthānas, devotion to the Arhats, et cetera, being practiced, he, intelligent, gradually acquired the bodymaking karma of a Tīrthakṛt. One time in his wandering he went to a great forest, Kṣīravaṇa, terrifying from various wild animals, near Mt. Kṣīra. There, facing the sun, like another sun in brilliance, he continued practicing penance, maintaining firm statuesque posture.

Footnotes and references:


The sun has seven horses.


God of wind.


Gaertnera racemosa.


Indian medlar, which poetically blossoms from the nectar of a woman’s mouth.


A variant of the earlier Kuliśabāhu.


Who must have been in another part of the hermitage.


For the 14 jewels, see I, n. 290.

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