Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (1) : Cakravartī Subhūma

Published: 13.04.2016

The eighth cakravartī of Bharata, emperor Subhūma, came in the intervening period between the Jain religion's 18thTīrthaṃkara and seventh cakravartī Lord Aranātha and the 19thTīrthaṃkara, Lord Mallinātha. Subhūma was the son of the famous, mighty king of Hastināpura, Kārtavīrya Sahasrārjuna. His mother's name was Tārā. We find the introduction to emperor Subhūma in Ācārya Sīlāṃka's "Caupanna Mahāpuruṣa Cariyaṃ."

According to that:

In Bharata region of Jambūdvīpa was a city named Hastināpura. Near that city in a vast forest was a hermitage of ascetics. The main ascetic of that hermitage was named Jama or Yama. One day, an orphan Brahmin boy, separated from his friends, wandering about lost his way, reached the hermitage. Ascetic Jama kept that boy with him. After sometime that boy became an ascetic and was named Agni. Later, with the name of the teacher added to his name, he became famous as Jamadagni. After severe penance Jamadagni began to be reckoned among the great sages.

One night when the great sage Jamadagni was deep in meditation under a tree in his hermitage, the gods with the aim of testing him, sat on that tree in the form of a male and female partridge. The female partridge asked the male one, "Will the ascetic doing penance on one leg under this tree be eligible for the joys of heaven on account of his penance"? The male partridge replied, "No." To this the female partridge asked, with surprise in her tone, "But why? If such a great ascetic cannot gain the joys of heaven then who else will?" The male partridge replied, " 'aputrasya gatirnāsti', according to this apt statement the one who does not have a son cannot gain salvation /liberation no matter how great an ascetic he may be. This ascetic has no son".

Hearing the above conversation Jamadagni started thinking. He thought the two birds were right. Doing penance without a son is like chasing Marīcikā in the form of a deer. Hence I shall first get married to a beautiful girl of good descent and try to beget a son. With this thought the next day Jamadagni left for Mithilā with his staff and pitcher. Reaching Mithilā he told the king, 'I want to get married, give me one of your 100 princesses'. Fearing if he disobeyed an ascetic he might do something inauspicious, he told the ascetic – Lord, you may choose any one of my daughters yourself. Jamadagni chose one named Reṇukā and after marrying her, left for the hermitage.

Reṇukā had a sister named Tārā. Tārā was married to the king of Hastināpura, Kārtavīrya Sahasrārjuna. After sometime, Reṇukā gave birth to a son. Jamadagni gave his son his battle-axe and named him Paraśurāma. One day, Reṇukā went to her sister Tārā's house. At Hastināpura, Tārā extended royal hospitality to her sister. Attracted by the pleasures of the royal palace Reṇukā became enamoured of Kārtavīrya and started living with him indulging in sensual pleasures. When Jamadagni learnt of this, he brought Reṇukā back to the hermitage. When he told his son Paraśurāma of Reṇukā's bad behaviour, he chopped her head off his axe. Hearing of Reṇukā's killing Kārtavīrya reached Jamadagni's hermitage. When he did not find Paraśurāma who killed her, he killed Jamadagni instead. Hearing the news of the killing of his father by Kārtavīrya, Paraśurāma's anger knew no bounds. He went to Hastināpura and killed Kārtavīrya and resolved to wipe off the Kṣatriya race. To rid this earth of Kṣatriyas, Paraśurāma roamed all over seven times and killed them in hordes.

