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Browsing: Triṣaṣṭi-śalākā-puruṣa-caritra (Beta 1689)

Image: Paper manuscript cover

Title: Paper manuscript cover

Source:
Wellcome Trust Library
Shelfmark:
Beta 1689
Author:
Hemacandra
Date of creation:
1601
Folio number:
not applicable
Total number of folios:
124
Place of creation:
Piṇḍīnagara, north India
Language:
Sanskrit
Medium:
paper
Size:
25 x 10.5 cm
Copyright:
Wellcome Library, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Background

Written in Sanskrit verses in the 12th century by the scholar monk Hemacandra, the Triṣaṣṭi-śalākā-puruṣa-caritra – Lives of the 63 Illustrious Great Men – is a key Śvetāmbara work. It is the standard version of the legends of the 24 Jinas, 12 Cakravartins, 9 Bala-devas, 9 Vāsu-devas and 9 Prativāsu-devas. Ten books long, it is a large epic comparable to the Hindu Purāṇas in its perspective. 

There are manuscripts comprising copies of all ten books. Some of these books, however, have an independent life. The best-known instances are the first one, which tells the life of the first JinaṚṣabha, and the last one, which recounts the life of the last JinaMahāvīra. The seventh book, which provides what can be called a Jain Rāmāyaṇa, also forms a unit of its own. This is the text found in this manuscript.

Several Jain authors have given their version of the Jain Rāmāyaṇa in Prakrit or Sanskrit since the beginning of the common era. The originality of the Jain Rāmāyaṇa is that all the main heroes of the epic are integrated within the frame of Jain mythology – what Western scholars call 'Universal History'. In Hemacandra’s words, it starts:

Herein are related the lives of Baladeva Padma, of Viṣṇu Nārāyaṇa, and of Prativiṣṇu Rāvaṇa, whose births took place in the congregation of Śrī Suvrata Svāmin whose complexion was the color of antimony, the moon of the Hari-line

Johnson 

1954, page 107

The introduction underlines the following points about the Jain Rāmāyaṇa:

  • the heroes are contemporaries of Munisuvrata, the 20th Jina
  • the main heroes are connected with the last three groups of the illustrious men of Jain mythology since Rāma is a Baladeva, Lakṣmaṇa a Vāsudeva and Rāvaṇa a Prativāsudeva
  • Rāvaṇa’s main enemy is Lakṣmaṇa, not Rāma as in the Hindu Rāmāyaṇa, and since Lakṣmaṇa is the one who kills Rāma he and Rāvaṇa form a pair of enemies
  • Rāma is known as Padma, which is visible in the titles of many Jain Rāmāyaṇas, such as the first known version, the Prakrit-language Pauma-cariya by Vimala-sūri, the Sanskrit Padma-carita and the Pauma-cariu in Apabhraṃśa.

Beside these main points, other specific features about the Jain Rāmāyaṇa are that:

  • the rākṣasas are not demons or ogres, but are vidyādharas – figures with magic powers – who can be converted to Jain teachings
  • all the heroes are subject to the principle of rebirth
  • the authors of several versions attack the inconsistencies, fantasies or irrationalities in the legends of the Rāmāyaṇas that 'others' have written in prologues given a rather ironical tone
  • episodes implying murder, violenceand so on are either suppressed or transformed.

The result is that Jain Rāmāyaṇas are manifestos of Jainism through both the ways in which the stories are told and the discussions of Jain principles inserted in the tales. Since the heroes are Jain devotees or observe Jain ethical principles, the atmosphere is totally different from the Hindu Rāmāyaṇas.

In this manuscript Hemacandra’s Jaina Rāmāyaṇa is divided into ten chapters as follows:

Chapters of Hemacandra’s Jaina Rāmāyaṇa

Chapter number

Chapter title

Ends on this manuscript page

1

Origin of the rākṣasas’ lineage and of the monkeys’ lineage

6 verso

2

Rāvaṇa’s expedition of conquest

27 verso

3

Hanuman’s birth and Varuṇa’s subjection

35 verso

4

The birth, marriage and retreat to the forest of Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa

