Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra

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

This page describes Contest between Pradyota and Abhaya which is the second part of chapter XI 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.

Part 2: Contest between Pradyota and Abhaya

Then the Blessed One, surrounded by gods to the number of a crore of least, wandered as a mendicant to destroy tīrthakṛt-karma. By teaching dharma, the Master converted some as laymen and some as sādhus, including the king and minister. Now, King Śreṇika in the city Rājagṛha practiced right-belief, and governed his city with complete observance of law.

One day, King Caṇḍapradyota set out from the city Ujjayinī with complete equipment to besiege the city Rājagṛha. Pradyota and fourteen other crowned kings, coming there, were looked upon by the people as Paramādhārmikas.

King Śreṇika learned from spies that he was coming, splitting open the earth, as it were, with horses capering skilfully. He reflected a while, “How is this cruel Pradyota, who is making an attack here like a cruel crocodile, to be deprived of his strength?” Then the king looked with nectar-sweet glance at the face of Abhayakumāra, the depository of inborn and other kinds of knowledge;[1] and Abhaya, whose name was appropriate, declared to the king: “What cause of anxiety is there? The king of Ujjayinī would be my fight-guest today; yet in a matter to be settled by wit, talk of sword against sword is idle. Therefore, I shall use wit. Verily, wit is a cow of plenty for producing victory.”

So he planted an iron box with money inside in the ground in the camp of the enemy troops outside the city. At that time the city Rājagṛha was surrounded by the troops of King Pradyota, like the earth by the waves of the ocean. Next, Abhaya sent soft-speaking spies to King Pradyota with a letter as follows: “1 make no distinction between Queen Śivā and Celaṇā.[2] Therefore, you are to be honored at all times because of the connection with Queen Śivā. Because of that, Lord of Avantī, I speak to you only from desire for advantage to you. All your princes have been seduced by King Śreṇika. Money has been sent them to make them his; and they, after accepting it, will bind you and deliver you to my father. The money has been buried in their dwellings for their benefit. Dig and look. Who, indeed, looks at a fire, when there is a lamp at hand?” After he had been informed to this effect, he (Pradyota) dug up the dwelling ground of one prince and there the money was found. When he had seen this, he fled in great haste. After he had disappeared, the king of Magadha churned his whole army like the ocean and took treasure—elephants, horses, et cetera, on all sides. Then King Pradyota reached his own city somehow or other, by means of a horse swift as the wind, with his breath of life reaching his nostrils. Even the ones who were crowned kings, and other great warriors, disappeared too like crows in flight. For an army without a leader is ruined. With hair unconfined and disheveled and their heads bereft of parasols, they too arrived in the city Ujjayinī, following the king. “This is a trick of Abhaya’s, no one else. We do not do such things.” So, by an oath, they convinced the king of Ujjayinī.

On one occasion, the lord of Avantī, out of patience, said in the assembly, “Whoever binds and delivers Abhaya to me, what will he obtain?” Thereupon a certain courtesan raised her hand like a banner and announced to the king of Avantī, “I here am sufficient for the task,” and the king of Avantī commanded her: “If that is so, then do it. I shall give you money, et cetera to assist you. Tell me now what you need.” She reflected, “Since Abhaya is not to be taken by other means, I shall accomplish my purpose by adopting the disguise of religion.” Then she asked for two mature women, whom the king supplied at once together with much money. Showing zeal, daily worshipping, self-controlled, the three became very famous, (as) having great wisdom.

Then the three went to the city adorned by Śreṇika, incarnations of guile, as it were, to deceive the three worlds. The best of courtesans took up her residence in the garden outside (the city) and went to the city with the intention of worshipping the images in succession. After they had said naiṣedhakī three times, she and the other two women entered the temple erected by the king, with superlative magnificence. After she had performed a pūjā, she began to pay homage to the god in a song united with melodies, Mālava and Kauśikī, et cetera. Abhayakumāra, too, went there, wishing to worship the god, and saw her ahead, worshipping with the two others. “I must not, by entering, create an obstacle to her seeing the god.” Thinking thus, Abhaya stopped just at the door and did not enter the shrine.

