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

Published: 21.04.2016

The last cakravartī of this avasarpiṇī cycle, Brahmadatta, was born after the nirvāṇa of Lord Ariṣṭanemi and before the birth of Lord Pārśvanātha, that is, during the time cycle of Lord Ariṣṭanemi. The life of Brahmadatta was, on the one hand, akin to the darkness of a new moon night, full of extreme sorrows, and on the other, like the moonbeams on a full moon night in winter, full of worldly pleasures. The life of Brahmadatta gives a fearsome picture of an unintelligible course of wandering in a worldly life, which is very inspiring and rouses the feeling of disenchantment.

Brahmadatta was the son of the Pāṃcāla king Brahma and his queen Culanī. Queen Culanī saw the fourteen auspicious dreams signifying the birth at the time of conception and after her pregnancy period, gave birth to a son who had a stunning aura. Seeing the son's face the Pāṃcāla king felt happy as if he was taking a stroll in knowledge itself (Brahma), hence he named the child Brahmadatta. The Pāṃcāla king Brahma had close friendships with the king of Kāśī, Kaṭaka, the king of Hastināpura Kaņerudatta, the king of Kauśala Dīrgha and the king of Campā, Puṣpacūlaka. These five friends used to live together for one year in each other's capitals. Once, as per this arrangement, the five gathered in the Pāṃcāla capital, Kāmpilyapura. The five friends were spending a happy time together in Kāmpilyapura when suddenly the king of Pāṃcāla Brahma died. Staying with the bereaved family of the king of Pāṃcāla, the four friends completed the last rites of King Brahma. At that time Brahmadatta was just 12-years old. Hence the four friends discussed and came to the conclusion that until such time as Brahmadatta becomes a young man, for each year one of the four kings would be the care-taker and protector of the Pāṃcāla kingdom. As per this arrangement, leaving the king of Kauśala, Dīrgha at Kāmpilyacity and rest three kings went to their respective kingdoms.

The king of Kauśala, Dīrgha gradually took over the treasury of the kingdom as well as the kingdom itself. Not just that, he ensnared his deceased friend Brahma's wife Culanī in his web of love. Culanī, too, giving up on the family's honour, started assisting Dīrgha. The prime minister of Pāṃcāla, Dhanu, got a sense of this illegitimate relationship and untrustworthy behaviour. He got a suspicion in his mind that blinded by lust, these two would sometime in future kill Brahmadatta, hence he advised his son Varadhanu to stay with the prince day and night and to be alert with regard to Dīrgha and Culanī.

Brahmadatta became very sad to learn about his mother and Dīrgha's illicit relationship. He was also very angry. Through various means he tried to convey his feelings to his mother and to Dīrgha, but their bad behaviour continued. Dīrgha was very clever. He understood Brahmadatta's efforts. He told Culanī that if we are not careful your son will very soon prove to be our biggest enemy. It would better to trample this snake's head right in the beginning. As a result, Culanī began to quench her thirst for her own son's life. To save themselves from infamy, the two decided to get Brahmadatta married and set on fire the wax-hall they would spend their nuptial night in, and burn them to death. Culanī chose her own brother Puṣpacūla's daughter, Puṣpavatī as the bride and started the wedding preparations.

The Prime Minister Dhanu was completely alert and was keeping abreast of every activity of Dīrgha and Culanī. He got to know of this conspiracy and he began to think about ways to protect the bride and groom's lives. Very politely he requested the king Dīrgha, "My son has become completely eligible to take up the role of prime minister and due to old age I am unable to show the required agility for the work of the kingdom. Now I want to spend my time in charities etc. Hence I request that I may be released from the duties of the prime minister." Dīrgha was not so naïve. In his crooked mind he figured that if he is released from his duties he will find out about my plans and shall destroy them. Hence he answered in very sweet tone, "Friend! Without someone like you with a sharp mind, our kingdom cannot be managed even for a day. Hence while remaining on your position you may carry on your religious activities."

Dhanu heeded Dīrgha's request and arranged a huge sacrificial hall on the banks of river Gaṃgā. While taking care of all the duties of the kingdom he arranged a massive programme of donating food at the banks of river Gaṃgā. Thousands of people began to get food in this hall every day. With the money he got for conducting these activities; Dhanu with the help of his workers dug up a tunnel from the wax-house all the way up to the sacrificial hall. At the same time, alerting Puṣpacūla about the conspiracy hatched by Dīrgha and Culanī, asked him to proceed very carefully.

As advised by the prime minister Puṣpacūla organised Brahmadatta's wedding very well and giving lots of material in the form of dowry, bid farewell to the newlyweds. At Kāmpilya city, Dīrgha and Culanī sent their son and daughter-in-law to the wax-hall for their nuptial night. As per Dhanu's hint, Puṣpacūla, who was alert, sent instead of his daughter Puṣpavatī, her look-alike a maid-s daughter, without anyone finding out. In the night the wax hall became enveloped in red flames all over and within moments the palace that touched the sky melted and started to scatter about. There, being alerted by Varadhanu about the entire situation, Brahmadatta went with him through the tunnel to the sacrificial hall on the banks of river Gaṃgā. The prime minister gave two fast horses to Brahmadatta and Varadhanu and sent them away to a far off place and he himself started off looking for an undisclosed location.

