Glory of Jainism: Sadhvi Kalavati

Published: 27.08.2012



Sadhvi Kalavati

Kalavati was the wife of Shankhraja, the king of Ujjain. The story of queen Kalavati’s life is an illustration of a life lived with chaste character. Once as part of rejoicing over her being pregnant, great festivity took place in the palace. On this happy occasion, her brother sent a boxful of ornaments. Kalavati put on jewel-studded bangles which used to  give out light in the dark. This made other queens envious of her. They instigated the king and said that the king had discriminated against all other queens. Even the king himself was puzzled as from to where had Kalavati obtained her bangles. He doubted the chastity of Kalavati. He thought that the bangles might have been sent by her previous lover.

Suspicion and fear know no limits. He thought that it would be better to arrange to cut off her hands wearing those shining bangles. The king lied to pregnant Kalavati that she was being sent to her parental home. Innocent Kalavati rode the chariot; next to her sat the  butcher. When the butcher stopped the chariot in a desolate place, she told him that it was not the way to her parental home. Thereupon the butcher revealed the truth to her.

Kalavati was deeply shocked on learning the truth. She herself cut off her right hand. And her left hand was cut off by the butcher on her request who ultimately presented himself before the king and produced both the hands of the queen, along with the bangles. On reading the name of Kalavati’s brother on the bangles, the king realized the grave sin he had committed and he became unconscious. He was stung by remorse that he had doubted her chastity. How heartless was he in ordering the butcher to cut off her hands!

So deep and moving was his remorse that the king decided to die on a pyre of sandalwood. His subjects made many efforts to prevent the king from taking such an extreme step. On the other hand, at the time Kalavati’s hand was cut off by the butcher, she delivered a baby-boy. Thinking that there was nobody to take care of the child in that desolate place, Kalavati began to weep loudly. All of a sudden, a thick green forest bloomed in that desolate place and the dry river began to flow with plenty of water in it. Kalavati’s hands were restored with her bangles as they used to be previously.

At that time an ascetic came there and he saw that Kalavati was alone without any companion there. Incidentally the ascetic happened to be a friend of Kalavati’s father. Having heard about her sufferings, the ascetic became extremely furious and for once he thought of creating great calamity in the reign of Shankhraja who had proved to be a tyrant. But Kalavati requested the ascetic not to be so furious; after all the ascetic was as good as her own father.

Ultimately, with the sheer power of his learning, the ascetic created a residence for Kalavati and her child right there. A wood-cutter who happened to pass through the forest had seen this and he rushed to the king to narrate the episode. Back there in the kingdom the minister had succeeded in persuading the king to postpone for a month is self-immolation. The minister had promised the king to bring back the queen within that period. As the king now came to know the whereabouts of the queen, he went there to bring Kalavati back.

Once a learned sadhu came to Kalavati and she told him about all her sufferings. The sadhu explained that in the previous birth Kalavati was a princess and she had cut off the wings of a bird with one of her arrows. That bird was the king in the present birth. Having known about their previous births and the pattern of their karma (action) the king and the queen both wholeheartedly accepted the path of penance and followed spiritual path.

Title: Glory Of Jainism

Ashok Saha and Prathana Saha


Shri Anilbhai Gandhi (Trustee),
Palitana - 364270 (India)

Edition: 1998

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Fear
  2. Karma
  3. Sadhu
  4. Sadhvi
  5. Ujjain
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