Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This is the English translation of the Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Charita (literally “The lives of the sixty-three illustrious People”), a Sanskrit epic poem written by Hemachandra in the twelfth century. The work relates the history and legends of important figures in the Jain faith. These 63 persons include: the twenty four tirthankaras , the t...

One day King Aśvasena, who was devoted to stories of the Jain religion, sitting in his council, was told by the door-keeper who approached him: “O king, there is a man at the door of good appearance who wishes to make a request of the Master. Favor me by giving instructions.” King Aśvasena said: “Have him enter quickly. For all who wish to make a request must be recognized by kings who observe the law.” Admitted by the door-keeper, he bowed to the king and sat down on a seat indicated by the door-keeper. The king said to him: “Sir, whose son are you? Who are you? For what reason have you come here to my presence?” The man said:

“Master, here in Bhārala there is a city Kuśasthala, like the playground of Śrīs. The king there, Naravarman, is like armor for those seeking a refuge, the only wishing-tree of beggars, powerful. He subdued many kings on the border of his country, shining with sharp brilliance like the sun at the end of the world, O king. Always devoted to Jaina dharma, eager to listen to sādhus, he directed his kingdom for a long time, powerful from unbroken law. One day, depressed by existence, he abandoned sovereignty like straw and became a mendicant in the presence of the guru Susādhu.”

When his story was thus half-told, the king, devoted to co-religionists, delighted, and causing delight to his councillors, said: “Oh! King Naravarman is discerning, knowing what is right, who thus abandoned his kingdom like straw and took the vow. For a kingdom which is acquired by kings by the exertions of many battles at the risk of their lives, is difficult to abandon even at the end of life. The wives, who are the breath of life either from themselves or from wealth, and the sons, et cetera who are guarded, living, are difficult to abandon. Naravarman abandoned everything at once, wishing to abandon this existence. He did well. Now tell me the sequel.”

Again the man said: “In the kingdom King Naravarman had a son, Prasenajit, an ocean to the rivers of armies. He has a daughter, Prabhāvatī, who is now grown, like a goddess come to earth, whose beauty is unequaled. The Creator made her face from moon-dust, as it were, her eyes from blue lotuses, her body from gold-dust, her hands and feet from red lotuses, as it were, her thighs from the inside of plantains, her nails from rubies, and her creeper-like arms from lotus-fibers, as it were.

Seeing her with unequaled beauty and grace, grown up, Prasenajit became anxious about a suitable husband for her. He examined many princes, but he did not consider any one suitable in beauty for his daughter. One day Prabhāvatī went to a garden accompanied by her friends and heard a song in ślokas being sung by Kinnarīs: ‘The son of Aśvasena, king of holy Vārāṇasī, Śrī Pārśvanātha, excels with a wealth of beauty and grace. She, by whom he will be obtained as a husband, is victorious on earth. But whence is there such maturing of merit with a husband, hard to attain?’

Hearing such celebration of Śrī Pārśvanātha’s virtues, Prabhāvatī became infatuated with him, as if absorbed in him. Kāma, defeated by Pārśva in beauty, struck the infatuated girl with arrows pitilessly as if from hostility. Abandoning other amusement and modesty, like a doe she listened again and again to their song, her mind on one thing. By her very listening to that song, Prabhāvati’s love for Pārśva was seen by her friends. For what is overlooked by the experts? Prabhāvatī continued for a long time to look up at’he Kinnarīs who had flown up, her mind distracted, in the power of the demon Smara. Her friends, intelligent, made her move and led her to her house, meditating on Pārśvanātha, like a yoginī.

An ornament became like a fire; a fine garment like a fire of chaff; a necklace like the blade of a sword for her with her mind fixed on him. There was heat in her body (enough) to cook a handful of water and a succession of tears to fill sauce-pans cooking a measure of grain. Neither in the morning nor in the evening, neither by night nor by day, did the girl get rest, broken by the fever of love. Knowing that her illness was incurable by itself, her friends, with the wish to protect her, told her parents. The parents were delighted when they learned that she was in love with Pārśva; and to reassure them, they said repeatedly:

‘It is a good thing that Prince Pārśva, crest-jewel of three worlds, suitable for her, has been chosen as a husband by our daughter, intelligent. Our daughter alone is at the' head of ambitious women. Such a desire of another girl does not arise anywhere. We shall marry our daughter to Prince Āśvaseni. For generally a wish is in accordance with the obtaining of fruit.’

Her friends went and told her father’s speech to this effect; she rejoiced at that speech like a peahen at thunder. Restored by that hope of a husband, she passed the days, counting them on her fingers, like a yoginī a muttering of charms. Like a digit of the new moon, she became so thin that she looked like another bow of Kāma. Seeing their daughter very miserable, day after day, the parents decided to send her, who had chosen her husband, to Pārśva. A lord of the countries, Kaliṅga and others, named Yavana, hard to control, learned about that and said in the assembly; ‘When I am available, why does some Pārśva marry Prabhāvatī? Who is this King of Kuśasthala who will not give her to me? Or, if mere beggars take the object given here, heroes will take all their wealth, after snatching it away.’

Saying this, his power unequaled because of many soldiers, he blockaded Kuśasthala quickly in many ways. There was no entry nor exit of anyone there, like of wind in the body of a master yogī engaged in meditation. I, being sent by the king, escaped from the city at night. I am Puruṣottama, son of the minister Sāgaradatta. I came here to tell you this news. Henceforth, let your Majesty do what is fitting both for your own people and the enemy-people.”

Then Aśvasena, angered, his aspect dreadful from a frown, spoke a very firm speech, terrifying like the noise of a thunderbolt. “Who is this wretched Yavana? Or what fear is there, so long as I live? I shall march with an army to protect the city Kuśasthala.” With these words, Aśvasena had the drum sounded and his soldiers assembled quickly at its sound.