Both the horses, running at the speed of wind, came as far as 50 yojanas from Kāmpilyapura, but having run at that speed continuously the horses' lungs gave way and they fell to the ground. Now Brahmadatta and Varadhanu began to run on their feet continuously and reached the village Kōṣṭhaka. Leaving Brahmadatta outside the village, Varadhanu entered the village and came back with a barber. Shaving off his hair with the help of the barber Brahmadatta wore black robes and covered his Śrīvatsa sign. Varadhanu put his sacred thread around Brahmadatta's neck. This way, changing their appearances, they entered the village, where a Brahmin took them to his house and with great respect, fed them and asked them to take rest.

The two friends had just about sat down when the Brahmin's wife came with her daughter Bandhumatī and stood with her hands folded in front of Brahmadatta. The two friends started looking at each other in surprise. The Brahmin's wife said, "My daughter has the fortune of being married to a cakravartī king. The soothsayers who told me about her groom's signs, I have found that today.  They had said the person who comes to your house to eat covering his Śrīvatsa sign with a cloth will be your daughter's groom."

Brahmadatta got married to Bandhumatī. After a night's happiness, again the ocean of sorrow appeared. The sun had not even risen when Dīrgha's soldiers surrounded the Kōṣṭhaka village. Seeing this both friends got out of the Brahmin's house and like wild animals, began to run hiding behind shrubs and bushes. While running Brahmadatta felt extremely thirsty. He told Varadhanu, "Varadhanu! I cannot walk a step more, I am dying of thirst." Brahmadatta sat near a tree. Leaving Brahmadatta there Varadhanu left to get some water. While he was returning with water few soldiers surrounded him and questioned him about Brahmadatta. When Varadhanu did not answer the soldiers began to beat him up. While he was being beaten up Varadhanu gestured to Brahmadatta to leave. Brahmadatta began to run hiding in bushes and shrubs. After running non-stop for three days Brahmadatta saw an ascetic. The ascetic took Brahmadatta to the chief of the hermitage. Seeing Brahmadatta's brilliant personality and the sign of Śrīvatsa on his chest, the astonished chief of the hermitage asked Brahmadatta as to how he got into this situation.

When Brahmadatta told him the entire account he embraced him and said – "Son, your father Brahma was like an elder brother to me. Please consider this hermitage your own and stay here happily." Brahmadatta stayed there and started studying. Seeing his sharp intellect the chief imparted him knowledge of all kinds of scriptures, skills and use of weapons. Staying in the hermitage as a student, Brahmadatta became healthy all over and a 7 dhanuṣa tall young man.

One day Brahmadatta went with his friends of the hermitage to collect some fruits and roots from the forest. He saw some fresh footprints of elephants in the forest. He started looking for the elephants and, separated from his friends, went quite far. In the end he saw a wild elephant uprooting a tree with his trunk. Brahmadatta started fighting with the elephant and the elephant pounced on him. Brahmadatta threw his upper cloth on the elephant and the moment the elephant raised his trunk to hold the upper cloth, Brahmadatta put his feet over the elephant's trunk and got on top of it. Sitting astride the elephant for a long time he kept playing around with it when suddenly dark clouds formed and torrential rains poured. Drenched in the rain the elephant blew his trumpet and ran. Brahmadatta held on to a huge tree branch and climbed the tree. When the rain settled down a little, all the directions seemed misty with the effect of the overcast sky. Brahmadatta got down from the tree and started walking towards the hermitage but having lost his way, reached another forest. Wandering here and there and lost, he reached the banks of a river. When he crossed over the river and reached the other banks, he found a village destroyed. When he moved ahead he reached a thick bamboo shrub, where he found a sword and a shield placed there. Out of curiosity he started to cut down the bamboo shrubs. While cutting down the bamboo shrubs he found in front of him a chopped off human head fallen to the ground, struggling in pain. When he observed carefully he found that some man was hanging upside down on the bamboo stalks and practising some kind of penance, and he had chopped him off without noticing. He was filled with guilt that needlessly he killed a young man doing penance. Full of remorse as he moved ahead he saw a beautiful garden and a huge palace in the midst. When he started climbing the stairs of the palace he found a beautiful woman seated on a bed in a worried posture. Surprised, he went closer to the woman and said, "Goddess, who are you and why are you sitting in this empty palace?" The young woman was startled seeing this young man addressing her. She asked, "Who are you and what is the reason behind your coming here?" Brahmadatta, reassuring the young woman in a calm and composed manner told her, "Goddess, I am the son of Brahma, the king of Pāṃcāla..!"

Brahmadatta had not even completed his sentence when the young woman fell at his feet and said, "Prince! I am your uncle Puṣpacūla's daughter Puṣpavatī who was given to you in marriage. But before I got married to you a Vidyādhara named Nāṭyonmatta kidnapped me and brought me here. In order to ensnare me he is doing penance in the bushes nearby. I take refuge in you now, please save me." The prince, completely reassuring her said, "That Vidyādhara just got killed unknowingly at my hands. You have no fear so long as I am here." Thereafter, Brahmadatta married Puṣpavatī in the Gāndharva tradition and this way, after a period of sorrows again started to sway in happiness.