53 recto

5

The kidnapping of Sītā

68 verso

6

Bringing news of Sītā

82 verso

7

The killing of Rāvaṇa

96 recto

8

The abandonment of Sītā

107 verso

9

Sītā’s purification and taking of the vow

115 verso

10

Rāma’s emancipation

124 verso

Glossary

Cakravartin
Sanskrit for 'universal monarch'. There are 12 in the continent of Bharata in each progressive and regressive half-cyle of time. They have 9 treasures and 14 jewels they can use to conquer their enemies and become 'universal monarchs'. The cakravartin form one of the five groups of '63 illustrious men' in Jain mythology.
Common Era
The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.
Jain
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Jina
A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation . A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world , but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.
Śvetāmbara
'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.
Vimala
The 13th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the boar. There is no historical evidence of his existence.
Devotee
An enthusiastic follower of a religion. Can also describe a keen enthusiast of an individual, concept or activity.
Hindu
Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.
Monk
A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
Congregation
A gathering of believers that has come together to perform group acts of worship.
Baladeva
One of the five types of 'great men' – śalākā-puruṣas or mahā-puruṣas – in Jain Universal History , Baladevas are the older half-brothers of the Vāsudevas, sharing the same fathers. They are both demi-Cakravartins or half Universal Rulers. In the part of the universe where humans live, nine Baladevas are born in each progressive and regressive half- cycle of time . Baladevas are devout Jains who, after renouncing the world to become monks , are usually liberated but may be reborn as gods in one of the heavens. Baladevas are also known as Balabhadras.
Vāsudeva
One of the five types of 'great men' – śalākā-puruṣas or mahā-puruṣas – in Jain Universal History , Vāsudevas are the younger half-brothers of the Baladevas, sharing the same fathers. They are both demi-Cakravartins or half Universal Rulers. In the part of the universe where humans live, nine Vāsudevas are born in each progressive and regressive half- cycle of time . Each one battles his mortal enemy, one of the Prati-vāsudevas. For breaking the principle of non-violence , the Vāsudevas are reborn as hell-beings – nārakis. Some may then become Jinas in their next lives. Vāsudevas are also known as Nārāyaṇa.
Prati-vāsudeva
One of the five types of 'great men' – śalākā-puruṣas or mahā-puruṣas – in Jain Universal History . In the part of the universe where humans live, nine Prati-vāsudevas are born in each progressive and regressive half- cycle of time . Each one personifies the forces of evil and battles his mortal enemy, one of the Vāsudevas. After the Vāsudevas kill them, the Prati-vāsudevas are reborn in hell. Prati-vāsudevas are also known as Prati-nārāyaṇa and Prati-śatru.
Śalākā-puruṣa
'Great man' – also known as a mahā-puruṣa – whose story is told in Jain Universal History . Born in each progressive and regressive half- cycle of time , there are five types of 'great men':
  • 24 Jinas
  • 12 Cakravartins
  • 9 Baladevas
  • 9 Vāsudevas
  • 9 Prati-vāsudevas.
Universal History
A Western academic term used for the largely medieval texts that hold the Jain legendary history of the world. Recounting the life stories of the '63 Great or Illustrious Men', the writings are intended to provide role-models for later Jains. The main texts of Jain Universal History are the:
  • Śvetāmbara monk Hemacandra 's Triṣaṣti-śalākā-puruṣa-caritraLife Stories of 63 Great Men
  • Mahā-purāṇaGreat Ancient Tale – of the Digambara writers Jinasena and Guṇabhadra .
Apabhraṃśa
Apabhraṃśa is an umbrella term for the dialects that were the forerunners of modern Indian languages. Taken from the Sanskrit term apabhraṃśa, which literally means 'corrupt' or 'non-grammatical language', Apabhraṃśa was used to write a large number of Jain texts. Though Apabhraṃśa developed over the 6th to 13th centuries, literary works date back to the 8th century.
Sanskrit
A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.
Prākrit
A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.
Śrī
Hindu goddess of wealth, Śrī is the personification of spiritual energy and is closely associated with the lotus. Also a name for Lakṣmī, Hindu goddess of beauty, wisdom, fertility and wealth.
Viṣṇu
The chief protective god in Hinduism and one of the triad of major deities, along with Brahmā the creator and Śiva the destroyer or transformer. Viṣṇu is the preserver or protector, and is often shown as dark blue, with four arms, holding a lotus, mace, conch and wheel. He has a thousand names and ten avatārs, the best known being Rāma and blue-skinned Kṛṣṇa.
Rāma
An avatar of Viṣṇu, the preserver or protector who is one of the three major Hindu gods. Rāma is a prince of Ayodhyā and is often shown with blue skin, holding a bow and arrow. The epic poem Rāmāyaṇa recounts his adventures as he searches for his wife Sītā, who has been kidnapped by Rāvaṇa. Blending Jain values into the story, the Jain Rāmāyaṇas cast him and other figures in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History .
Rāmāyaṇa
One of the fundamental works of Indian literature, the Rāmāyaṇa is an epic poem recounting the adventures of Prince Rāma as he searches for his wife Sītā, who has been kidnapped by Rāvaṇa. Blending Jain values into the story, the Jain Rāmāyaṇa s present him and other figures in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History .
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