Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

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

On the thirteenth day of the dark half of Āśvina, the moon being in Hastottara, the god put the Master secretly into Triśalā’s womb. An elephant, bull, lion, Śrī being sprinkled, wreath, moon, sun, flag, full pitcher, a lotus-pond, ocean, palace, heap of jewels, and a smokeless fire—these dreams in succession the Mistress (Triśalā) saw entering her mouth. Queen Triśalā rejoiced at the meaning of the dreams announced by the Indras, her husband, and the experts as indicating the birth of a Tīrthakṛt. Queen Triśalā, delighted, carried the wonderful embryo carefully, wandering in the grounds of pleasure-houses.

While the Lord was still in the womb, at Śakra’s command the Jṛmbhaka-gods brought gifts again and again to Siddhārtha’s house. The entire Jṭāta-family prospered greatly with wealth of much money, grain, et cetera, by the power of the Blessed One who had descended into the womb. Kings, who had not bowed to King Siddhārtha in the past from pride, came themselves bearing gifts and made obeisance.

“May my mother not suffer pain from my moving in her.” With this idea the Master remained motionless, like a yogī, in the womb. Preventing any movement of his body, the Master stayed in the womb in such a way that his mother could not tell whether he was there or not. Then Triśalā thought:

“Has my embryo fallen? Or has some one taken it away? Or is it dead? Or transfixed by a spell? If this has happened, then enough of life for me. For the pain of death is endurable, but not that caused by the loss of an embryo.”

With this painful thought, the queen, weeping, her hair disordered, ointments abandoned, resting her lotus-face on her lotus-hand, wearing no ornaments, her lips miserable from sighs, silent even with her friends, did not eat nor sleep. King Siddhārtha grieved when he learned about that; and his worthy children, Nandivardhana and Sudarśanā, too. The Lord, who had three kinds of knowledge, knew his parents’ grief and moved a finger to show that the embryo was there. When she knew, “My embryo is certainly not injured,” the Mistress rejoiced and made Siddhārtha rejoice by telling him of the movement by the embryo.

The Blessed One reflected: “My father and mother have great affection for me, indeed, when they have never seen me. if I should become a mendicant while they are alive, they would certainly acquire much bad karma by indulging in painful meditation because of the delusion of affection.” So in the seventh month, the Lord made the resolution, “I will not become a mendicant during the lifetime of my parents.”

When the skies were clear, the planets in their exaltations, an auspicious and favorable wind blowing over the earth, the world filled with joy and the omens highly victorious; when exactly nine months, seven and a half days (had passed), on the thirteenth day of the bright half of Caitra, the moon being in Hastottara, the Mistress bore a son, marked with a lion, the color of gold.

Fifty-six Dikkumārīs, Bhogaṅkarā and others, came and performed the birth-rites for the Master and his mother. Śakra knew about the Master’s birth at that time from the shaking of his throne and went with his retinue to the lying-in house. He bowed to the Arhat and the Arhat’s mother at a distance and, going near, he gave the queen a sleeping-charm. He placed an image of the Blessed One at the queen’s side and made himself fivefold, insatiate in performance of worship.

The first Śakra took the Blessed One in his arms; the second held an umbrella over the Master. Two carried beautiful fly-whisks at the Master’s sides; another, twirling a thunderbolt and dancing, went in front. Having gone to the rock Atipāṇḍukambalā on Mt. Meru, Śakra occupied the lion-throne on it, holding the Lord on his lap.

Then sixty-three other Indras, who had water brought from the tīrthas by the servant-gods, came to bathe the Lord. “How will the Master endure such a quantity of water?” Śakra, his mind tender from devotion, was troubled by this thought. In order to remove his anxiety the Supreme Lord easily pressed down Mt. Meru with the tip of the big toe on his left foot. The peaks of Meru bent, as if to pay homage to the Lord, and the mountain-ranges moved as if to come into his presence. The waves rose high as if to give a bath and the earth trembled rapidly as if about to dance.

Thinking, “What is this?” Biḍaujas knew by employing clairvoyance that it had been done in sport by the Blessed One. “Master, ordinary people like me should be informed that such extraordinary strength, capable of such a thing, is yours. What I thought otherwise would be a sin, needlessly.” Indra bowed to the Supreme Lord, saying this.

The Lord’s bath-festival was held by the Indras with pure fragrant water from the tīrthas joyfully to the accompaniment of musical instruments that were played. The gods, asuras, men and Nāgas worshipped the bath-water and poured it repeatedly so it covered their whole bodies. The earth also, soaked with the Lord’s bath-water, became worthy of worship. Verily, even an insignificant thing attains importance from contact with great ones.

The Indra of Saudharma set the Lord on the lap of the Indra of Īśāna, bathed him, worshipped him, waved a light, and then chanted a hymn of praise:


“Hail to thee, Arhat, Blessed One, self-enlightened, pious, Tīrthaṅkara, establisher (of dharma), most excellent of men. Hail to thee, light of the world, maker of light for the world, highest of the world, lord of the world, benefactor of the world. Hail to thee, choicest white lotus among men, beneficent, lion among men, the sole scent-elephant among men. To the giver of sight, the giver of fearlessness, the giver of enlightenment, the giver of the path, giver of dharma, guide in dharma, giver of protection, hail! To the charioteer of dharma, the leader in dharma, the sole dharmacakrin, devoid of all error, possessing right-knowledge and right-belief; to thee, conqueror (of passions), and helper of others to conquer, crosser (of saṃsara) and helper of others to cross, emancipated and grantor of emancipation, enlightened and enlightener, hail! Hail to thee, Master, knowing all things, seeing all things, the holder of all the supernatural powers, destroyer of the eight karmas.[1] Hail to thee, field (of merit), receptacle (of merit), a tīrtha, supreme spirit, teaching the doctrine of syādvāda,[2] an ascetic devoid of passion. To thee deserving to be worshipped even by those entitled to worship, greater than the great, teacher of teachers, better than the best, hail! Hail to thee, all-present, lord of ascetics, an ascetic, pure, purifier, superior, without a superior. To thee, best teacher of self-control for washing away (sins) completely, first lord of speech, conferrer of happiness, hail! Hail to thee, the only hero proclaimed later, brilliant; hail to thee to be hymned with the words ‘Om! earth, air, sky.’ Hail to thee, benefiting every one, possessing all objects of existence, immortal, possessing the chastity that is taught, an Arhat, crosser to the other shore (of saṃsara). Hail to thee, venerable, unchangeable, protector, with a body of the mortise-collar-pin kind,[3] conversant with the Principles. Hail to thee knowing the three times, lord of Jinas, self-existent, consisting of knowledge, strength, power, splendor, regal powers[4] and superhuman powers. Hail to thee, first man; hail to thee, supreme; hail to thee, great lord; hail to thee, the essence of intelligence. Hail to thee, the moon to the Ocean of Milk of King Siddhārtha’s family, Mahāvīra, resolute, the Master of three worlds.”

Footnotes and references:


For the 8 karmas in full, see I, Appendix II.


Syādvāda, or saptabhaṅgī, the pre-eminent feature of Jain logic, is a system by which everything can be explained from 7 points of view: it is; it is not; it is and it is not; it is indescribable; it is, though it is indescribable; it is not, though indescribable; it is and it is not, though indescribable. See I, n. 4; Haribhadra’s Anekāntajayapatāka; Mallisena’s Syādvādamaṭjarī; 0. of J., p. 116.


There are 6 kinds of joints, of which this is the best kind. The 2 bones are joined by a double mortise, bound with another bone and fastened with a fourth as a bolt. For the other joints see I, n. 132; Sam. 155, p. 150; Sth. 494, p. 357.


Śakti: prabhutva (excellence of treasure and army); mantra (good counsel); utsāha (energy). Abhi. 3.339.

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