After the night passed off, hearing the rumbling of the clouds when a startled Brahmadatta started looking here and there. Then Puṣpavatī said, "This indicates the coming of the Vidyādhara's sisters, Khaņḍā and Viśākhā. I am not afraid of them, but knowing that their brother is dead if they bring their other brothers then you may have to face some trouble. It is better you hide. I will talk to them and try to create attraction for you in their minds, and if I find the attempt working I shall wave a red flag and you can come out without worry. Otherwise, I shall wave a white flag to indicate that their anger has not cooled down and you quietly run away." Puṣpavatī went to welcome the Vidyādhara sisters and Brahmadatta kept waiting for an indication from her side. Suddenly he saw a white flag being waved and thinking staying there is not out of danger he slowly went towards the forest.

After crossing the deep forest he reached a huge lake. Unable to resist the attraction of the lake he jumped into it and swimming slowly he reached the other end. There he found a very beautiful woman picking flowers from a creeper nearby. He kept staring at her and he felt she was looking at him too and smiling. Then he saw that she was saying something to her friend pointing towards him and after some time both disappeared from that flower bush. Enchanted, Brahmadatta kept looking in that direction. Then he heard the sound of anklets nearby. When he turned around he found that beautiful woman with her attendant holding in her hands some betel leaves, clothes and ornaments. She told Brahmadatta, "The princess you saw a moment ago has sent you these things and said that I should take you to her father's minister." Brahmadatta walked behind that attendant as if in a daze.

That beautiful woman was named Śrīkāntā. She was the only daughter of the king of Vasantapura. Though Śrīkāntā's father was the king of Vasantapura due to some problems with his stars, he had begun to stay and rule over Caurapallī. He welcomed and showered honour and respect on Brahmadatta and married his daughter to him in a grand way. Brahmadatta began to enjoy royal pleasures once again.

One day desiring to go to Vasantapura, he left Caurapallī. It became dark midway hence he went to a rest-house in a small town to spend the night. After making arrangements to stay at the rest house, he was about to go to the dining hall when entering inside, he saw a man. When he observed closely, he found him to be none other than Varadhanu, his friend. He ran to Varadhanu and hugged him. Varadhanu too danced with joy and astonishment seeing Brahmadatta. The two friends ate together and went to Brahmadatta's room to sleep. Varadhanu, narrating his story, said, "I was returning with water for you when Dīrgha's soldiers surrounded me and beat me up and when they asked me about you I told them a lion had eaten you up. They then asked me to show them that place. Keeping them engaged here and there, I gestured to you to run away. After you ran away they beat me black and blue. Seizing the opportunity I ate pills to induce fainting, due to which, thinking I was dead, they left me there and went away. After they left I took out the pills from my mouth and stated to look for you but could not find you. Through my father's friend when I found out about my father running away and my mother being harassed I decided to somehow sneak her out of Kāmpilyapura. In a dramatic way, sneaking out my mother from there, leaving her at my father's close friend's house under his care, I went out in search of you and have come here after wandering about.

After this, Brahmadatta told him his entire account. Brahmadatta had not yet completed his story when he got information about a big battalion of Dīrgha's army coming there. Both of them, running through forests and caves, reached Kauśāmbī city. At a big garden in Kauśāmbī they saw two wealthy merchants betting their cocks to fight for a bet of one lakh rupees each. Both cocks fought each other for a long time, but finally, despite being a pedigree, Sāgaradatta's cock lost to Buddhila's cock. Brahmadatta was surprised at the defeat of Sāgaradatta's pedigree cock. He observed closely Buddhila's cock and removing the sharp nails stuck in its claws, set both of them again to fight. In a few moments, Buddhila's cock lost. Having won a lost game, Sāgaradatta was very happy and took the prince and Varadhanu to his house and kept them at his place like his own brothers. But the king of Kauśāmbī was searching for Varadhanu and Brahmadatta as requested by Dīrgha; hence they decided to leave Kauśāmbī.

That midnight, seated on Sāgaradatta's chariot both of them left Kauśāmbī. After going up to a little distance, Sāgaradatta returned. The two friends went forward. There they saw a chariot with weapons with a beautiful young woman sitting in it. Seeing them, the young damsel asked – "Where were you so long? I have been waiting for you so long." The prince, astounded, asked her – "O young lady! Who are you? And how do you recognize us?" The woman seated on the chariot said – "I am Buddhila's sister, Ratnavatī. Ever since I saw you at the contest between Sāgaradatta's and Buddhila's cocks, I have been longing to meet you, now I am here to fulfill my desire."

Both friends sat in Ratnavatī's chariot. Varadhanu held the horses' reins. Ratnavati asked him to take the chariot towards the house of her uncle the merchant Dhanāvaha in Magadhapurī. Varadhanu led the chariot towards Magadhapurī. The chariot, moving with the speed of the wind, reached the forests outside Kauśāmbī. Brahmadatta reached Rājagṛha after facing difficulties such as fight with dacoits in the forest, crying over separation from Varadhanu, among others. Leaving Ratnavatī at a hermitage outside Rājagṛha, Brahmadatta went into the city. There he married in the Gāndharva tradition the two sisters, Khaņḍā and Viśākhā, of the Vidyādhara Nāṭyonmatta and then he reached the house of the merchant Dhanāvaha. Dhanāvaha was very happy to see him and he got him married to Rājagṛha. Brahmadatta started staying with Ratnavatī happily in Rājagṛha but he was very sad about the missing Varadhanu. He tried a lot to trace Varadhanu but when he did not get any positive results, thinking him to be dead; he performed his last rites, and called some Brahmins over for the death feast.

Suddenly Varadhanu too arrived in the midst of the Brahmins and said, "The food being served to me will enter Varadhanu's stomach." Brahmadatta recognised Varadhanu's voice and embraced him. The sorrowful atmosphere turned into a breeze of joy.

The two friends went to see a festival one day. The entire Rājagṛha was gathered to see the festival, decked in colourful attire and different kinds of invaluable ornaments. At that very moment, an elephant in rut, which was in the elephant stables, broke its chains and reaching the fair, started to blow its trumpet. People ran helter-skelter, many lost consciousness; the entire atmosphere was filled with cries of women and children. The mad elephant picked up a woman with his trunk. People had their hearts in their mouths. Like lightning Brahmadatta went and stood facing the elephant and started bellowing at it. Leaving the woman, the elephant leapt at Brahmadatta, shaking his long trunk and its tail. Brahmadatta was adept at fighting with elephants; hence in the end he tamed the elephant. He went and tied it up in the elephant stable.

Hearing about the incident of the elephant's account and about its being tamed, the king of Magadha reached there. He was struck by the young handsome man with brilliance of the sun and strength of Indra. When the merchant Dhanāvaha introduced Brahmadatta, the king was very happy. He married off his daughter Puṣpamatī to Brahmadatta in a grand ceremony. The woman whose life Brahmadatta had saved from the elephant was Śrīmatī, the daughter of a merchant of Rājagṛha named Vaiśravaṇa. Vaiśravaṇa got Śrīmatī married with pomp and splendour to Brahmadatta. There, the king of Magadha's minister Subuddhi got his daughter Naṃda married to Varadhanu. This way both friends started to live happily in Rājagṛha. Shortly, tales of Brahmadatta's courage and beauty spread across homes all over Bhārata. This way, staying in Rājagṛha, making money and fame Brahmadatta started for Varanasi with Varadhanu, so that he may make necessary preparations to reclaim Pāṃcāla kingdom from king Dīrgha.

When the king of Varanasi heard the news of the arrival of his dear friend Brahma's son Brahmadatta, he came to welcome him filled with love and brought him into the royal palace with great honour. Seeing an appropriate moment he got his daughter Kaṭakavatī married to Brahmadatta and also gave him his army with four divisions as dowry.

Hearing the news of Brahmadatta's arrival at Varanasi the king of Hastināpura Karṇadatta, the king of Bhāmā, Puṣpacūlaka, the Prime Minister Dhanu, etc. came with their respective armies to Varanasi. Gathering all the armies together, Brahmadatta made Varadhanu his army general and started his journey towards Kāmpilyapura to attack king Dīrgha. When Dīrgha came to know of this he sent a message to the king of Varanasi not to break his friendship with him as 'we were not five friends but like five brothers'. You were given the kingdom and family of Brahma for safekeeping and protection. The way you have betrayed your brother-like friend, that is an unpardonable crime. Brahmadatta has come on his own to reclaim his kingdom. It is better for you to give him his kingdom back.

Dīrgha too, gathering all his strengths, came to the battle-field to fight Brahmadatta. There was fierce battle between the two armies. At first Dīrgha's side seemed to have an upper hand, but when Brahmadatta started attacking with fierce weapons, Dīrgha's army became disabled. Brahmadatta won over many of the soldiers of Dīrgha's army tactfully to his side. In the end, there was a duel between Dīrgha and Brahmadatta. After a long duel, too, there was no knowing who was winning and who was losing. Both warriors seemed invincible for each other. It was a matter of surprise that a bad man full of bad deeds such as Dīrgha could also be such a fine and brave soldier.

The fight between Brahmadatta and Dīrgha was going on and everyone was watching almost like statues with intense attacks and counter-attacks when a heavenly cakra jewel appeared in the sky with a thunderous roar and lightning with an indescribable brightness, almost blinding everyone, which circumambulator Brahmadatta thrice and settled itself on the space about a hand's length higher on his right side. Brahmadatta held the cakra on the forefinger of his right hand and swirling it with speed, hurled it at Dīrgha. Within a split second, Dīrgha's head fell to the ground. The victory sounds of various armies on the victory of righteousness and end of bad deeds resounded all over. Brahmadatta entered Kāmpilyapura with great ceremony. His mother Culanī understood her unrighteous deeds, even though late, and renouncing the world, left the city even before the entry of Brahmadatta. Seeing an opportune moment the subjects of Pāṃcāla held the coronation ceremony of Brahmadatta with happiness and gaiety.