When she arose after she had prayed and sung a hymn of praise with her hands in the pearl-oyster position,[3] then Abhaya approached her. He observed such devotion on her part, her dress, and her calmness, and delightedly spoke to her, “By good fortune, fair lady, now there is a meeting with a coreligionist like yourself. In saṃsāra there is no relative of the discerning better than a coreligionist. Who are you? Why have you come? Where do you live? Who are these, with whom you shine like a digit of the moon with Svāti and Rādhā?” Then the fictitious laywomen answered: “I was the wife of a wealthy merchant, a citizen of Avantī, but am a widow; and these are the wives of my son who, left widows by death, are lusterless like vines on a broken tree. These two at that time consulted me about the vow. Verily, the vow is a protection for women whose husbands are dead. I told them: ‘I also, having lost husband and son, will undertake the vow. But let the fruit of layman-ship be won by a pilgrimage. Verily, in the vow, a spiritual pūjā, not a material one is fitting.’ Saying this, I set out on a pilgrimage with them.”

Then Abhaya said, “Be our guest today, for hospitality to fellow-pilgrims is even more purifying than a holy place,” and she replied to Abhaya, “What you say is quite right, but how can I be your guest today, when I am observing the fast of one who visits holy places?” Delighted by her devotion, Abhaya addressed her again, “Then tomorrow you must surely enter my house.” “Since the birth of a human is completed in a moment, how can a wise person say, ‘I shall do this tomorrow?’” With the reflection, “Let her be for the present. Invite her again tomorrow,” Abhaya left her, and after he had paid homage to the image, went to his own house.

The next morning, Abhaya invited her (to his house), had her worship the household images, provided refreshments, and gave her gifts of many clothes and other things. The next day, Abhaya was invited by her (to her house) and went alone. Verily, what will such men not do from regard for a coreligionist? She gave Abhaya many dainties to eat and gave him beverages mixed with Candrahāsa wine to drink. After he had eaten and risen, the son of Śreṇika immediately went to sleep. Verily, sleep is the first companion of wine-drinking. She, the home of deceit hard to detect, sent him to Avantī in a chariot, and in other chariots that had been stationed at intervals. At that time, searchers came there, hunting here and there, who had been ordered by Śreṇika to look for Abhaya. “Has Abhaya come here?,“they asked her, and she said, “Abhaya came here, but went away at once.” Believing what she said, the searchers went elsewhere.

By means of horses stationed in relays, she arrived in Avantī, where she delivered the furious Abhaya to Caṇḍapradyota, and declared the true nature of the stratagem for bringing Abhaya. To her Pradyota said, “You did not do well, since by means of a religious trick you captured him who had confidence in religion and to Abhaya he said, “You, although knowing nīti and well versed in the seventy stories,[4] were caught by her like a parrot by a cat.” Abhaya replied, “You are very clever, whose royal duties prosper by this kind of cleverness.” Ashamed and angry, King Caṇḍapradyota cast Abhaya, like a rājahaṃsa, into a wooden cage.

Now, a chariot named Agnibhīru, queen Śivā, an elephant Nalagiri, and a messenger Lohajaṅgha, are the jewels of his (Pradyota’s) kingdom. The king sent Lohajaṅgha to Bhṛgukaccha very often, and the people there, exhausted by his coming and going, made the following plan. “This man comes twenty-five yojanas in a day, talks to us[5] frequently. So now we will kill him.” Having made this plan, they put poisoned sweetmeats in his food, and took away all the other food that was in the bag. After he had gone a certain distance on the road, he stopped on a river bank to eat the food, and there were unfavorable omens. As he was conversant with omens, he started up without eating and went a long way. Then, (although) hungry and eager to eat, he was prevented again by omens. Again, he went a long distance, tried to eat, and was prevented by omens.

Then he went and told the whole incident to Pradyota; and the king summoned the son of Śreṇika and questioned him. He, being wise, smelled the food-bag and pronounced this decision, “There is here a serpent that poisons by its glance, that originated from the combination of substances. If he had opened the bag, he would have been consumed, certainly. So turn it loose in the forest with your face averted.” At this advice of Abhaya, it was set free in that way. The trees were consumed at once, and it died. “Ask (any) boon from me, except release from custody.” When the king told him this, Abhaya replied, “Let the boon remain in reserve for me.”

Footnotes and references:


There are 4 of these, usually called ‘buddhis’: autpattikī (inborn); pārināmikī a (result of deliberation); vaineyikī (result of teaching); kārmikī (result of karma in past lives).


Śivā, Pradyota’s wife, was the sister of Celaṇā, Śreṇika’s wife.


In this position the palms of the hands are put together and raised to the forehead.


This probably refers to the Śukasaptati. This has 72 stories. Hertel thinks the original author was a Jain.


I.e. gives orders.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: