Article: Vāsupūjya

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Identification

This detail from a manuscript painting depicts a buffalo. An important symbol in Jain myth, the buffalo is the emblem – lāñchana – of the 12th Jina, Vāsupūjyanatha or Lord Vāsupūjya. The buffalo is also the symbol of the Īśāna heaven, the second paradise.

Buffalo
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

All Jinas have individual emblemslāñchanas – and colours that help to identify them in artwork. They also have deities in attendance, known as yakṣa and yakṣī, who often appear flanking them in art.

Colour, symbol, yakṣa and yakṣī of Vāsupūjya

Colour

Emblem

Yakṣa

Yakṣī

red

buffalo

Kumāra

Candrā – Śvetāmbara
Gandhārī – Digambara

More details

Besides the basic information, the sources provide more details on various topics. These are almost infinite and vary depending on the sources. Such information differs between Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras. Here are only a few instances of extra detail.

All of the princes who become Jinas are carried on a palanquin to the park where they perform the ritual gesture of initiation into monastic lifedīkṣā. The palanquin of Vāsupūjya is named Pṛthivī. On this occasion, he is accompanied by numerous kings.

He performs a two-day fast. The next day he breaks his fast at the house of King Sunanda in the town of Mahāpura.

Vāsupūjya wanders for one month as an ordinary ascetic and reaches omniscience. According to the Śvetāmbaras, he is meditating under a pāṭalā tree when this occurs while the Digambaras say it is a kadamba tree.

Events, stories and hymns

Śvetāmbara miniature painting of Vāsupūjya, 12th Jina. This 19th-century painting from Rajasthan shows the Jina sitting in meditation under a royal canopy and decked in rich jewellery. Vāsupūjya has bright red skin and his buffalo emblem is below.

Vāsupūjya
Image by Anishshah19 © public domain

The life of Vāsupūjya is almost eventless. In the ninth-century Lives of the 54 Jain Great MenCauppaṇṇa-mahāpurisa-cariya – written in Prakrit by the Śvetāmbara monk Śīlānka, the chapter about the 12th Jina is hardly a single page.

The 12th-century Sanskrit text Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākā-puruṣa-caritra, written by Hemacandra, has become the standard Śvetāmbara version of the Jinas' lives and is somewhat longer. The 13th-century biography entitled Vāsupūjya-caritra is expanded with supplementary material.

Hemacandra's text gives Vāsupūjya's life more substance because the story of the triad of Vijaya, Dvipṛṣṭha and Tāraka is inserted within the general frame of the story and told at length. As usual with such triads, it is a tale of war and fighting. The two main enemies are the Vāsudeva Dvipṛṣṭha and the Prativāsudeva Tāraka, whose hatred continues from their previous births. In Śīlānka’s work, mentioned above, the story of the triad is an independent chapter located after the one devoted to the telling of Vāsupūjya’s life.

In the Digambara version by Guṇabhadra, the story of the triad also follows the narration of Vāsupūjya’s career. Here they are the:

  • Baladeva Acala
  • Vāsudeva Dvipṛṣṭha
  • Prativāsudeva Tāraka.
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