As soon as he sat on the throne of Kāmpilyapura, he sent for his nine wives from their respective homes. He managed the kingdom as a provincial king for 56 years and thereafter, with the strength of his fourfold army, started for a victory campaign over the six regions of Bhārata. After many battles and intense struggles of sixteen years, he returned to Kāmpilyapura and unfurled his victory flag over the entire Bhārata thus becoming the Lord of fourteen jewels and nine treasures, with all the prosperity of a cakravartī emperor.

One day he was immersed in enjoyment with his many queens and dear ones when a female attendant presented a grand and attractive bouquet of flowers to him. The flower vase of colourful flowers had very life-like and attractive swans, peacocks, deer, and other birds and animals. Brahmadatta was watching that beautiful flower vase enchanted and intensely when he got a feeling that he had seen such a flower decoration before. Through single minded reflection, ūhā and poha, and his knowledge obscuring karmas becoming weak, he began to see clearly his life. Unconscious, Brahmadatta fell on the ground.

On seeing Brahmadatta fall unconscious, all the dear ones present there became worried and anxious. With due medication when he regained consciousness; the picture of his past life picture would emerged in his mind and he became unconscious again.  For a long time Brahmadatta was in this state. When he regained consciousness, he thought the people would ask him the reason for this state and he would tell them it was the result of a gall bladder malfunctioning, thereby hiding the truth.

When he got to know about his five past lives, he remembered his own brother of the five births who on account of karmas, was born elsewhere in this birth. Thinking of the fact that for five births they were together and in the sixth birth they were born separately, he would feel very sad and wonder in this sixth birth in what why and in what form was that brother born. In the end he found a way and he made an announcement across his vast kingdom that the person who would complete the fourth part of the quatrain, he would give half his kingdom to him. The lines were as under:

dāsā dasaṇṇae āsī, miyā kāliṃjareṇage
'haṃsāmayaṃga tīrāe, sovāgā kāsibhumie
devā ya devaloyammi, āsi amhe mahiḍḍhiyā

(We were two slaves, deers, swans, peacocks, in Kāśī... and gods…)

With the greed of gaining half the kingdom many people tried to solve the puzzle, and as a result the half quatrain was on everyone's lips.

One day, a great Śramaṇa monk named Citta, wandering about, reached Kāmpilya city, and seeing a quiet place in a beautiful garden, became meditative there. The gardener was watering the plants there and mumbling the lines of the half-quatrain. Hearing the lines from the gardener's mouth an agitation and ūhā - poha emerged in the monk's mind and he remembered his past life. He too could clearly see his past five lives. Resolving the puzzle, he made the gardener learnt by rote the remaining lines

Imāṇo chaṭṭhiyā jāī, aṇṇamaṇṇehiṃ jā viṇā

(This is the sixth birth of ours, separated from each other)

The gardener recited all the four lines in front of Brahmadatta. Hearing those words Brahmadatta fell unconscious. Seeing this, the gardener got worried and said –"these lines are not mine, but a monk who has come to the garden who made me memorise them by rote." On gaining consciousness, Brahmadatta happily gave the gardener his crown and all other ornaments as gift and with all his kith and kin went to see the monk in the garden. The moment he saw Citta monk, Brahmadatta laid his head bedecked in gems and crowns at the feet of the monk and remembering the past love, started crying inconsolably. Barring the monk, everyone's eyes were filled with tears. Surprised, queen Puşpavatī asked, "My dear one! In spite of being a cakravartī emperor today you cry inconsolably like an ordinary man, what is the reason?" Brahmadatta controlling himself said, "O queen! This monk is my own brother." The queen asked in the same manner, "How is that, oh king?" Brahmadatta said, "This you hear from the mouth of the great monk."

Upon the request of the queens the monk Citta started narrating, "Every living being in this world has been wandering, since eternal time in the cycle of birth, disease and death, taking various forms. Every person has been tied up umpteen times in the relationships of mother, father, brother-sister, husband-wife, etc. Even the two of us have been siblings in our last five births. In our first birth we were born to a maid, Jasamatī, of Brahmin Śāṃḍilyāyana in the Śrīdaha village. That Brahmin used to make us work the whole day tirelessly. Once during winter months we were working in the agricultural field when suddenly clouds formed and it began to pour. Shivering, we both sat under the shade of a banyan tree at the corner of the field. It just wouldn't stop raining and there was water all over. In order to sleep in the night both of us were trying to adjust in the cavity of the tree trunk when a poisonous snake bit us and both of us died at once. After that we were both born to a deer as twin deer on the Kāliṃjara Mountain. When we became young once we went playfully towards the banks of the Vegavatī River to quench our thirst, when a hunter shot his arrow at us. We struggled for some time and then merged with the elements. After that, we were born as swans together to a swan on a lake by the side of the Mayaṃga River. Playing in the lake we attained youth. One day a bird-hunter caught us in his net and breaking our necks, finished our lives."

"After the swan's womb we were born as twins to Ahinakā, the wife of a prosperous butcher named Bhūtadīna. My name was Citra and he was named Saṃbhūta. When we were eight years old, at that time the king of Kāśī for some reason ordered death sentence to his priest Namūcī and handed him over to our father. Our father told Namūcī – "If you agree to make my two sons experts in all the arts, I shall keep you safe in my house." Namūcī accepted my father's offer and began to teach us. Our mother used to make arrangements for Namūcī's food, etc. In some time the priest and our mother became attracted to each other. Because of our greed for learning, we did not tell our father anything about their relationship and by studying with diligence we became skilled in various arts."