At the time of Kārtavīrya's death, his queen Tārā was pregnant. To save her life she left her palace in disguise and reached an ascetic's hermitage. There she started staying underground. In time she gave birth to a son there who from his birth had jaw-tooth and teeth. As soon as he emerged from his mother's womb, the child held on to the earth's surface holding it with his jaws and stood up. Hence the mother named him Subhūma. The child was reared and brought up underground and grew up there. The hermits of the hermitage gave Subhūma knowledge of all kinds of scriptures and skills. When he grew up Subhūma asked his mother who his father was and why is he being retained underground. On his requesting her persistently Tārā told Subhūma the entire episode. Hearing the name of his father's murderer, Subhūma raged in anger. He asked, "mother, tell me where is that foe of mine who killed my father?" Mother Tārā said, "That savage stays in a city close by. To keep count of the Kṣatriyas killed by him he has removed each Kshatriya's jaw-tooth and collected them in a huge platter. An astrologer told him sometime in future there will be a man upon whose ascending the throne that plate filled with jaw-teeth will turn into rice pudding. That man will eat it up and kill you.

Listening to the astrologer's prediction Paraśurāma made an asylum. He has placed a high seat in one of the raised platforms therein, close to which he has kept the jaw-teeth-filled plate. To protect that throne he has placed many soldiers." Hearing about Paraśurāma's account from his mother, Subhūma at once started for that place. Killing all the soldiers there he sat on the throne. Seated on the throne the moment he rested his eyes upon the teeth-filled plate, by an unseen power it became a plate filled with rice pudding. Subhūma started eating that pudding. The injured soldiers gave this news to Paraśurāma.

Hearing the entire account from the soldiers Paraśurāma was reminded of the astrologer's prediction. At once he reached the asylum. There he saw the boy Subhūma eating rice pudding fearlessly and uninhibitedly. He told Subhūma firmly, 'O Brahmin child, who are you and upon whose instructions are you sitting on the throne? Don't you know that plate contains teeth of the Kṣatriyas killed by me, which you are eating with such relish? If you are so hungry there is arrangement for the best food in my asylum, which you can fill your stomach with.' Subhūma fearlessly kept listening to Paraśurāma and eating the rice pudding simultaneously. When Paraśurāma had finished speaking he said, 'I am sitting on this throne not instructed by anyone but on account of my own bravery. I know this plate contained human jaw-teeth, but I am eating rice pudding that it got converted into by an unseen power and I may look like an ascetic Brahmin but I am not, in fact, a Brahmin. I am a Kshatriyas' son and have come to kill you. My arms are twitching to be free of my father's debt. So stop talking and pick up your weapons and show your valour. I am the son of Kārtavīrya Sahasrārjuna. You have got rid of Kṣatriyas seven times on this earth and I shall make this earth free of Brahmins 21 times only then will my anger cool down.'

Hearing this battle-cry of Subhūma Paraśurāma's whole body began to tremble. He at once released a strong of arrows from his bow at Subhūma but the thick and firm body of Subhūma rendered all of the arrows useless. Seeing this Paraśurāma became shocked and bewildered. Keeping his bow and arrow aside he picked up his battle axe but seeing even the battle axe ineffective he was very disappointed. After contemplating for some time quietly when he threw his axe towards Subhūma with the aim of beheading him, the axe fell at Subhūma's feet. Subhūma laughed and picked up the plate in his hands, it seemed like a shining cakra. Subhūma, aiming at Paraśurāma's neck, threw the plate, by which Paraśurāma's head fell off like a fruit from a tree, on the ground. Subhūma's anger did not cool off even after killing Paraśurāma. Through fearsome battle he made the earth free of Brahmins 21 times.

After sometime Subhūma brought the entire Bharata under his power and obtained the status of cakravartī. With nine treasures and 14 jewels Subhūma remained ruler of a vast empire for a long time and after enjoying all pleasures, at the end of his life he died and was born in a horrifying hell.


Title: Jain Legend: Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (1)
Acharya Hasti Mala
Shugan C. Jain
Publisher: Samyakjnana Pracaraka Mandala, Jaipur
Edition: 2011
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Aranātha
  3. Bharata
  4. Body
  5. Brahmin
  6. Brahmins
  7. Cakra
  8. Hastināpura
  9. Jambūdvīpa
  10. Mallinātha
  11. Meditation
  12. Tārā
  13. Ācārya
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