by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words
This page describes Story of the Yaksha and painter which is the third part of chapter VIII 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.
Now in the city Sāketa a Yakṣa, named Surapriya, is painted every year and a great festival is held. If he is painted, he kills the painter who does the painting. On the other hand, if he is not painted, he creates a pestilence throughout the whole city. Then the painters, terrified, began to flee; and all were prevented by the king who was afraid of a pestilence among his subjects. Bail was taken from them and their names were written on leaves and thrown in a jar resembling a film over Yama’s eye. Each year the painter, whose leaf drawn by mere chance came up, went and painted the Yakṣa.
So, time passing, one day a painter, Dāraka, came there from Kauśāmbī for the purpose of studying painting. The painter lived in the house of an old woman and gradually friendship developed between him and her son. At that time the name-leaf of the old woman’s son came up, like a leaf turned up by Kṛtānta; and the old woman wept. Asked by the young painter from Kauśāmbī the reason for her weeping, she told him the story of the Yakṣa and her son’s turn,
He said: “Do not weep, mother. Let your son stay (here). I shall paint the painter-eating Yakṣa.” The old woman said, “My dear, you are my son, also.” He said,
“Mother, I being so, let my brother be safe.”
At the proper time after observing a two-day fast and bathing, anointed with sandal, his face covered with an eightfold veil of pure cloth, the painter Dāraka painted him with new brushes and the best colors. Bowing to the Yakṣa, he said:
“Surapriya, best of gods, who, even the most skilled, is able to make a painting of you? Who am I, foolish, a poor wretch? Nevertheless, I did it according to my teaching, right or wrong, king of the Yakṣas. Pardon it, O you are capable of blame or favor.”
Delighted by this speech of his, the essence of respect, the Yakṣa said, “Choose a boon,” and the painter chose as follows: “God, if you are pleased with wretched me, now let this be the boon: In future people must not be killed.” The Yakṣa said: “That is accomplished, since you have not been destroyed. Choose something else, sir, connected with accomplishing your own wishes.”
The painter said again: “If you keep away the pestilence, master, my desire is fulfilled by such measure.”
Astonished, the Yakṣa said: “I am pleased very much by your request for a boon for others. Choose a boon for yourself.”
The painter said: “If you are pleased with me, god—if I see one part of any two-footed or four-footed creature or anything else, may I have the power to paint its form, just as it is, according to the one part.” “Let it be so,” told by the Yakṣa and fêted by the townsmen, he went to Kauśāmbī subject to King Śatānīka.
There one day Śatānīka, present in the assembly, proud because of his wealth, said to his messenger, “What do other kings have that I do not have?” Told by the messenger, “You do not have a picture gallery,” the king gave orders to the painters for painting a gallery. The area of the gallery was divided and taken by the painters; and the part near the women’s quarters fell to that painter. As he was painting there, he saw Queen Mṛgāvatī’s big toe with a ring through a slit in a lattice window. Thinking, “This is Queen Mṛgāvatī,” the painter painted her figure accurately from conjecture by the favor of the Yakṣa-king. While the eye was being made visible a drop of black paint fell from the brush’s tip on the top of the thigh, but he quickly removed it. Again a drop of black paint fell and again he wiped it away. When he had seen that it fell again the painter thought: “Surely there is a mark on her in this place. Therefore it (the drop of paint) must be. I will not remove it in future.”
The painting having been completed so, the king went there to see it. Looking at it in order, he saw Mṛgāvatī’s figure. When he saw the drop on the thigh, the king angered thought: “Certainly my wife has been corrupted by the wretch. Otherwise how would he, evil-minded, know that gazelle-eyed Mṛgāvatī had this dark spot under her clothing?”
Having made this accusation angrily, the king himself had him turned over to the guards for punishment.
The painters told the king: “By the power of a boon given by a Yakṣa he paints a whole painting from the sight of one part.” This being said, in order to test it, the stupid king had the best of painters shown the face of a hunchbacked girl. The painter painted the hunchbacked girl just she was. Nevertheless, the king had his thumb and forefinger cut off from anger. The painter went to the Yakṣa as a refuge, and observed a fast. He (the Yakṣa) said, “You will paint the same with your left hand.”
His boon obtained thus, the painter reflected angrily: “Why was I, innocent, reduced to this condition by the king? I shall get even with him by some device. Intelligent people accomplish by wit alone what can not be accomplished by force.”
With these reflections, he painted Queen Mṛgāvatī with fine garments and ornaments, the sole ornament of the universe. He went and showed the charming picture of Mṛgāvatī to king Caṇḍapradyota, who was lustful and cruel. When he had seen it, Caṇḍapradyota said to him: “Best of painters, I think this is skill in art on your part but not on that of the creator. How was this likeness, never seen nor heard of before in this world nor in heaven, painted by you without a model? Tell me truthfully: Who is she? How shall I take her? She is somewhere in the wrong place. Suitability leads to me alone.”
Thinking, “My wish is fulfilled,” the delighted painter related: “Śatānīka is king in the city Kauśāmbī. She, named Mṛgāvatī, doe-eyed, with a face like a full moon, is the chief-queen of him whose strength is that of a lion. Even Viśvakarman is not able to paint her as she really is; but painted to some extent by me, she is beyond words.”