"One day our father learnt of the illicit relationship of our mother and the priest and he decided to kill Namūcī. When this was going on, we quietly sent him away from our house. He reached Hastināpura and became the minister of the cakravartī Sanatkumāra."

"Being experts in singing we both began to wander about singing on the streets of Varanasi. Impressed by our singing people, especially beautiful women would run to us, forgetting everything. Seeing this, the people complained to the king of Kāśī and prohibited entry for us in the city."

"One day, the Kaumudī festival was organised in Varanasi. The two of us entered into the city on the sly to enjoy the festival. A music programme was being conducted at one place. Suddenly musical notes began to pour out from us instinctively. Hearing our voices, people surrounded us and a crowd gathered. Suddenly someone shouted – 'hey, these are the same butcher sons who have been prohibited entry into the city. What then, forgetting all about the music, people ran to beat us up. We ran for our lives, and beaten up, reached the city outskirts. In a quiet uninhabited place, thinking what was the use of this life living like animals and condemned, we both decided to end our lives jumping from the cliff of a mountain.

A top the mountain peak we saw an ascetic deep in meditation in a peaceful posture. We felt peace at the sight of the monk and fell at his feet. We told him our whole story and said we both have come here to take our lives jumping off the cliff. To this the compassionate monk said to us, "suicide will only bring an end to your physical body, not your pain. To end the basic cause of that pain, the accumulated karmas of many births, perform penance." The monk's words seemed appropriate to us. At that very moment the two of us accepted mendicancy. The kind monk imparted to us the knowledge of the basic tenets of the path of liberation. Observing various kinds of fast such as ṣaṣṭama-aṣṭama bhakta etc., and monthly fasts, we made our bodies whither down."

"Wandering across various places, one day we reached Hastināpura and in a garden outside the city, started doing severe penance."

"Once in order to break a month's fast, monk Saṃbhūta went to Hastināpura city. Suddenly Namūcī spotted him and he recognised him. Thinking he might call his bluff, he ordered his people to throw the monk out of the city. Upon his orders the king's men pounced upon the monk and cruelly beat him up. The monk returned to the garden peacefully. Even at this when Namūcī's men did not stop beating him up, the monk got angry. Flames of intense fire started to come out of his mouth. The entire sky turned red with the flames. There was havoc in the entire city. People came on hordes and bowing before him urged him to calm down but the monk's anger was unstoppable. Seeing the flames envelop the skies I reached the spot of the incident and calmed down my brother."

"Saṃbhūta monk became repentant for what he did. Within moments the flames died down. Both of us monk-brothers started for the garden. Reaching the garden we both reflected that we have to face so many difficulties to feed this destructible body. What is the use of this body or food for us monks? Thinking thus, we observed saṃlekhanā and renounced food for life."

When cakravartī Sanatkumāra learnt of the whole incident, then he tied up the person responsible for it, Namūcī and presented him before us and requested us – "Oh monks, he is your criminal. What punishment should he be given?" We said – "Oh king! Free him." Namūcī was released at once and sent out of Hastināpura city."

"At the same time, the main woman Sunandā came to pay respects to us along with 64 thousand co-wives. While bowing at monk Saṃbhūta's feet Sunandā's scented long hair touched the monk's feet. After paying their respects, the royal family went to the palace."

"We both completed our life-spans together and became gods in the Nalinīgulma (Padmagulma) vimāna in the Saudharma kalpa. After completing our life span as gods I was born to Nandā, the wife of a prosperous merchant of Purimatāla, Gaṇapuṃja. Despite having all comforts and pleasurable objects my mind was not attracted to them, hence I renounced, taking initiation as a monk. Practising restraint, wandering across several places, I reached this garden. Hearing some words of the quatrain from the gardener I was reminded of my past life. In this sixth birth I do not have any idea as to how we were separated."

Hearing this all the listeners became stunned. They would either look at Brahmadatta or the monk. Then Brahmadatta said –"Oh great monk! Let me tell you the reason for separation in this life. Seeing the cakravartī Sanatkumāra's wealth and the excellent youth of Sunandā and other queens I had taken a decision that as a result of that penance of mine I should gain the complete wealth of a cakravartī. Until the end I did not criticise this perseverance of mine, hence after completing my time in Saudharma realm of gods, because of that desire of mine, I have become a cakravartī. Please consider my vast empire and wealth as yours. This youth is meant for enjoying sensual and worldly pleasures. Hence you may come and stay with me as my brother and enjoy all the comforts. All these austerities are after observed to obtain happiness. If those are obtainable easily, what is the need for penance?"

