Glory of Jainism: Sonal

Published: 01.11.2012



There are four steps to practise true religion: daan (charity), tap (penance), sheel (purity of character) and bhaav (good intention). Out of these, sheel is considered an ornament of soul. Jainism stresses the importance of sheel not only for Sadhus but even for the householders. It is said that Emperor Akbar was impressed by the impeccable character (sheel) of Sonal, the wife of one of his courtiers. Once in the court of Akbar the focus of discussion was on women's dignity. Stories about women holding aloft the high ideals were narrated. After hearing these stories, Akbar said, "Times have changed. Such women, who can be called sati, who have purity of character and who have innate qualities, have become rare. Show me one such woman, if at all she exists. Hearing these words of Akbar, a courtier Champraj Handa stood up and said, "My wife Sonal is such a woman." Akbar's guard Sherkhan laughed derisively at this and Handa was furious. He thundered, "My wife Sonal is a sati, a woman of pure character. If anyone can prove to the contrary, I will chop off my head." Sherkhan accepted the challenge and said he would prove that Sonal was not what her husband claimed her to be.

Sherkhan, then, tried various ways and means to make Sonal deviate from the virtuous path. Enticements and temptations proved futile. Sherkhan realised that Sonal was made of different stuff and so he decided to try devious means. He called a prostitute and asked her to impersonate as Sonal's distant aunt. If she could, then, find a proof proving violation of Sonal's chastity, he would reward her handsomely. The prostitute, disguised as an aunt, went to Sonal's house and stayed there for some days. She, once noticed a mole on Sonal's thigh while she was bathing. She was very happy, After few days, she took her leave with a heavy heart. While leaving Sonal's house he stole a handkerchief and a dagger. The postitute gave these two things to Sherkhan and also told him about the mole on Sonal's thigh.

Next day Sherkhan was in Akbar's court. He proudly said, "What I said has been proved right. I have in my possession proofs to prove that Sonal's chastity had been violated." He, then, told Sonal's husband about the mole on Sonal's thigh and also showed him the handkerchief and the dagger. Champraj Handa, Sonal's husband, was stunned and prepared to cut off his head. He went to Sonal, his wife, and said, "Sonal! You lost your chastity; now I will lose my head." Sonal, at once, realised what had happened and set out for Akbar's court in the guise of a dancer. She danced for awhile and Akbar was pleased. He wanted her to ask for a boon. Sonal said that she would like him to listen to her story. She, then, told him of Sherkhan's deception and Sherkhan stood exposed. Champraj Handa was very happy and Sherkhan was exiled.

The names of men and women of sterling character and almost superhuman qualities are inscribed in the letters of gold. They represent the best that is there in Indian civilization. Seeta, Damyanti, Rajimati, Chandanbala and other women of outstanding qualities and impeccable character are the ones who are remembered by one and all. Sonal was also one such woman whose chastity was suspected but who, in the end, accepted the challenge and proved that she was a chaste woman, and a real sati.

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. Akbar
  2. Bhaav
  3. Chandanbala
  4. Jainism
  5. Sadhus
  6. Soul
  7. Tap
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