The monk said in a tranquil and intense manner – "In this meaningless world only religion is meaningful. Body, youth, wealth, friends, and relatives; are all momentary like water bubbles. The victory you have gained over six divisions is but victory over external enemies. Now get ready to become capable of winning over the internal enemies of lust, anger, etc., through which you will get permanent happiness of liberation. I have understood that all sensual joys are deadly like poison and to be renounced hence voluntarily I have happily renounced these and accepted the path of self-restraint. You know yourself that we both have borne pain in our lives as attendants, deer, swans and elephant and thereafter, through the effect of penance, went to the realm of gods and enjoyed those pleasures as well. When our good deeds ended we again fell from the gods' realm and have been born on the earth. If you do not use your hard-to get human life in making efforts to gain liberation, then I do not know in what unfortunate circumstances bearing how many unbearable pains you will have to wander in your different births. Oh king! Despite knowing it all why are you drowned in sensual pleasures which are the root-cause of endless pain, like an ignorant child? To waste this precious human life in sensual enjoyments is akin to washing one's hands and feet and throwing the water from an urn of nectar into the soil, instead of quenching one's thirst by drinking that nectar."

Brahmadatta replied – "Lord! Your words are hundred per cent true. I know that desire for worldly objects is the mother of all pain and destruction but the way an elephant stuck in slush cannot come out of it even if it wants to, in the same way having gained these enjoyments through my desire, I am stuck in this quicksand so deep that accepting self-restraint is beyond my reach." Citta said –"King! Life is moving fast at great speed. Sense and worldly pleasures are not going to remain forever. The same way as birds leave a tree without fruits, these lustful pleasures will also one day leave you. To leave someone even before his leaving us is far better. You say you are incapable of letting go of the pleasures that you gained through your desire, but remain immersed in being friendly with living beings and in activities of service to others, so that you may get blissful happiness."

Saying this, monk Citta went elsewhere to stay. After observing severe penance for many years, he burnt in the flames of his penance all his karmas and obtaining emancipation and enlightenment, gained nirvāṇa.

Brahmadatta, as always, started to enjoy his wealth as cakravartī. One day Brahmadatta went out of Kāmpilya city astride a horse gifted to him by the king of Greece. To test the speed of the horse the moment he hit it with a whip, the horse began to fly at the speed of wind. Brahmadatta tried a lot to stop the horse but the horse leapt across rivers, canals and forests and reaching a thick forest, stopped. Seeing a nāga (serpent) woman making love with an adulterous man besides a lake Brahmadatta became very angry and he beat them up and tore their skins. After sometime Brahmadatta's attendant came there looking for him and they all went together to Kāmpilyapura.

There the injured nāga (serpent) woman complained against Brahmadatta to her husband the king of serpents – "I was returning from water sports and a stroll in the forests with my friends when Brahmadatta cakravartī saw me and tried to molest me. When I refused he beat me up with whiplash and almost beat me to death. I told him I am the wife of the king of serpents, yet he did not pay attention." Hearing these words from his wife the nāga king was very angry. He resolved to kill Brahmadatta and reached his bedroom in the night on the sly. When he was outside the bedroom waiting for the right moment, he heard – Brahmadatta's queen was asking that the queen heard that astride the horse gifted by the Greek king you went very far into thick forests, did you see anything amazing? Brahmadatta told her about the incident involving the female serpent and the adulterous man and said that he had punished them for their uncalled for behaviour. Hearing Brahmadatta's words the serpent king opened his eyes. After  some time when Brahmadatta came out of his bedroom the serpent king, his head bowed down, stood before him and said – "Oh king! I am the husband of the nāga woman you have punished. Listening to her words I came here to attack you but hearing the truth from you I have changed my mind. I want to serve you." Brahmadatta said – "I wish there would be no theft, illicit relations and accidental deaths in my kingdom." The serpent king said –"So it shall be. This attitude of service to others is admirable. You may ask something for yourself too." Brahmadatta said –"Oh serpent king! I wish I would be able to understand every creature's language." The nāgaking said –"I am so happy with you that I give you even this knowledge that should not be given. But you must remember the unshakable and tough rules of this knowledge that if you share with any other person what that creature spoke, your head will break into seven pieces." Brahmadatta assured the serpent king and the latter gave him that knowledge and left.

Once when Brahmadatta was sitting with his favourite queen in the make-up room, he heard two house sparrows talking to each other. The female sparrow was pregnant, she told the male sparrow – "I have this whim that you bring the paste from the king's body and apply it on my body." The male sparrow said – "it seems you are now tired of me hence you are pushing me into my death." Listening to the birds' conversation Brahmadatta began to laugh aloud. The queen was surprised at the king laughing suddenly. She asked him the reason. Brahmadatta was in a dilemma. He tried to evade the queen's question by engaging her in all kinds of conversations but the queen was adamant. Brahmadatta tried to explain to the queen – "Oh queen! Try to understand. I do not want to hide anything from you, but there is a secret behind this revealing which my head will break into seven pieces." The queen said in disbelief –"If that is so, then I too shall give up my life with you, but I cannot live without knowing the secret."

Seeing this desire in his queen the king instructed for a funeral pyre to be lit for him and the queen and prepared himself to tell her the secret. In order to bring sense into Brahmadatta who was ready to die before his time for the love of a woman, the family deity through her divine powers created a female and male goat. The she-goat said to the he-goat – "The king has kept some green barley for the horse, bring me one of those so I can fulfill my pregnancy whim." The male-goat said –"The king's men will take my life in this attempt." The she-goat was adamant –"If you do not bring it I shall take my life." The he-goat said –"never mind, I shall make another goat my wife." The she-goat said –"this means you do not love me. See that king, he is dying for the sake of his wife." The he-goat said –"despite being the Lord of so many queens Brahmadatta is being foolish over one queen, but I am not a fool like him." Hearing the hegoat's words, Brahmadatta regretted his foolishness and putting his necklace around the goat's neck went into the palace.

When Brahmadatta had spent 584 years enjoying the pleasures of a cakravartī his earlier acquaintance, the Brahmin family came to him. Brahmadatta extended respectful hospitality to the Brahmin family. At dinner time the Brahmin told Brahmadatta – "Oh king, I want to eat the same food that is made for you today." Brahmadatta said –"Friend! This food will be indigestible, and will arouse passion in you." But the Brahmin did not pay heed to Brahmadatta's words. So the Brahmin and his family were fed the food made for the king. In the night the food showed its effects. Every member of the Brahmin's family became aroused with insatiable feeling of lust, and to satisfy it the father-son duo, forgetting all due relationships, started dalliance with the women of their family. When in the morning the effect of that royal feast lessened a little, and the Brahmin family's passions calmed down then everyone understood their respective bad deeds and began to hide their faces in shame. The Brahmin, ashamed of his animal behaviour, left the city abusing Brahmadatta.

Aimlessly roaming around in the forest the Brahmin saw a herdsman who was shedding the soft leaves of a banyan tree down with his pellet bow and feeding them to his sheep. Seeing the sharp aim of the herdsman the Brahmin thought this man can be utilised to avenge Brahmadatta. He gave some money to the herdsman, who with his pellet-bow struck both the eyes of Brahmadatta. The herdsman was caught immediately. When the herdsman said he did this on account of the Brahmin, an angry Brahmadatta got the Brahmin and his family killed. When his anger did not subside even then, he instructed the minister that the eyes of all the Brahmins in the city be removed and brought to him on a platter. Instead of eyes the minister placed before the blind Brahmadatta something similar to the eyes, a cluster of mucus-like seedless fruits of the tree Cordia myxa. Thinking those to be Brahmin eyes, Brahmadatta would touch them again and again and feel extreme happiness. He used to keep the platter with him day and night and touching them would feel intense pleasure. This way Brahmadatta spent his last 16 years in persistently intense distress and angry thoughts and after completing 700 years of his life, thinking constantly of his queen Kurumatī, died and reached the seventh hell.

A broken link in ancient history

A description of cakravartī Brahmadatta almost similar to that found in Jain āgamas and texts is found in Veda Vyāsa's Mahābhārata and Harivaṃśapurāṇa as well. Some episodes in Brahmadatta's life which are similar to both the traditions are given here for comparative evaluation:

  1. Brahmadatta was a resident of Kāmpilya city in the Pāṃcāla republic.
  2. Brahmadatta's soul in a past life, seeing a king's wealth, had resolved that –"if I have done good deeds, observed rules and penance may I be such a king as a result of that.
  3. That Brahmadatta got the knowledge of his past life is similar to both traditions barring a few differences in the cause.
  4. The description of Brahmadatta's past lives is similar in both traditions.
  5. That Brahmadatta got married to a Brahmin woman, even this is similar in both traditions.
  6. There is reference to Brahmadatta understanding the language of animals and birds in both the traditions.
  7. In the Vaidika tradition, there is mention of a bird named Pūjanikā who tore Brahmadatta's eyes, whereas in the Jain tradition this is done by a shepherd on being told by a Brahmin acquaintance of Brahmadatta.

In spite of so many similarities there is vast difference when it comes to the time period of Brahmadatta between both the traditions. In "Harivaṃśa" there is reference to Brahmadatta having existed long before the Mahābhārata time but in contrast, the Jain texts and āgamas mention Brahmadatta's existence long after the nirvāṇa of the Pāṇḍavas. Along with the life history of the Tīrthaṃkara, Baladevas, Vasudevas and PratiVasudevas, their time-period is given in a similar manner in all the agamic texts of the Jain tradition. Hence, there is no scope for doubt in the Jain tradition regarding their time periods. If historians were to look for mostly the common points of description of Brahmadatta in both these ancient traditions of India, certainly it will be of use in linking up a chain in India's ancient history.


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. Aura
  3. Avasarpiṇī
  4. Bhakta
  5. Body
  6. Brahma
  7. Brahmin
  8. Brahmins
  9. Cakra
  10. Citta
  11. Consciousness
  12. Fear
  13. Greed
  14. Hastināpura
  15. Indra
  16. Kalpa
  17. Karmas
  18. Kāśī
  19. Lakh
  20. Magadha
  21. Mahābhārata
  22. Meditation
  23. Nirvāṇa
  24. Pārśvanātha
  25. Rājagṛha
  26. Saṃlekhanā
  27. Soul
  28. Space
  29. Time Cycle
  30. Tīrthaṃkara
  31. Varanasi
  32. Veda
  33. Vimāna
  34. Śrīvatsa
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